September 2008 Issue
Tip of the Month
Everyone needs to work in a restaurant, at least for a little while. It will make you a better person. And it certainly will make you a better customer — more sensitive, more polite, more generous.
My personal experience as a restaurant worker occurred in high school, when I was a busboy in the coffee shops at a couple of “motor hotels” in the suburbs of Cleveland. The memories of that experience came flooding back like a glass of spilled milk after reading Jessica Esemplare’s column about her own experiences as a restaurant employee.
Many of you will identify with all of this. According to Best Food Nation, a group of food-industry associations, more than three out of 10 Americans began their working lives in restaurants. Nearly half of all adults have worked in a restaurant at some point in their careers. Restaurants are one of America’s largest private employers, providing jobs for nearly 13 million people.
“There’s a lot to love about the industry: flexible hours and time off, benefits (sometimes) and the kind of cash-in-hand that most legit jobs don’t produce,” Jessica writes in her column.
But the difficulty of the job is undeniable. It is the kind of work that teaches you the values of cheerfulness and humility (not to mention the importance of comfortable shoes).
Current-day political correctness probably has purged the term “busboy” from the restaurant lexicon. Jessica uses the title “busser,” and that makes sense. “Bus person” hardly seems right; the impersonal treatment to which you so often are subjected lends a sad irony to that.
No one had it tougher, however, than the waitresses. Yes, yes, I know: That’s another sexist term. But there was no such thing as a gender-neutral “wait staff” back then, at least not in the joints where I worked. Those who waited on the tables were waitresses and the guys who took out the dirty dishes were busboys. No one complained about the inherent sexism in the system. Out of earshot of the diners, we all shared just one common complaint: lousy tips. And, of course, its subtext: disrespect.
Connie Schultz, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, has led something of a crusade to make sure those who work in fields dependent on tips are treated fairly. Her columns on the subject have been extremely well received because the message they contain expresses a generally embraced notion about how we should live: Do unto others.
The message especially resonates here at Ohio Magazine, where we are all about celebrating the best things of life in Ohio — including the state’s vast array of fine restaurants. Consider this our salute to the fine people who make them that way.