Every Sunday, without fail, I spend my evenings serving the young, the old and the families of State College. The hostess caught my arm in passing, letting me know to prepare for my next table, as I was next in rotation. It’s part of our policy to serve our guests, not customers, with chipper smiles and positive body language. Naturally, I wedged my tray between my hip and arm, placing my notepad on top, to show that I was eager to greet my guests.
As I approached their table, despite the warm smile I wore, I could feel my inner diva rolling her eyes. I’ve gladly taken care of these people before. The last time they visited, I wished them a great night and warmth from the frigid weather; they took their tab and left without tipping. This time around, I welcomed them to the restaurant, said it was nice to see them again, and took their drink order. I’ll spare you the craziness I went through during this hour of my evening and leave it at this—again they left, full and satisfied, without tipping. What a waste of my time, I thought. But was it?
So many of us know what it’s like to scrape every penny we earn just to get through college. Whether you work somewhere on campus, or part time at a chain store, nothing beats the excitement and fulfillment of receiving a paycheck, or hustling out of the kitchen at the end of the night with a pocketful of cash. Sometimes though, my pocket isn’t always full and it not only hurts my wallet, but my ego.
As a commuter, I put $40 of gas in my tank every week. I’ve got it down to a science. I work all Sunday evening, hoping to make at least enough to get through the week, budgeting for coffee in the mornings and lunch in the afternoon—the rest goes toward my tuition bill. The process continues. I’ll go as long as I can without touching another penny for purposeless affairs, because, let’s face it—at nineteen years old, working part time and commuting to class fulltime, I need all the money I can get my hands on to support my priorities. Poor tippers don’t realize that I am a server, not a servant. By refusing to throw down a few bucks, the hour I spend kissing the ground of the table they sit at is at the very least 20% of their bill that won’t be going to my education or gas to attain it.
Though these experiences can make for a lousy night and tight week, I’ve learned to look at the positives. No matter where you are and what you do, it’s important to work your tail off regardless of what may sometimes be a disappointing outcome. How hard you work is a reflection of your character. It is only a mere glimpse of your potential. While these part time jobs that get us through college may only be temporary, they are staples for our future: letters of recommendation, résumé and character builders and the foundation for how we will handle ourselves in the many tough obstacles we’re naturally forced to overcome.
Through dealing with difficult guests, they’ve taught me that not everyone is kind, and life isn’t fair. But most importantly, I’ve learned to work harder and strive to be better. Little do they know that monetary tips aren’t the only things of value.