TANDY VERSYP Staff Writer
I’m a server at a corporate restaurant – a cog in an industry that hides bland, overpriced food with a big cheesy smile. When a customer is rude or ridiculously needy, I have to silence my opinions on the matter and get another ramekin of ranch. Many customers don’t even remember my name after the night is over – even though I repeat it the required three times during the meal. My name is so unusual, it’s not hard to catch, but to them I’m a non-person, a member of the rabble.
Last Saturday night, after attending the festivities in Johnson Square, I put on my work uniform and got in line. However, I had acquired an Obama sticker at a booth earlier that day and, without thinking, put it next to my other flair.
Halfway through the evening, my manager politely asked me to take it off – a table had complained. “We don’t make political statements at this restaurant,” he said, “and our customers pay the bills.”
The rule was in the corporate handbook. I understood. Customers come into the restaurant to enjoy a relaxing meal, not to be bombarded with propaganda, even though we are commanded to push specials. So I took the sticker off and continued to my tables.
I’ve gotten over the tribulations of serving. I know not everyone is going to tip well, or at all. People are generally disgusting, myself included. And hiding what I really think has become second nature. It’s easier to quiet frustrations by not even getting worked up at all – writing everything off like a bored housewife writes checks. The more I grow up and change, the more my naïve idealism dies.
Even the idealism I had before, perpetuated by young adult entertainment, wasn’t real. Companies use individualism slogans as ways to get youngsters, like myself, to do what they want. So what do I really think? What do I really want?
I was taking an order for premium steaks and premium liquor when I realized I couldn’t be a supplicant anymore, no matter what a rulebook said. Because idealism isn’t naïve. It isn’t a child. It’s a very grown up thing to have and keep.
I put the sticker back over my uniform.
Don’t get me wrong. I was scared. I could have been fired. Finding a flexible job that pays decently is like finding Lucite in a lake. But it didn’t matter.
My manager came up to me shortly after the reapplication of said political statement.
“What’s goin’ on, bud?”
“I can’t take it off,” I said.
“What would you do if I took it off?”
“I would walk out. I’ve already made my decision.”
“And I’ve made mine.”
We walked away from each other. I got a slap on the wrist – they didn’t schedule me for about a week. It wasn’t like I expected. No cheering crowd. No swelling music. Even upon repeating the story, my friends are indifferent.
The only thing that happened was my holding on became a tight grip.