Four life lessons I learned from being a restaurant server

By Miranda Mowrey, Columnist

“Everyone should be a server once.”

I am sure you have heard this before, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

In the past two years I’ve spent working as a waitress, I have dropped and broken an uncanny amount of plates and glasses. I have served countless people who believe their salsa being too spicy is pretty much the end of the world. I have even rolled enough silverware and cut enough limes to fill the entirety of the Mariana Trench — twice. And through these experiences, I have learned valuable lessons that I will carry with me throughout my life.

Lesson #1: Don’t bother trying to figure people out.

Seriously. After an hour of witty banter and mutual comradery with a table, I used to believe I had my 20% tip in the bag. Or, after painstakingly serving customers who do not have the words “please” or “thank you” in their vocabulary, I would give up on the idea of receiving any kind of tip on the bill. Almost always, my intuition would fail me. I quickly learned that there is no pattern or secret formula in predicting a customer’s behavior.

Here is how this applies to life in general: As humans, we know nothing. We do not like to know nothing, and so we end up creating false assumptions to help us deal with the unpredictability of life. The moment we decide to stop trying to figure out the world around us, we will be free of disappointments.

Lesson #2: There is something so gratifying and inspiring about meeting different people.

Serving is an experience that gives you the opportunity to converse with people from all walks of life. The world is full of so many interesting, amazing, strange, unique people that have all come from different places but all have ended up sitting at your table 24, ordering a Pepsi, no ice, and grilled wings, well done. I have met college professors, recently divorced fifty-year-old women, couples that just moved in from Los Angeles and aren’t fans of crabs nor beer (have fun in Maryland?), all with distinctive lives and stories to tell.

Lesson #3: There are few greater things in life than spending time with a loved one.

Whether it is a couple of childhood friends catching up, a father and son bonding after a sweaty baseball practice, or two people on their first or 45th date, as a waitress it is so clear to see how meaningful spending time with another human can be. Spending an hour of your life, away from your phone, focused on the person in front of you is so precious in developing relationships.

Lesson #4: If you put forth your best effort, there is no shame in things not working out.

I can constantly make sure a customer’s water is filled to the brim, prepare myself with the extra napkins before the patron even asks for them, and triple-check with the kitchen to make sure a table’s complicated order is being made correctly, but sometimes my effort is not always reciprocated with anything close to a thank you (or tip). Similarly to the first lesson, letting go of control and simply trying your best for the sake of trying your best is a powerful skill in life.

I am so thankful for the time I have spent working as a waitress. Although there have been several bad days, the lessons I have learned along the way make everything worth it. No matter how bad my shift is, I will still go home, shower off the dried salsa and unrecognizable black gunk smeared on my forearms, plop down on the couch with my best friends, and eat the food I have been day-dreaming about since I clocked in. Life is good again.

Wait, did I ever bring table 6 the extra ranch?

5 thoughts on “Four life lessons I learned from being a restaurant server

  1. Miranda, your reflections on being a restaurant server are so insightful and relatable. It’s incredible how such a job can teach us profound life lessons. I especially resonated with the idea of meeting different people and the unpredictability of human behavior. On a side note, I’m working on a programming research paper about algorithms used in customer service platforms. I stumbled upon a do my python homework that assists with such topics. Do you think the restaurant industry could benefit from more advanced tech solutions? 🍽️💡

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