"Hey kid!" the man at table 3 yelled across the restaurant.
Everybody turns to look at the man. Everybody watches "the kid" as he heads to the man's table.
"Kid" is me.
"Table 3 Man" is the jerk.
I'm learning a lot about the class system here in the U.S. Some people claim we're all equal, like it says in the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." I guess Table 3 Man hasn't heard the news yet.
I normally don't mind being referred to as a "kid" if it's used in a playful or affectionate way. I have a really good friend who's twice my age who regularly refers to me as "kiddo," which I like. With him it makes me feel cared for because of how he uses it. He never uses it in a condescending way and I feel like he calls me that because he likes me.
So back to my story. Table 3 Man wanted some more water. I'm always good about paying attention to my tables and making sure I check in with people regularly. In the short time I've worked at this restaurant, I've not had any complaints from anybody and people always leave me good tips.
The owner of the restaurant has said I'm doing an "exceptional job" (his words) and I can tell by the way he jokes around with me that he likes me and genuinely means what he says.
When I got over to Table 3 Man, I had a smile on my face and tried not to interrupt the conversation with the person he was dining with. When someone calls me, I can usually just arrive at their table, flash my best smile, and they tell me what they need. I rarely ever have to say anything. They usually just say, "Could I have my check, please?" or "Could I see the dessert menu, please?"
Table 3 Man acts like I just interrupted negotiations for World Peace. He turns to me like I'm some annoying gnat that needs to be swatted, lets out this frustrated sigh you could hear across the restaurant, shoves his empty water glass to the edge of the table, doesn't give me the courtesy of even looking at me as if I'm invisible, and says with all the contempt he can muster, "If it wouldn't be too much trouble, Kid, this glass is empty." He then turns back quickly to the more important business of negotiating World Peace.
Hey, I know people can be jerks. I get that. Most of the time it just rolls off my back. I've been in a bad mood before where I've said things that probably make me a jerk. The thing is, as soon as the "jerky" comment leaves my mouth, I know it. I hope what distinguishes me from Table 3 Man is the fact that I feel about 3 inches tall when I say something rude and I try to turn things around, which includes apologizing to the other person.
So I tried to figure out why this affected me like it did. I mean, Table 3 Man was a total stranger. I've never seen him before and if I'm lucky I'll never see him again. I was telling Matty about it and he said there was a small group of people in his high school who didn't even know him but when he came out as gay, they heard the news and made it a point to go out of their way to treat him like he was a piece of shit.
He said the fact that he didn't know these kids or that they didn't know him, made no difference. When you're being targeted by people who see you as a piece of trash instead of a human being, it's gets to you.
Maybe I was being overly sensitive. Maybe I need to get a thicker skin. Maybe I need to grow up.
Or maybe I'm starting to see the world for what it is. There are some really good people in the world. Probably about 99.9% of the diners in the restaurant where I work are a pleasure to serve. Most people smile. Most people say "please." Most people seem happy with how I wait on them. Lots of people have these brief little chats with me that last all of 30 seconds where we comment about the weather. Nothing deep. Nothing involving World Peace. Just pleasant surface conversation.
Then there are the people who see you as some ignorant little kid. They think your mission in life is to "know your place" and not cross over into "real" life. For them, you don't have any worth other than making their life easier. They don't see you as a human being with feelings, who has as "real" a life as they do.
So, do me a favor the next time you're dining in my restaurant and I'm your server. Just keep it in the back of your mind that I have real feelings inside. That I have a real life outside the restaurant. That I may look like I'm some dumb college kid who might not measure up to your idea of somebody worthy of being treated with a little respect. If you have to, fake it. That's cool. You just came to the restaurant to have a nice meal. You're only here for an hour or so and then you might not ever see me again.
If you'd like me to fill your glass with more water, no problem. I'm watching you and all my other tables while you dine. All you have to do is look over to where I am. I'll be at your table in no time. And with a smile on my face.
But please, please, don't treat me like I'm a piece of shit. Or like I'm invisible. I don't think it's asking too much for just a little common courtesy. Hey, that goes a long way.
Maybe if we all started treating each other with a little bit more respect (even if it's just surface respect), it might start spreading all around. That's the kind of world I want to live in. Thank you and I hope you enjoyed your meal.