For those of a certain age, the saying ‘kiss my grits” brings back memories of the TV show Alice, starring Linda Lavin as the tough as nails waitress with the heart of gold. Based upon the movie “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” the star, Alice, works at Mel’s Diner, and the interaction of the patrons, the cook and waitress made this comedy special.
Recently, I sat back at a couple of Rockaway’s more popular restaurants and observed how hard some of the waiters and waitresses and cooks work. I was truly amazed at how fast they took orders, got the drinks, served the food, cleaned up and buzzed all around the restaurants. Sometimes the faces are familiar to us, sometimes not, but they all were out of work for nearly a year because of the pandemic. I am sure that not working was a hardship, and no amount of government aid was going to change that. Most of the restaurants seemed to make it through the pandemic by doing take-out and by PPP loans (not all got these), but those that usually scoot around the insides of our local eateries were out of luck.
It’s not an easy job. Alice had a tough exterior but was always there to help someone in need. Wait staff don’t always have that option, as owners like to see happy faces and smiles to keep customers happy. My father-in-law, Big Bill Stogie, liked to ask each waitress/waiter their name, and then repeatedly call them by name throughout the entire dinner. I would cringe a little, thinking geez, just let the poor person be. But as I get older, I can see the logic and warmth of what he was doing. By personalizing the experience, he was treating the server as a person with a name and with dignity. I learned something from him. His daughter, my mermaid, does the same thing all the time now. Instead of cringing, I remind her she is in a Geico commercial about how we become our parents.
If you read the financial pages, you will see articles about inflation creeping back into the economy. Which is a fancy way of saying that prices are going up, for everything! But we don’t really need economists to tell us that, we know it anytime we go out to the stores. And you will no doubt see it as you go out to eat, too. But one thing that occurs to me is that although it may cost more for a meal, we shouldn’t skimp on tipping our waiters and waitresses. It’s been a hard year for them too, and they deserve to be recognized and compensated for the hard work they do.
So, when you go out, try this, ask the wait staff their name. Treat them like a person, not a servant. Be courteous, and kind. Say thank you. It goes a long way when someone is seen and recognized and treated with respect. And then tip appropriately, don’t skimp, show your appreciation. The summer will mean crowded restaurants. But the winter comes soon enough, and then all of a sudden there aren’t as many tips. So, remember they have to live all year long too.
And if all that strikes you as just too much, well you know what, you can just kiss my grits. Whatever that means!!
By Lou Pastina