Emily Enberg: “Would you like fries with that?”

Is it that hard for you to remember “Where is your supervisor?”

Everyone has sat through that uncomfortable moment when a person near you yells at the waiter. Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of complaining at the restaurants around GW, most notably at J Street. Is the service really that bad or are people just forgetting their manners?

Whenever this happens, I have to wonder whether or not the complainers have ever been the ones with the apron on or if they have only ever known the role of the customer. I advise all students looking for a job to apply to the restaurant down the street. Think of it as an extra course to your curriculum. The course title: Real Life. I guarantee you an educational experience – all you have to do to pass is stick around through the failures.

We’re constantly learning from our parents and teachers how to be better people. But even the priciest tuition or the wisest parent guru can’t teach the important lessons one gets from waiting on people. These are lessons of humanity, respect, compassion and understanding. If you’ve ever held such a position, you know what a lasting mark it leaves on your personal character. You can never again walk into a restaurant as solely “the customer” without bringing your new “waiter” persona along with you.

Of course, working as a waiter will provide you with a nice chunk of money every week, but it has other advantages besides the tips. It will raise your antenna to what’s going on when you are the one lucky enough to be relaxing in the red booth.

You know what good service is, what bad service is and the tip that your waiter really deserves. You are aware that there is a whole assembly line of workers that makes a restaurant run smoothly, and just because the waiter is the only person you see, it doesn’t always mean a problem is their fault. You see that being a customer and having “the customer’s always right” attitude gets you nowhere but that a little kindness can do wonders. You finally understand that the waiter did not bring you the right drink not because he has it out for you, but because of a simple miscommunication. The list goes on and on.

I realize that most GW students have schedules filled with internships, sports practice, classes, Greek-letter life, homework and barely enough social time, so working at a restaurant wouldn’t necessarily take top priority. Therefore, I urge you all simply to consider how your behavior reflects not only your character but the entire GW community. The last thing we want is to perpetuate the image that we really are just a bunch of spoiled little rich kids.

The fact is, even though we all come from very diverse backgrounds, we are privileged enough to be receiving a top-notch education. Regardless of where you end up after graduation, I’d be willing to bet that it won’t be behind a fast-food counter. While the jobs that we will all be doing 10 years from now will be difficult in their own ways, no office job can ever compare to spending eight hours on your feet with people screaming orders at you.

Another thing to consider is that many of the workers at the nearby restaurants are students as well. They could be you, your roommate or your significant other. Perhaps it’s the fact that we have outside workers at J Street, instead of people we know, that causes such disregard. Would you really yell about not getting the right smoothie if you knew that you would see the guy that made it for you the next day in your history class?

Whatever the reason is, it is important that we remember how our behavior will affect others. Waiters and dining staff have to put up with rude, impatient and disrespectful customers all the time, and this tolerance should go both ways. If your food is slow or your order is wrong, think how you would want to be corrected and proceed from there. Yelling and inconsideration are never necessary or appropriate. We should want the dining staff to know our appreciation and feel our respect. Sadly, this message doesn’t always come across.

Being on the other side of the counter is the fastest way to change your perspective. If you can make it as a server it for a whole semester, your whole body will have undergone a makeover. Your eyes will be more aware of what’s around you, for busy shifts will have trained you to do ten things at once. Your backbone will have strengthened, after being yelled at by your boss and customers for careless mistakes. And your heart will be healthier, not just from the many miles you’ll have walked around on the job, but from your newfound ability to have real empathy for others.

The writer is a senior majoring in American studies.

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