Last week a group of friends and I treated ourselves to a delightful meal and a game of bridge at a popular local restaurant. The young waitresses usually remember what we drink on a regular basis—nothing heavier than sweet tea or diet coke, I assure you. They bring those drinks without being asked. We do, after all, eat with them and play bridge rather often. They remember that I want my hamburger all the way and that some of the ladies want fish sandwiches on big plates so they can peel the bread off. One friend asks for a hamburger with lettuce and tomato, but no bun. Another picks all the sesame seeds off her bun. I didn’t realize what a strange crew we are until we started eating together. Nonetheless, our waitresses serve even our strangest requests with a smile and sometimes a shake of their heads.
That story in itself isn’t so strange. It’s their work ethic that amazes us. I enjoy their attitudes, but I love watching them work. They scurry about the restaurant like ants when I’ve run over an ant bed with the lawn mower. The girls are rushing more tea to the corner table, and an extra order of lettuce for that fish sandwich. Just because the patron didn’t order it doesn’t mean she didn’t want it. There’s a bottle of ketchup for the front table, and somebody over there needs a refill. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of them walking around the dining room. They’re always trotting from one task to another, smiling at every customer and answering every single culinary whim. These girls know how to work. There’s nothing shoddy or slow about them.
I don’t know what their salary is, but they earn every penny of it and more. We bridge players always try to leave a generous tip, but I know we don’t leave enough to match their level of efficiency. If we did, we pay more in tips than we do for our food. Their personality is perfectly matched for their waitress jobs. After an encounter with them, my day’s always a bit brighter.
You see, not everyone has that work ethic. Too many people believe in barely getting by and doing the absolute least amount of work possible to avoid being fired. Or better yet, let somebody else do it. Many times in my life—in church, in various organizations, in school—I’ve served on one committee or another. I didn’t mind, but I wanted to do the work first and then socialize. Many of my coworkers didn’t see it that way. Work sessions turned into gab sessions and two or three people wound up doing all the work. Such is the way of the committee, you say? Well, I wish we could bottle the work ethic of those waitresses and put it on the market. Businesses would scoop it right up in no time flat, and the gross national product would surely skyrocket.
Strange how the work ethic varies from one group to another. There was a time when everyone spoke highly of Americans and our eagerness to work. No more! People still speak of Americans and how we work, but it isn’t so complimentary any more. That hard physical labor that founded this nation is gone with the wind, washed away with the ebbing tide, eroded beyond repair.
Or is it?
When I see those waitresses working so hard and so cheerfully, I think there may be hope for us after all. They swish those dishrags over those tables like a whirlwind. There are no crumbs left on the floors that they sweep. Maybe we’re not all beyond help. They’ve gotten my attention, and if nothing else, I’ll spring for another dollar tip when I see them again--maybe two.