Hard work with many kinds of rewards

The Examiner

Recently, I went out to eat with a friend. The restaurant was an old hardware store, which had been restored. The food was great.

I watched the young waitresses race back and forth between the tables. Observing the waitresses took me back in time.

Diane Mack

Forty-some years ago, I worked as a waitress to earn money for college.

I waited on tables from the age of 14 through high school and onto college. Most of my waitressing time was done in restaurants in the Amish country.

The summer tourist season was a good time to be employed.

I was paid 65 cents per hour, which was the going rate. Most of the paycheck went to taxes. The money I made actually came from tips.

Some nights, after a four- to five-hour shift, I’d return home with $60 to $80 in coins and bills. My apron pockets were full.

Waitressing is the hardest, dirtiest work. It’s nearly an aerobic exercise.

I learned to sprint from a heated kitchen to an air-conditioned dining room a hundred times a night.

I learned that it was better to have my hair in a ponytail. Otherwise, with naturally curly hair I’d look like Beethoven by the end of my shift.

I liked being assigned to the smorgasbord section. A smorgasbord is an all-you-can-eat buffet.

All I’d have to do is water my customers’ glasses or get them drinks, over and over again.

Some of my older customers would request me as their waitress. They’d like my jokes.

When my regulars would ask for my table, I could see them smile as they walked toward me.

They wanted my jokes. They liked them. So I’d roll out the jokes, just for them.

“What would you like to eat this evening? Would you like to get out of the boat and let the shad row?”

Or, “Halibut pork chops tonight?”

They’d laugh out loud.

Another favorite question from them was, Diane. can you give me directions to the Amish country.

They were the same directions they asked me, the last time they sat at my tables.

I’d answer with, “Yes, you get to Paradise by driving ten miles through Fertility.”

Waitressing was hard work. Tables with more than 10 customers would put me over the limit. It was exhausting serving that many customers at one time.

Wait a minute. I served a family of nine for almost 30 years. I never received a tip. I’ve never even gotten a suggestion.

I believe family dinner time is a tough job.

Sometimes, the family doesn’t show up for the meal. When they do, they don’t ask for jokes or conversation. They eat and escape.

Well, when it comes down to it, the rewards for cooking and waiting on nine family members are much greater. The kids are healthier and happier, smile when they smell dinner cooking, and their “thanks” is the best tip.

“Halibut” it?               

Diane Mack is coordinator of Putting Families First, Jackson County's Family Week Foundation. Email her at Director@jacksoncountyfamilyweek.org.