Sunday, November 08, 2009
I worked in restaurants for 13 years so I know a thing or two about service. I've done every job there is in a restaurant; clean the mats, pick the chicken (after you wash your hands from cleaning the mats) cutting the wedding cake, mixing the Hurricanes, and fetching more creole mustard for the conch fritters. Without a doubt I prefer the front of the house action to the kitchen. For me, cooking is like a prayer, and most of the chefs I worked with treated cooking like a curse. Give me the turn and burn, deep in the weeds, wild-eyed Friday night fat roll of bills in my pocket. I like the 10 top, 8 top double seating slam. I dig service.
I take that spirit into my job now as I plan events and cater to the whims of social workers, some more deserving than others, just like in the restaurants. It's not for me to judge their worth, but just to sling them the best hash on the hottest plates I can find. My life as a waiter keeps me humble (and proud as any server will tell you, we know we are so much better than all of you!)
I tell you this because yesterday morning I was awake and setting the table for 60 young volunteers, new to the field, preparing to go out and perform public service. They were tasked with planning an event for MLK Jr. Day. As you may have heard there is a push to consider it a day "on" instead of a day off. They pitched their ideas to me; walk-a-thons, anti-hate rallies, building challenge courses, all very ambitious and complex. I told them over and over, "That's great. Best of luck, but service can be simple." They were less impressed with simple.
After this meeting ended I walked to an Irish Pub with a colleague for a celebratory pint of Guiness at 11:30 A:M. Trust me it was well-deserved.
While enjoying the morning sun, watching bubbles rise up the sides of my pint, two young dudes roll up on mountain bikes, park them in the bar and join us outside with pints of their own. We talked bikes and toasted the beautiful morning.
We all paused to notice a homeless man walking along the sidewalk across the street. One of the kids (about 20?) jumped up with his backpack and trotted over to this guy. He pulled out a baggy with a PB&J and other little snack items and offered it to the guy. He took it. The kid ran back to us.
What the hell? Who would be out urban shredding, drinking beer in the morning, and giving out sandwiches? Irish Missionaries? So we asked them what their deal was, what was the catch?
They said they ride downtown every Saturday morning, hucking off of corporate art and rolling manuals off the bus mall curbs. They always see a lot of homeless folks and they thought it would be fun to pass out sandwiches while they rode.
Service is just so simple.