Like most college students, I needed a part-time job between classes back in the day and the most lucrative option was waiting tables. The hours were long and I smelled like a deep fryer at the end of the night, but the tips were impossible to beat, especially as an attractive co-ed. It was the brewpub boom of the late 90s and I became an expert in explaining fermentation tanks to curious guests. I also flirted my ass off. It didn’t take a degree to understand the correlation between affectionate behavior and a larger pile of cash at the end of the night. There was always the risk of certain patrons responding with too much
affection; an awkward request for a date, blatant sexual innuendos, or an unwelcome hand on the shoulder. Those were the nights I asked a male co-worker to walk me home. In the midst of the #metoo movement, as memories of inappropriate encounters from my post-graduate career have resurfaced, it wasn’t until I read this NY Times article
that I was hit by memories of my first career and the steady stream of harassment that came with it. Workplace impropriety was par for the course in the restaurant world. How was I not outraged? Was I complicit? Did I encourage men to treat me disrespectfully by putting on the charm instead of putting my foot down? When one person’s livelihood depends on another person’s satisfaction, who is to blame? I was just a college student, but what if I had kids to support? I’m pretty sure I’d do whatever it takes to get bigger tips if my family depended on it. Some restaurants have made strides to eliminate the need for tips altogether, though the results are mixed
. Over time, I’m hopeful it will become a more successful model to reach the mainstream. Until we reach a perfect solution, maybe we should remember to tip a bit more so our servers can afford to maintain their dignity among those who don’t.