The Man is a Genius


Many moons ago, when I was a strapping (and I mean STRAPPING) young coed in college, my student-job was to work the front desk of our athletic center and field house. And for some reason I chose to work the early morning shifts. It was probably because I was still up when the shifts started. Long story short, I always worked with this retired vet. For the sake of this story, let’s call him Stan.

Stan was about 5’5’’, 75 years old, 200 pounds of twisted steel and a man of few words. His hobbies included weightlifting, weightlifting and more weightlifting. If you just met him, you’d think he grew up in communist China, just throwing prison weight around since exiting the uterus.

Since he was the defending Pennsylvania Senior Olympic Weightlifting champion, and I was a quasi college football player, meathead, and guido, our conversations were very manly. But one day, for some reason I am still not sure of, our conversation got pretty real. He opened up about his military experience and conversed about the lack of service the youth of our great nation were leaving absent.

My thought here was: “And here we go! Another stern military talk. Anybody see GW Bush running around?”

But that wasn’t the case. What he meant by “service’ was to serve others. Not to serve your country. So for this vet, waiting tables and taking on incoming fire set you in line not to be an “asshole.”

His remedy for this void was that upon turning 18, one has the choice of joining the military or waiting tables. For me, I thought this was lunacy. How can you compare the two? His justification was that, at 18, one has to realize, “that people suck.”

(Here is a strong paraphrasing performance. Enjoy.) “In order to appreciate others and to stay humble, you have to know what it is to serve. The sooner you learn that, the easier life is for you, and everyone else.”  – Stan

Now, seven years later, it makes a bit of sense. Actually, the man is a genius.

It’s almost like a scene from war movie. We as a waitstaff, food and beverage community and service industry have to, “hold the line.”  Whether that line is our mental stability handling 50 covers in an hour, or a babysitting 10, 3-year-olds on Teewinot all day. If you don’t feel like you are alone in the trenches taking on grenades during President’s Day week, well, you were probably stoned the entire time. For a while, being a waiter/ski instructor was a means to an end, and tourists were the enemy. But, it is not the case. It is the life I have chosen — a constant game of tug of war. With each table, child and Diet Coke refill, I get closer to the off-season. I get closer to long rides, hot days, cold beers and maybe even a motorcycle.

So, “Be brave” Jackson. Take your slice of humble pie and eat it too. Because, after April when we burnt all our cash on traveling, gear, and trying to get laid, we will be begging for the screaming kids, rich parents, and, unfortunately, Diet Coke refills.

Pizza, french frying, (and Diet Coke refilling) — my way to a new mountain bike!


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