Behind the Pepper Mill
Im your server tonight. Not what you might imagine at first: a young person, struggling through a UK undergraduate degree or one whose fate does not include higher educationa working-class stiff living to serve you. No, Im decked in dress-black, holding a pepper mill, and delicately narrating your specials, but Im knocking at 40s door, a veteran teacher, Ph.d candidate, and cover your tender earsbut probably smarter than you are. Howd I wind up here? Well, life morphs us funny ways, and my way kind of woke up about 35, a departmental chair in a private high school who was tired of learning to be expert on her own. All of a sudden, I wanted to be sitting in the presence of someone brilliant who could lecture to meinstead of me scraping to learn on my own and impart wisdom to my classrooms full of young women. I wanted to know more, and the cost was putting on an apronagainlike I was 20, and working as a TA til I either earned that Ph.d or figured Id heard enough of what others had to say. But, ironically, whats been the bigger education may have been whats happened behind the apron in one of Lexingtons finest eateries, filled on and off with horse people, politicians, business folk, andyes, men and women out for a leisurely meal before a message or yoga classthose folks with afternoons as open as prairies, who have no idea that I and my peers have devoted the late morning and afternoon to their crabcake lunch which cost, on average, $12 and makes us a whopping two dollars, which brings our hourly wage to $4did I mention my two Masters degrees? How much I love to comment on student paperswhen I find the time? My point is that Im not the person you think I am, as I grind pepper on your two-dollar salad.
And , even if I were who you assume I am, I think I might deserve to beto earn minimum wage, to get more than a condescending nod from you. But when I realize what waiting tables does to oneinsideI think I know why you, Herr Customer, don quite get it.
What I mean to say is, even my peers dont know who I am, dont see a person in meso why should you? Perhaps, permeated by our cultures ideas of what a service worker is, perhaps I dont even recognize this me, cinched into an apron and acting however you want me to act. Cinched and choking, I am a me who strangles the me who knows anything to death.
It may be that in serving you, I cant help doing a disservice to me. Perhaps Im thinking about it all too much. Perhaps you dont think about it enough.
A Lexington Server n