Photo by Taylor Davidson on Unsplash

From the Life of Server: The Difference Patience Makes

If you look at my life, even the moments where I’m at my best, patience is rarely my strong suit. Patience being willing to work at things and see them come to fruition without setting the unhealthy expectation of immediacy.

Recently, I started serving for a job and prior to getting shut down for recent health concerns and safety reasons I noticed a lot of life’s lessons are exemplified in working as a server and in serving others in general. One of the most poignant that was exemplified to me this week was patience.

I like to sell myself as a results oriented person, but in actuality, I just prefer to skip to the results to see where I need to improve and to see where I went wrong and how to address that. I frequently lack the ability to stay in the flow and let things go as they need to, I just push and that can hold me back.

The other day, I had a fairly slow morning. My shift started at 12 pm, I was going to be there until 8 pm, and I had maybe two tables before 4 pm. One of our other servers showed up and wasn’t feeling great that day and was sent home, it should be fine, we’re dead. That’s when life decided I needed a lesson, and while I wasn’t excited while I was in the middle of the trial, I was grateful for the lesson in the end.

My coworker walked out the door and within fifteen minutes, four tables walked in. I greeted them in order, took orders, got drinks, did my due diligence and was feeling relatively confident which surprised me because I generally don’t like having more than two or three tables at a time. Well, life has never been good at keeping me in my comfort zone so in walked a table of 16 people.

Now, normally in this situation, my response would be “oh shit, this is going to suck,” because while I’m super positive about the grand scheme of things going well I still realize that individual moments can still suck. On this particular day, in this moment, my response was less positive and I would write it out but strings of expletives with no beginning or end would just be filling space and killing brain cells.

I did my best to take care of my four tables, while greeting the 16 people trickling in and taking their drink orders. Things were going smoothly, everything was fine, I had this. I dropped off a check to two tables, cashed them out and dropped off the check to a third table. After dropping of the check, I needed to take my party’s order so that I could get things rolling with them because the longer I take the less happy they are and I try to take care of my customers.

The man at the table I had just dropped the check off to decided that I wasn’t using my time effectively, walked to the front and told them to run his card and make sure I got zero dollars for a tip because he wanted to be certain that I saw the zero. I had time to run up to the front after taking orders, and got to speak to him and his reasoning was that I shouldn’t have taken orders because his time was important too.

I want to be clear here, I don’t care about getting stiffed on a tip. This is an example of someone not letting things flow. I made sure his table was taken care of, drinks were there as soon as they were ordered or emptied, extra items/sides were there when asked for, but as soon as something he viewed as an inconvenience arose he focused on that and the results he wanted instead of letting things continue as they had been. Instead of accepting that there was an order to things, he wanted what he felt was due to him. I can hardly fault him because I am the same way with most things in my life, but had he let things go he would have continued to have service and wouldn’t have irritated all of my co-workers who saw what happened and demanded I put a gratuity on his bill. I’m never a fan of leaving a place having added negativity or received negativity from it and especially not both, I told my co-workers that it’s the job and that it isn’t a big deal, I’m largely just bothered by the fact that there was no way of resolving his complaints.

Now, my party handled things in the opposite manner. I had three gentlemen seat themselves before the party had fully arrived which is against our policy so I ignored them for the first few moments as I took care of my other tables, which annoyed them. As things progressed, I had a hard time getting all of their drinks/salads/etc., out at first because I was still taking care of my other tables as well and I’m terrible at asking for help. I ended up spilling a glass of water down one of my customer’s backs and I’m still not sure how that happened. Ultimately, for 16 people, I was slower than ideal in a few cases and while it was obviously apparent that I was working at catching up, I could have been better.

With all of the errors, with all of the waiting, they let things flow. I was slow on things and far from the perfect server. At any point, they could have lost patience and let their expectations run the show instead of letting things around them calm down and watch their service improve. At the end of it all, my party left fully satisfied even if one of them ended up regretting not wearing a raincoat to the restaurant.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

-Viktor Frankl

We all face trials and difficulties ranging from stubbing our toes to global pandemics. Between the initial instance of difficulty, and how we respond, we have the privilege to choose how we will respond. I speak of letting things flow because I personally feel like life is like a river and while there are times to fight the direction it’s pulling you to avoid obstacles, for the most part it will lead in the direction of choices you make each with a natural consequence in the form of a current.

Rarely is there a need to rush things, I’ve learned this serving, I’ve learned it facing financial and health issues, I’ve learned it repeatedly watching things that I thought were meant to be lifelong fall apart around me. I’m not good at patience, I’m very much someone that pushes for things to be immediate, and it costs me. It has been a source of depression, a source of lost opportunities, the end of relationships, because instead of taking the extra second to choose my response I just reacted and it went poorly.

When you’re faced with something in life, take that moment to breathe and to choose your response. Accept the fact that in making an immediate reactionary choice, you are going to cost yourself far more than taking an extra moment to assess which course of action you ought to take.

Virginia Satir, one of the pioneers of the study, believed that intention means everything. I tend to agree in terms of driving life forward, refining your intent allows you to take more pauses in life because you can see if the response you are about to make matches the intentions you’ve mapped out for yourself.

If your overall intention in life is to succeed, as you’re pursuing tasks you’ll see more opportunities for growth. If your intention in life is self-sabotage, you’ll see more opportunities for that (I speak from experience here). Your energy flows towards what you pay attention to.

I’ve learned that practicing patience allows me to see more clearly, both in serving and in the grand scheme of things, where my intentions lead and how my actions influence that course. I hated the idea of serving at first because I came from a background where if you didn’t have a degree and weren’t working with a title next to your name it meant that you didn’t have value, over time I learned that it’s in roles where you can make an impact on people that you have the opportunity to grow.

My intentions are ultimately to help as many people as possible grow to the best version of themselves, that means that I need to refine skill sets of communication, influence, and being able to assess different needs. These are all skills you learn as a server because they’re the main skills you need to do the job.

I’m not one for talking to a wall. I want to know where you’re at, I want to know how patience and intention have impacted you and your life. Please comment below and let me know.

Writer and Life Coach working to better himself and help those around them reach their best.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store