Thoughts of an Author in Training
Either I’m becoming bitter or the world gives less fucks. It’s more likely the latter and I haven’t decided if it’s necessarily a bad thing. By the term less fucks or zero fucks given, I’m using a cultural term nominated by my generation to compete with the popular term “I don’t give a fuck”. Our term turns “fuck” or the act of sex in to a reward that if the person cared enough they would give a “fuck”. Whereas before “fuck” was equivalent to nothing and was used in the same context to mean a big “I don’t care.” Since the return of a journey abroad for a decent amount of time the magical land of Colorado has considerably changed and people give fewer fucks. Sorry for the vulgarity in the this article.
Most likely it’s my perspective on what was already here that has changed, but either way the result has been that the general public I’ve encountered just doesn’t care. Not in a sense of generally caring for the world but caring in the sense of what other people think. People have gotten weird and nobody seemed to notice.
While being waited on at a restaurant recently, a steak house during a business lunch, my waitress at first seemed inadequate. We sat on the patio and after about ten minutes our waitress came outside in an obvious effort to take a cigarette break but was interrupted by our presence. She wasn’t encouraged to rush over to our side and assist, but she responded in a general I-don’t-really-care-if-you’re-here-or-not attitude which resulted in here continuing to hold her cigarette and shouting from the patio door in an attempt to get our drink orders. Our bosses were well qualified in age to order their drinks but Thomas and I had our driver’s licenses ready, being that we look 15, but the waitress waited at the door. Like a draw, a stand-off for who would respond first, we won but only out of confusion as to how she would bring us the booze and not get fired without checking our IDs- it was that type of business meeting. She paced to our table, a good 20 steps. We were the third patio table out from the door and asked us again picking at her fingers and I swear drawing doodles on her notepad. It took 30 seconds for her to write down Coors Light before she could continue on to writing around of waters.
Her method of premature questioning and conversation approach usually began once the patio door broke the seal and sunlight crept inside where there was no one. This meant that we usually missed the first breath and she usually interrupted a productive point in the meeting. It didn’t really seem to bother her that we pouted or spoke quickly.
She clearly had an I-could-care-less way about her as she swayed rhythmically around our table waiting for orders while she starred off in to the parking lot, or commented on the weather. She was more about pointing out the obvious and less about taking action. She avoided action, like refilling drinks or picking up empty plates, as if it would be a burden to her day.
Her outfit was low and clung on for dear life near her hips. She never really picked up her feet when she walked, eerily sliding towards the door, yet every part of her upper body bounced uncomfortably. She didn’t give much attention, but she certainly called for it and I couldn’t help but wonder how she got to be a server at a steak house.
Dealing with business customers during lunch and families during dinner I wondered how it would fly among other food consumers that the service was slow and the entertainment was weak. Our server didn’t care. She wasn’t working for a gracious amount of extra cash and as far as I could decipher she felt like she was doing her job, but the ridiculous standards by which we expect service in America made her look inadequate.
As I backpacked through Europe, the culture of dinning at a restaurant was something to be understood not told. You committed to the restaurant’s time and staff. They might be working to bring you food, but it’s a mutual respect between both parties. It was less of a service and more of an experience. Service was built on a concept that if you needed something you asked, otherwise you’re left to your own to enjoy the ambiance. You really have to hunt them down for your check and often times we were given free dessert or alcohol in the agreement that we would stay a little longer.
The layouts of restaurants were designed for relaxation and entertainment. The staff itself was not limited to one overall demographic. They could be very young or older, some looked retired but they were working and held in the same regards as any other job. There was no stigma attached for being 40 and waiting tables. In fact my favorite service workers were the ones who had families and were older, they believed in their line of work as much as a teacher or engineer would.
The European’s most favorably let their food speak for themselves. Not even in a café would you dare here the question “Was your food all right? Was everything ok?” because damn it, if the food wasn’t good then there’s something wrong with your taste pallet.
It was just assumed, rather it was known, that the food that was served was good. It’s a pride in the presentation of food that went from a process of production to a luxury for your stomach. It didn’t matter the class or star rating of the restaurant, in fact the more expensive we ate the more we found that it was just the portion size that changed and not the flavor. It was consistent everywhere that food was a luxury as well as a necessity, something to be savored rather than consumed.
We had exchanged the fast pace of American life style for the liberty to wander and divulge in the comforts of food on our own time. We went from a place where money and time are equal in the truest way to a place where time is irreplaceable and outweighs money. In the extreme form, what good is money if you’re going to die tomorrow?
For a continent so plagued by its past, so haunted by the reality of death and economic depression, I think Europe’s figured out something that Americans so boldly pass up. And that is the present, living in the moment as cliché as that sounds. We’re always planning for the future, worrying about the past, checking our watches and trying to do 12 different things at once. Most likely all of that is motivated by money and quite frankly I think it’s prohibited us in seeing how lucky we are to be free and alive. We expect to be fast and successful. When other people lack those qualities in efficiency, we view them as slow and careless.
Our waitress at the steak house was no Hare in the race, but she did her job and left us be. It was mostly her timing that was off. Reacting to questions slowly and interjecting prematurely but she was operating in a whole different relevance to life than we were. Our business was strict and we were moving towards a goal of accomplishing matters at hand. She was meeting the requirements of her job and getting lost in the weather. What built was the tension, the expectation of something and not receiving the sufficient treatment at a restaurant. It was the concern that robbed me of the moment. The judgment that I could do a better job that distracted me from the sunshine and creative atmosphere.
Money in relevance to time consumed my thoughts. She had wasted my time and therefore I wasted her money as I harshly wrote less than %20 for her tip. Maybe I am bitter after all. As the world turns quickly I need to remember that the moment exceeds the money. Vacation won’t you take me back and shake me of this greed and stupidity?