When I was in high school – let’s see, that was in the 60’s! – our Walgreens had a restaurant area. It was sort of a diner with a counter with stools. Very retro now, but commonplace at the time.
I worked there after school and for two summers my last year of high school. I was the youngest one there, not counting the busboys.
Even so, I was always on the cash register when I worked. I never understood that. Was I the only one that could count?
I did learn to give change the proper way, however, which is a big pet peeve of mine to this day, when I get all my change handed to me in a pile. I don’t know what to do with a clump of change.
Anyway, we carried everything on big metal trays. Until the day I spilled six tall milk shakes in glass containers that broke when they hit the floor. That was an interesting day.
I learned to carry five plates of food at one time. I can still do that today. It really impresses the grandchildren.
Every Saturday, I manned the counter, which was a nightmare. Hundreds of kids coming in, wanting a water and a Coke. I would tell them, “You can have one or the other, not both.” I wasn’t going to work that hard for no tip.
And usually on those Saturdays, I didn’t make enough in tips to buy my meal.
And then once a month we had a hot dog stand, which was manned by, guess who? Yes, me! Again, a million kids and no tips. A waitress’s nightmare.
But did I learn a lot working in the little diner! The experience changed my life totally for the better.
Whenever I got discouraged about continuing on in school, I would look at the other waitresses. They were mostly single, in their forties, supporting families on what they made working at our little Walgreens. The encouraged me daily to stay in school and further my education.
I learned perserverence and devotion from a wonderful man who brought his autistic son to the counter every Saturday. It was their routine. The son never spoke but the dad always laughed and smiled. He seemed to be having the best time, when it must have been so difficult for him.
Two of my favorite waitresses pierced my ears in the stock room one day. My one single act of rebellion in high school. It felt wonderful and I wasn’t a bit afraid.
One of the greatest things I learned from those wonderful waitresses was to be kind and gracious to everyone. Greet everyone with a smile and a lilt in your voice. Give a bit more than is asked of you. And always be proud of your work. Whatever you do, do your best. Work as a team.
While I was working there, a few waitresses learned that the busboys were eating some of the leftover food they were picking up from the tables. This bothered them so, that they got other waitresses to start splitting their tips with the boys so they could buy their meals. This really impressed me at the time and has stayed with me my whole life. The fact that people who have so little would be willing to give to those who have even less. I’ve never forgotten.
Those days at Walgreens were wonderful. I learned to be a fast and efficient waitress. I learned to talk “diner.” I learned what return customers meant by “the usual.”
I learned to be responsible and handled money. I became more grown up. I took my lickings with a smile. I was proud of my paycheck.
I owe those waitresses a lot. More than they ever knew. They helped my grow. They helped me mature. They kept me in school.
In so many ways they have affected my whole life.
Thank you, ladies!