For more explanation of this month’s theme, “millennials in thirty things,” check out this post.
It’s been two months to the day since I started working at The Silver Spur, a family-style burger and steakhouse that’s closer to my house by bike than by car. There are two American flags hanging on the front; there are cowboy silhouettes and deer heads hanging inside. There’s also a moose whose muzzle I almost head-butt every time I check my tables on the patio. Between the meat and the Americana, this is all very ironic—for the most part, I was vegetarian while I was in college, and I’ve just come back from France where I cringed every time someone recognized my accent. But I adore this job: my coworkers are kind, the regulars have started teasing me, and the irony of it all makes me laugh.
During these past few weeks I’ve become faster at clearing tables and surer of carrying three bison burgers with fries. I’ve also dared to bring out four waters by hand instead of using a tray—although, I haven’t attempted that with the more expensive drinks, yet. And, I’ve started recognizing my customers, especially the Groupon-wielding bunch. For example, The Silver Spur is not really a date restaurant for my generation, so when I go to greet a young couple at one of my booths, I brace myself for the, “So…we have a Groupon…” opener. Or, after I take a young family’s confused orders, I’m hardly surprised when they pull out a smartphone and flash their virtual coupon. Most uncomfortably, when a family of color comes into this very white establishment in this very white suburb, everyone—the servers and the cooks alike—suspect a Groupon.
These certificates are quite the mixed bag. Sometimes, they bring in customers who are looking to try something new, like our deep-fried pickles. These people are generally good-natured: they ask questions and smile. After all, they’re on an adventure. Other times, however, it’s obvious they are trying to get as much for as little as they can. These are the tables I dread because they’re demanding—asking for multiple refills; extra dressing; more rolls; the bill, quickly—and, because, after all of the circles I run around the restaurant, they tip like shit. Because they’re never going to come back, never going to look me in the eye again.
We millennials are a transient generation, or so I’ve heard. Rather than staying in our homeland, we consider ourselves “global citizens.” Instead of holding down one job until retirement, we’re expected to change career paths several times. And, we hop from restaurant to restaurant, trying new things and moving on.
The beauty of this all is the mixing. Blue passports mingle with red, maroon, and green. Fresh perspectives spice up old ideas. The pasty restaurant browns. Of course, there are the shitty tippers who shove, graceless and entitled, through this changing world, refusing to recycle because they won’t be staying long anyway, networking to the point of objectification, driving their waitresses mad. But, rudeness and self-interest have always existed. Generosity, too. At the end of the night, when I shuffle through the bills I’ve stuffed in my apron, I find that most of my Groupon customers tipped me 15 percent, some even more, making up for their stingy neighbors.
Sabrina Lee majored in English and French and graduated from Calvin College in 2013. After a couple of gap years, she’s back in school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, pursuing a MA/PhD in English.You can usually find her reading and drinking tea—and, once in a while, ballroom dancing.