Dishin’ That: Keep your head up and count steps

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The new year is off to a mixed-blessing of a start.

My sweet little serving job has dwindled to skeleton hours, but the big cheese offered me shifts elsewhere within the organization. I’m grateful for the revenue, but I miss scuttling about at my Vitamin D-filled happy place.

In spending quality holiday time with My Blue Eyed Yankees Fan, I was glued hip-to-tail with my beloved Bad Dog. These days, she barks with a Massachusetts accent and lives with two other aging Labrador retrievers. Her foster-humans are earth angels and have no qualms about letting her visit Maine. The harsh reality is, she’s now From Away, and it hurts no matter how much it may be “for the best.”

My two daughters, Number One and Carlykardashian (CK), were together for 10 days in California, where Number One now resides. They sent pictures from Alcatraz, days on end in wine country, and of course, food photos from countless restaurants. Home for a few days, CK leaves this week for the second half of her junior year on the South Shore of Boston. The thought of Photoshopping myself into their pictures doesn’t quite cut it.

Readers of this column helped by sending a few choice emails over the holiday season, from which I learned just how much this platform is appreciated. Even the server who said I was “right-wing conservative in restaurant thinking” made me smile, but not a whole lot.

But, my favorite mixed-blessing reader email was the following from Jeffrey H. Hotchkiss of Falmouth:

“I thought of you and your enjoyable column the other day, when an acquaintance was talking about her mother’s life lessons, an important one of which was not to judge people by their occupations. As an object lesson, her mother used to tell her at restaurants to ‘count the steps’ the waitress took as she went about her business of serving customers.

“I don’t think it would take much counting to gain an appreciation of the work.”

Jeffrey’s email, while well intended, opened up a universal hospitality wound that never quite heals when the concept of being judged by your profession comes into play. It’s never comfortable for either party when someone carelessly blurts out, “Oh, you’re a waitress?”

However, this kind reader’s New Year’s message was bigger than the petty thinking of no matter how much a hospitality worker enjoys their job, the cash on hand, or the people they work with, others still see it as a less-than desirable occupation. Half joking, I blame “Downton Abbey” for a resurgence in this type of thinking in the American workforce.

Choosing not to dwell on the negative of any of my earlier musings, I know Jeffery’s advice for all of us to “count the steps” is a wise one. It’s going to be a long year, so let’s not trip anyone up or worse yet, push them backwards.

And while we’re walking the walk, let’s all hold our heads high, too.

Peas & Q’s

Q — I’m sure it’s faster, but I hate it when a bartender uses his hand to put ice in my drink glass. Why is this permitted? — Jen G., Saco.

A — It isn’t OK. Just as bad as using your hands as a scoop is dipping the glass itself into the ice (which I am occasionally guilty of when in a frazzled hurry). The first is a germ-fest and the second is both a germ-fest and health hazard – cheap pint glasses with cool logos can easily splinter and leave shards of glass in the ice.

All restaurant ice wells have scoops and no server or bartender should be offended if you ask that they be utilized.

Natalie Ladd lives in Portland. When not pecking away, she can be found serving the masses at a busy eatery, or tirelessly conducting happy-hour field research. Hospitality questions or comments should be sent to nladd@theforecaster.net, and may be featured in a future column. Follow Natalie on Twitter: @Nhladd.

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