Adult-ish: Dining service workers are human, they are worth your respect
Audrey Bowers is a junior English education major and writes "Adult-ish" for the Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Audrey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I pile as many dishes as I can on top of one another. My hands become covered with gravy, Frank’s Red Hot sauce and pancake syrup. I grab cups and coffee mugs that aren’t emptied yet and I feel apple juice, milk, and cold coffee on my fingertips.
I bring the plates and cups into a separate room and scrape them as perfectly clean as possible, one by one. Then I place them on the dish cart. I bring the dirty dishes upstairs, wash them, bring the dish cart back downstairs, and repeat the process again and again until my shift is over a few hours later.
The job isn’t difficult; I’ve worked in dining since freshman year and I’m used to it. This job isn’t what I plan on doing for the rest of my life because in three semesters I will be student teaching (and won’t be able to work) and after I graduate I plan on finally teaching in my own classroom.
Some days it feels as though my coworkers and the students who come to the breakfast buffet can only see me as someone who is there to take away the dishes and clean them. Even worse, it sometimes feels as though they aren’t able to see me at all. They see the nachos I can make for them, the dirty plate I can take for them, and the position they hope they won’t end up in. They don’t see me, the girl who is trying her best, despite it all, to make a difference in whatever way she can.
The truth is that I am so much more than someone who works in dining, even if other people cannot see it. I’m a human being with hopes and dreams and fears. My uniform doesn’t make me immune from mean comments and nasty looks.
I see how people react to dining workers because I am a dining worker. Some people are rude and impatient. Others act as if they are walking on eggshells around us, their face saying something like: “I don’t want to bother you. I’m so sorry for making you do your job. I am sorry that you have to work here.” While being kind and thinking of our feelings is appreciated, you do not have to feel pity for us. Having pity for us would imply that there is something inherently wrong with the work that we have chosen. A job is a job. This especially reigns true in college, when you can only afford to work part time. Other people just ignore us as if we are invisible. This can be even more harmful than the rude and impatient customers because it makes us feel as though we don’t really matter and as though our work truly isn’t appreciated.
When it comes to interacting with dining employees, it’s okay to start up conversations with us. Feel free to ask us questions about food options, even if you don’t want to be annoying or awkward. Feel free to be polite to us, but don’t feel like you have to be polite if you wouldn’t normally. Above all, remember that we are people too and treat us like such. It takes less than two seconds to acknowledge another person’s existence and go on with what you were doing before. It doesn’t have to be difficult to be a decent person.
Don’t treat us as if we aren’t capable of doing anything else or as if we are undeserving of respect. That is so far from the truth. Many students like myself work in dining because of the flexible hours and pay raises that other jobs do not provide. Regardless of the reasons why we chose this occupation, we are human beings who are worthy of respect.
This job is not going to make me rich by any means, but it is helping to get me through college. It is paying bills and allowing me to save for the summer when I will be an intern and not able to work that much. By helping me get through college, this job is essentially allowing me to become who I want to be: a secondary English teacher and a creative writer. That, in my opinion, is nothing to be looked down upon for or to be ashamed of.