Only Tourists Look Up

Last week, Ben and I decided to make the trek up to the Galleria mall on one of our mutual days off to use up one of his gift cards. As we made the drive north on Vandeventer to get onto I-40, I had a shocking realization: That intersection we had stopped at provided an incredible view of the downtown St. Louis skyline. We caught a breathtaking image of the Cathedral Basilica, and the other architectural beauties surrounding it by simply looking beyond what we are used to seeing.

When the light turned green, I suddenly felt a different type of emotion; one of freshness, or renewed perception. It is the same feeling I had when I first visited Denver, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and New Orleans, all of which invoked that emotion simply when I looked up at the skyline. So even by looking up in a city I am all too familiar with, I had renewed my love for it.

Even despite the painful job market right now, and all the woes that come along with it, I still manage to stay a generally happy person. Why? I exercise, eat right (as best as I can) and, most importantly, change things up once in a while.

I am not ashamed to admit that I am one of those people who would prefer sticking to the familiar and routine. Once I find something that works for me, I would stop at nothing to keep that consistency. But with that consistency comes a little feeling we all know called boredom. What some people might view as contentment with their surroundings and routines, could be mistaking it for boredom. Myself included.

One of my favorite movies of all time is Dead Poets’ Society, starring Robin Williams. As a more open-minded professor in a high-brow conservative private school, he encourages his students to stand up on his desk to see things from a different perspective. His purpose was to spawn new ideas and fresh points of view on the same tired old subjects.

O' Captain, My Captain

 

This became a theme throughout the entire movie, and the key reason why it is one of my favorites. The movie inspired me to continue to look at things from different angles, even if they happen to be the angles I’m not familiar, or comfortable, with.

This new life philosophy has made a lasting impact on my life. When it came to planning events or discussing major issues on campus with other students, I knew I had to break through my own personal boundaries and biases to have a unique and successful outcome.

So every once in a while, I will change up what I do just to keep things interesting. Sometimes I’ll take a new route to work or the store, sometimes I’ll sit on the floor instead of the bed or couch, and sometimes I’ll stop myself from getting upset over things that usually bother me. It’s all about new perspectives, and it makes me feel like a new person each time I do it.

This could be the solution to our everyday problems. Let’s take the time to stand up on our desks once in a while, and take in the unfamiliar. By adopting that “tourist” mindset and looking up, we can uncover new perspectives, and become more open-minded and well rounded people as we go about our lives in this otherwise humdrum world.

Don’t Be a Dining D-Bag!

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog–it’s purpose, the meaning of “Dunne That” and what direction I’m headed. I’ve realized that, while not a whole lot is going on for me professionally (yet), I still have a job waiting tables, and there is plenty for me to talk about. Especially after last night.

Mondays are fickle where I work. Some Mondays we get swamped, others are totally dead nights. Thankfully, it was right there in between. I had a family of five, plus a baby, come in and sit in my section of the dining room. Everything seemed to be going well; the family was friendly and patient, and (seemingly) understanding of the fact that we were out of our highly sought-after dinner rolls. Yet once I brought the food out, everything seemed to blow up in my face. The eldest man of the five immediately began complaining about the size of his salad and the fact that his onion rings hadn’t arrived yet–which was my fault, and I apologized for it.

But it only began there. He also blew up on our manager, complaining how the service was slow and how his crispy chicken salad just looked like a salad with chicken thrown on top (uhm…duh?), among many other things. When I went back to check on the family, this same guy said, “I don’t want to see you again until you bring us our check.” Needless to say, the manager took care of the rest.

This is not a common occurrence where I work. 95% of our customers are regulars at varying degrees, and tend to be easygoing, friendly and empathetic when it comes to delays. I found out later that this same guy has had incidents with other veteran servers who had been at the restaurant for many years. That’s when I realized that this guy is probably like this everywhere he goes.

Anybody who has ever waited tables before will tell you it is by no means an easy task. It is multitasking at its finest. And, because we are all human, we make mistakes sometimes. It is understandable that you may have a complaint when something is wrong with your food or service, but that is still no excuse to act rudely to someone who is simply doing their best to provide you with quality customer service. Acting like a civilized human being and politely addressing your issues with your server will most likely yield a new meal and maybe even a discount or free dessert; but all you have to do is ask.

When you are rude to your server and causing a stir, you are not only causing problems for the staff, you are also disrupting other customers. When this gentleman and his family left, my other three tables in the room told me I am doing a fine job, even despite one man’s steak being undercooked, which I immediately had fixed in the kitchen without any further problems.

Because this is my first major incident with a customer, it made me really think about proper dining out etiquette. While the standards may vary among different types of restaurants, there are some basic rules everyone needs to follow.

  • Ask questions. If you don’t understand a menu item, ask your server. This is especially important if you have dietary needs. Don’t waste your server’s time after they deliver your food by telling them you’re allergic to something you ordered. Actually read the menu item, and ask any questions. You also don’t need to lie. If you don’t like tomatoes, don’t make up some story about how you’re allergic. Just say you don’t want any.
  • Be polite. Yeah, you are the one receiving service. But you should still be polite. Rudeness and snide remarks and comments will only stress your server out, and make them more likely to forget something you need. It won’t kill you to say “please” and “thank you.”
    Also, don’t go out to eat if you’re in a bad mood. If you absolutely must, don’t take your problems out on your server.
  • Be patient. Pay attention to how busy the restaurant is. If you bring a big group of people without calling ahead during the middle of a dinner rush, don’t expect to get rapid service. The majority of the time, your server knows you’re there and will be with you as soon as previous customers’ needs have been met. You will get your food.
    If you have a time commitment after dinner, make sure you leave enough time. Don’t come in an hour before your movie starts and expect the full service cycle to happen within that time. It likely won’t happen, unless nobody else is there.
  • Tip. A lot of servers get paid less than minimum wage, and rely heavily on tips. When you don’t tip, you are cutting out a large portion of your dining costs and causing serious harm to your server’s personal finances.
    Tipping is simple. Unless the service was absolutely horrendous and nothing was done to fix it, you should always tip no less than 15%. If you can’t do mental math, that’s $3 for every $20 you spend on food. It’s easy.
Just remember, when you are going out to eat, you are not the only one. Behaving irrationally like the guy from last night will only hurt your chances of getting good service, and make other people around you think you’re just another dining d-bag. Going out to eat is supposed to be a fun experience; acting out will only ruin it for yourself.
If you know someone who is a dining d-bag, don’t be afraid to speak up. Real friends are honest with each other, and are unafraid of pointing out when others are being rude or obnoxious. It will only make things better for you and for other customers.