Alma Mater–Oh Dear!

Dad had on his Duke T-shirt. Mom sported an Ivy League someplace hoodie. Son wore his Ice Bowl hockey tee. Daughter and two other college-age kids chose to remain mysterious, wearing plain, logo-less tops.

“Morning folks, how is everyone today?” I smiled at the handsome group of six, and not just because my gratuity was now guaranteed. They really were quite striking in all their college-clothing pride.

“Good morning, how are you?” asked Dad.

“Fine, and I hope all of you are, too. Coffee?” I replied as I offered a steaming pot of fresh-brewed java.

“Yes, thank you,” both Mom and Dad said in unison. “And do you have some skim milk?” asked Mom.

“I see all kinds of schools represented here,” I smiled at Mom after nodding “certainly” to her skim milk request. “A family divided?” I laughed.

“Oh, no. Not at all,” said Dad, smiling. Then he pointed to the logo-less ones: “Georgetown,” he said, referring to Daughter. “And Cornell,” he said, referring to the other two good-looking kids.

“Nice!” I smiled back. “But Ithaca, so cold in the winter,” I laughed. RG Son and I had visited that cute town when I took him on his college tour that did not include a stop at Cornell. “Go to a college that touts its tunnel system so you don’t have to go outside for six months, and you won’t see me until you graduate,” I told him more than once during the Upstate New York whirlwind look at 10 colleges, several of which accepted him but all of which he declined in favor of spending four years basking in the fine Ohio winters.

“It’s not that bad,” said a girl who must have been a friend of Son or Daughter.

“And Georgetown!” I said to Daughter, who smiled back at me.

I said what I said next without thinking; I just blurted it out and wished, as I did so, that I could have taken back every word and remained silent and smiling like any good server knows to do. But instead, I said, “I went there, too!”

Someone’s butter knife clattered on a B&B plate. The three seconds of silence that followed my thoughtless comment might as well have been three hours.

“Oh!” smiled Mom with just a hint of a question mark.

“Well, how about that,” said Dad, now gazing at his menu.

Daughter simply stared at me, uncertain what to say.

As I stood there before them in my crisply pressed, formal black and whites, my pen poised to take their orders for egg white omelets and turkey bacon and sides of fresh fruit–because these smart, handsome people had their healthy worlds in hand and futures that could never be anything but bright–I scolded myself for casting doubt on those bright hopes, if only momentarily.

I thought of what I could have, should have said:

“My daughter went there!”

“My son loved all four years he spent there!”

“Gotta love those Hoyas in March!”

But alas, it was too late. So I could only think to myself: Yes, boys and girls, moms and dads, sometimes we choose paths that lead us far, far away from our carefree college days. Sometimes we simply work hard for the money and try to get on in life. I may sling fine-dining eggs full-time and tend bar on-call for my living, but that’s okay on most days, even on those days when it seems like a never-ending, insane challenge.

Mom and Dad, your beautiful, clearly smart kids will be okay, too. Daughter, you’ll be fine wherever life takes you after Georgetown. Work, you see, is just work. The rest is all you.






13 responses to “Alma Mater–Oh Dear!”

  1. Shannon Avatar

    And did they tip as well as you expected?

  2. Restaurant Gal Avatar
    Restaurant Gal

    Party of 6– auto grat. 🙂

  3. Kim Ayres Avatar

    I think you should say that to every customer who has an Ivy League kid 🙂

  4. Nana Avatar

    Had a friend in graduate school at Columbia (waaay uptown NYC), who worked part-time at the Faculty Club (a much sought-after job for grad students). When his HS English teacher saw David’s younger sister one day and asked how and what he was doing, Sister proudly said, “He’s tending bar in Harlem”

  5. Restaurant Gal Avatar
    Restaurant Gal

    Kim–It is not in my job description to cause momentary panic and angst. haha

    Nana–And making a ton of money, I would guess.

  6. joeinvegas Avatar

    Latest news was about the number of law students passing the bar, producing twice as many lawyers as there are positions. I’m expecting some good legal advice at dinner.

  7. Clare - Never Niche Avatar

    I could not love you more. You articulate everything I feel about serving.

  8. Restaurant Gal Avatar
    Restaurant Gal

    joeinvegas–Very good.

    Clare–Ha! The server/hospitality experience is definitely a universal one.

  9. Jenni G Avatar
    Jenni G

    I get what you’re feeling as I work in a place where our industry is of the service kind, but the majority of us have degrees that have nothing to do with our chosen professions. Living life and enjoying it to the fullest even while living paycheck to paycheck is priceless! Quality of life is why people spend a lot of money to vacation is where we get to live.

  10. Restaurant Gal Avatar
    Restaurant Gal

    Jenni G–I hear ya. Still, it was a funny albeit awkward moment for both my guests as well as myself as we worked through our knee-jerk reactions on both sides.

  11. Tony Avatar

    Are you sure you weren’t projecting your feelings about being both educated and a server? I wouldn’t automatically think something had gone awry in someone’s life if they graduated college but worked as a server. In fact, when I lived in Chapel Hill, NC I never batted an eyelash when convenient store attendants turned out to have PHDs. In reality, there are tons of reasons you could be waiting tables without having to have wasted your college education…

  12. SkippyMom Avatar

    I have to agree with Tony. So? I went to Georgetown too [89] and was a server when my children will little. It was the best job I could get so as to not have them in daycare and make great money. Just because you have an “education” doesn’t mean you have to take a job that is based on your degree.
    I have been a stay at home Mom for many years – and although my parents didn’t pay for my GU education it aggravated my Dad to no end that I didn’t “use” the knowledge I had gained from this fine institution, but instead was “just raising kids.”
    I use it everyday – just not in the way I was “supposed” to I guess.

  13. Flora Rouse Avatar
    Flora Rouse

    Oh… A similar thing happened to me once. I was made to feel so bad about where I was in my life, I decided to prove to myself that I am okay with what I have. I love food, so I chose to buy caviar, the good kind, not the cheap substitute from stores. As I was enjoying the luxury delicacy I went over my acomplishments and emotions I had in my life between college and that point, and I realized: if I had had ambitions to be a scientist or some big-career girl, I would have done that, but I saw happiness in other areas of my life. A job is just a job, as you said. So I decided to be proud of the life I am living and never let others judgemental looks shake this confidence in me.