An open letter to the governor

March 16th, 2020 by Ken

When you closed the restaurants and bars, I know it was for the betterment of our entire state.

But, when you did that, did you ever think of Melissa at Sharis, Jan at Dennys, Margaret at O’Blarneys, Kristen at The Dancing Goats or Kathy at the Martin Way Diner.  These are all waitresses who make their living off tips.  Some are single moms with kids, some are the prime wage-earner in their family, some are taking care of disabled husbands or ailing mothers.   And they all depend on tips.

Minimum wage is fine, but tips are the primary way these women and thousands of others like them make a living and take care of their families.  Filling To-Go orders doesn’t provide these women with tips.  It’s the regular customers who do that.

Many of the restaurants had already made changes in the way they operate in response to the virus.  Some have done away with dishes and use disposable paper products.  All clean more often, usually after a customer leaves.  Stopping these women from making a living is a shame.

Offers of government assistance is welcome, but it will be delayed.  By the time state and federal officials get the money in the chain and establish criteria and eligibility it will be too late for many.  Service providers such as waitresses will be the largest group of sacrificial workers.  Will anyone but their regulars care?

(Editors note:  Some names have been changed above.  I wrote the following story years ago.  I thought it might bring some clarity to how important waitresses are in this society.)

Carol

The first time I saw Carol she was pouring coffee.  The last time I saw Carol she was pouring coffee.  It never occurred to her that someone would come into her small diner and not want coffee.

It was early morning and I had a job interview.  I thought I should have something to eat before going so I stopped in at the Trails End. a diner in Tumwater.

I was surprised at how small it was.  Two small tables and six seats at the counter.  I could see two men occupying two of the seats.  Carol came over carrying an empty white cup and a pot of coffee.  She put the cup down filled it, looked at me and said “What’ll you have?”   That was the last time I would hear that phrase.  “A short stack and sausage,” I replied.  She turned her head slightly and said “A short stack and sausage, Sam.”  I hadn’t noticed the short order cook behind the grill.

Other customers began coming in.  All men and all regulars.  Carol greeted each one by name, asked about their sick wife, their grandkids and their schedule for the day.  All the time pouring coffee and giving their order to Sam without once asking them “What’ll you have?”

I watched her go about her job, engaging in conversation with the men, bantering back and forth, telling jokes and making them smile.  As the men were leaving, not once did I see her place a bill on the counter, but each man pulled out his money and left it on the table.

I began to understand.  Carol was the mother, the wife, the friendly next door neighbor.  She was more than a waitress to these men, she was a friend who they could count on to know them and care about them.

I didn’t ask for a bill either.  I put $10 on the counter, got up and left.  When I looked back, Carol had picked up the money and was pouring coffee for her next regular.

Posted in Business, Government, The Real News


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