Saturday, November 26, 2011

Walking with Coffee

Back in my high school and college days (and thankfully never again after that), I waitressed at a number of diners and restaurants to earn some cash.

When I began, I knew nothing. I did not know how to start the morning coffee pots in the ancient and enormous 4-pot machine. I did not know how to quickly and accurately make change without the aid of a register or calculator. I was not able to carry more than two plates at a time; certainly not the six plates I would learn to carry later (all without a tray).

And I did not know how to carry a cup of coffee without spilling half of it before I arrived at the table.

I would walk very gingerly, biting my lip, staring intently at the cup; but it seemed the more I stared, the more I concentrated, the more I spilled.

One day, when things were slow, one of the more seasoned waitresses saw me walking along in this way, staring at the coffee, willing it not to spill. Coffee delievered, I returned to the break table and took a seat next to AnnaMarie. She was the same one who had taught me how to make change by counting backwards and I thought she was a goddess.

"What was that?" she said.

"What was what?"

"Why were you walkin' like that? You looked like you were walkin' on egg shells."

"I didn't want to spill the coffee."

"Yeah, well, you walk like that yer gonna spill half of it before you ever get to the table."

"But I'm walking as carefully as I can, what else am I supposed to do?"

"Don't look at it at all."

"If I don't look at it, how'm I s'pposed to know if it's spilling?"

"It won't. Just look where yer headin' and the coffee will stay in the cup without any help from you. Trust me."

And so I tried it. And it was really hard. Not to not spill the coffee, but to not look. Everytime I decided to sneak a peek at the cup to see how I was doing, that coffee would commence sloshing around in the cup, invariably spilling out into its saucer. But the times I didn't look? I arrived at the table with a pristine saucer.

Thankfully I haven't waitressed in years. I never did grow to like it, job-wise. However, I cannot say I didn't learn from it.

I learned to prioritize. When one table needed their check, another needed their dinners brought out, another needed to be cleared and set, another needed to give their order and yet another just needed a simple refill, I learned the hard way I couldn't do it all, at least not all at the same time. This lesson was applied again and again in motherhood.

I learned simple math. Not that I didn't learn it the first time in school, I just never learned how to apply it to real-life situations until I waitressed.

I learned a few other things, as well, like karma. If you can smile and be pleasant even when you're bone tired, things (read tips) will tend to work in your favor.

But probably the biggest lesson learned was to not watch the coffee. And while I mean this literally, the bigger lesson was the metaphoric one. Isn't it always?

I've learned that sometimes, most times, the more attention you give your problems, the bigger they become. Turns out the best way to handle many of life's little curve balls is just to not fret over them. They have a way of working themselves out.

Now, if your sink is spewing forth brown liquid of unknown origin, or your car is telling you she's thirsty for some oil, perhaps you need to face those problems head-on.

But if your kid is playing around instead of studying for her science test, guess what? She will do poorly on the test, feel bad about it, and the next time she will remember to study. That's not to say you can't give her reminders and ensure she has the time and space in her schedule to study, but beyond that, it's her problem, not yours. Give that problem more attention than it needs and instead of a resouceful, independent, self-motivator, you will have a child (and someday-adult) who expects all her problems to be solved for her.

If the kids are bickering over whose turn it is? Resist the urge to step in and solve the dilemma for them. Chances are, you will overinvolve yourself, giving the problem more attention than it needs, and that coffee will be spilled, I guarantee it. Let it work itself out. The kids will learn to negotiate. If it escalates to bloodshed, you will be the first to know and you can step in and save the day.

What did the classroom-party-committee-Mom mean by that remark, how come your bff didn't return your call, why did your husband put those electric tweezers in your stocking last Christmas? You can turn those questions over and over in your mind, stress about them and overanalyze them till you've found meaning where there was none.

Or....

You could walk on through life, focusing on the big picture instead of all the minute details that surround you. That stuff will work itself out with no help from you.

Like AnnaMarie said,

Just look where yer headin' and the coffee will stay in the cup without any help from you. Trust me.








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4 comments:

luckybunny said...

Hi Anne! Thanks for your comment on my post on BlogHer. The dog in those photos (Max) is a Pyr mix yes, we also have a purebred Pyr too. I love my LGD's - can't imagine getting by without them now! My blog is at www.ourforesthaven.blogspot.com - Love the look of your blog! I'll read some more of it when I get back in from chores.

When I first started waitressing - I spilled soup all over a ladies lap, not a good start! LOL

www,FarmLifeLessons.blogspot.com said...

Very wise advice!! And waitressing is a great way to prepare for being a mom, the multi-tasking that is required is a life-long position with mommy-hood, so the relation of the two made me smile. However, being a mommy means more than dirty tables...it means poop without a big tip for the extra trouble you just endured. Good thing we get "paid" with love!!

Lana

Anne Kimball said...

Paid with love... love it, Lana!

Good luck with those chores, Lana. Guess it's time to do a few of mine, too.

Anne Kimball said...

Oops, I meant good luck with those chores "luckybunny"!

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