Serving, a rant on the perils of servitude

Serve your man, serve your family, serve your country, serve your customers.

I have been a fairly complacent participant of the service industry for nearly 15 years. That is to say: I work in a restaurant and I serve many, many people everyday. 

The definition of server, servant and service has evolved greatly since the beginning of the 20th century. Though, some days at my job you’d scarcely know it. What follows are only some of the rules and regulations European servants of the 19th and 20th century had to endure:

European SERVANTS RULES of the late 19th century (and early 20th century)
These are excerpts from The Servants Behaviour Book:

  • Never let your voice be heard by the ladies and gentlemen of the house except when necessary and then as little as possible….
  • Never begin to talk to your mistress unless it is to deliver a message or ask a necessary question….
  • Never talk to another servant, person of your own rank or to a child in the presence of your mistress unless from necessity; and then do it as shortly as possible and in a low voice….
  • Never call out from one room to another….
  • Always answer when you receive an order or reproof….
  • Never speak to a lady or gentleman without saying ‘Sir’, ‘Ma’am’ or ‘Miss’ as the case may be….
  • Always stand still and keep your hands before you, or at your sides when you are speaking or being spoken to….
  • Nursemaids are often encouraged to sing in the nursery; but they should leave off immediately on the entrance of the lady or gentleman….
  • Never take a small thing into the room in your hand…any small thing should be handed on a little tray, silver or not, kept for the purpose….
  • Do not ever choose gay patterns or colours. Not only are such dresses unfit for morning work after they are worn, but they can never look becoming for servants….

While I may work in the service industry, I am not a servant!

I am afforded the same rights and dignities as any average person on the street. Cussing at me, and making outrageous demands will not get you your food any faster. Neither will remaining mute or talking on your phone the entire time – I still exist, even if you pretend that I don’t. No, I cannot change the prices. Nor do I have any say in any of the policies you think are silly, stupid, fucked up, or any other way you prefer to describe it.

I do not make the rules, I merely abide by and enforce them. 

Yes, I understand your frustration and I assure you I am doing my very best to ensure your visit (as well as that of the other hundred people I will serve today) is of the highest quality and I will do so with a smile plastered on my face throughout our entire interaction. 

Tipping does not make up for your failure to treat me like a human being. 

My job is by no means glamorous. It’s hot, sticky and smelly most of the time. It’s loud and busy. I can’t wear what I want to, I have to be conservative with my hair and makeup. No one looks good in a hairnet!

With all that in mind, I have the kind of job you can feel good about. Hungry people from all over the city come in, and I feed them. Whether they’re nice or not, whether they’ve noticed or not, I have made a difference in that person’s day.

I’m sure I could go on and on and on, looking for reasons to bash my line of work – I won’t.

And, while the days of please and thank you may be drawing to a close, replaced with those of “gimme a …” and swearing to get what you want, there are the few that make it all worth while: the children! Unspoiled by cynicism and downright rudeness, children never fail to warm the cockles of my heart. 

What makes you bitter?

Peace and Love,


2 thoughts on “Serving, a rant on the perils of servitude

  1. You forgot the people who can’t understand what you are saying even if you are speaking clearly in the same language (ie “I’m sorry but we don’t currently have that kind of pie” response: “huh? What do you mean”)

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