Friday, October 31, 2014


Lately I’ve noticed our lunch-time servers in various corporate restaurants are older. They look to be about 50 or higher. Yesterday’s Red Robin waitress was certainly a grandmother.

I’m sure there are employment trends tracked on sites like and LinkedIn to suggest that mid-career workers are more likely to have been laid off in the financial crisis in 2008. Many were probably unable to take early retirement and therefore found alternative employment.
How we hang in restaurants now. KDW

Mid-career workers are the ones whose tenure and experience make them expensive. But the ranks narrow at the top of the company. Ambition is what would keep them in the organization, the desire to achieve leadership heights. And the willingness to put in whatever hours, travel, and sacrifice necessary to achieve those heights.

And maybe they didn’t want to sacrifice family or free time to climb the ladder. Maybe they found meaning and purpose at church or in a civic organization. Maybe they need more time to raise money for cancer research or animal shelters.

A lot of Gen Xers were tossed out with the layoffs in 2008. Though not quite as expensive as our middle-management, mid-career supervisors, we also didn’t have the chance to lay bare our ambition. We were too busy climbing to look up and see opportunity.

But we’re not waiting tables.

Many of us have started our own companies, become consultants, become independent contractors, worked from home in start-ups. Many of us have shifted careers to those occupations that are hiring like nursing, education, and technology.

Again, there are probably statistics demonstrating how many people in which age brackets are working in what types of jobs. And I remember when all of us Gen Xers were waiting tables because we couldn’t get entry-level jobs in the Bush economy. Remember that? Post-9/11? Nobody hired anyone for months.

Waiting tables is a hard job. It’s being your feet, carrying all kinds of stuff, responding politely to dickhead customers, and cleaning crust and crumbs out of vinyl seats. So why would grown-ups do that job?

Because it’s work. Because it pays. Because it’s something they can do.

And why would corporate restaurant managers hire them?

Because they’ll show up. 

They’ll be clean. They’ll be sober. They’ll be honest and polite. They’ll be professionals.

I’ve gone back to restaurants again and again while I was between jobs. After I finished my masters’ degree I swore I wouldn’t return to the service industry. The person bitching about the $1 upcharge for onion rings doesn’t care if I have more education than he does. He holds my salary in his wallet.

I never wanted to be at that much of a disadvantage again.

And yet I respect the fact that those mid-career workers found some source of income to satisfy their needs. I respect that they’re willing to take whatever job they can find at Red Robin or Cracker Barrel or Applebee’s so that they have some source of income.

They may not be in a position to risk starting their own business and failing, or being a consultant and traveling, or being contractors without benefits.

But they’re working. They work for lower wages, at menial jobs, where their customers don’t know everything they’re capable of. Where their experience doesn’t really matter if their service sucks.

I suspect a few of them like the flexibility of a wait staff job, the minimal hours for maximum pay. Some may like working side-by-side with the youngsters who typically fill the ranks. Others may genuinely enjoy greeting customers and making them smile.

I respect people who are willing to work.

Lately I’ve been working with a lot of people who have held the same job with the same company for more than 20 years. I respect their loyalty, certainly, but I also wonder what would have happened if an economic crisis had forced them to do something new.

I try to imagine them waiting tables.

Then I feel a renewed sense of respect for the Red Robin grandmother. And yes, my tips reflect that respect. #dontsayitpayit

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

No Longer Virgin

Two weeks ago I ran a 13.1 mile race delightfully called a Diva Half Marathon. It was not my first time. My first half was in Greenville, SC in 2011.

After having Hollie in 2008, I went back to running in an attempt to lose the baby weight. When the first 30 pounds came off but nothing else did, I thought adding mileage was the way to shed more weight.

What’s amazing to me is not that I was able to log the training hours or that I completed the race, but that the motivation for taking on such a thing was so ridiculously na├»ve.

Running to lose weight will not take you 13.1 miles.

There must be some other motivation. Some other voice in your head daring you to see if you can actually achieve such a thing. The miles are just too long and the effort just too hard to rely on the calorie burn as motivation.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Raising a Fighter

Hollie’s a picky eater. She’s got the foods she likes and she sticks with them. She’s an only child. She likes her alone time. She’s also an independent child. She doesn’t like being bossed around by me and Charlie.

More than once on vacation we found ourselves in a standoff with Hollie.

Over going to play golf. She didn’t want to. We did.

Over leaving the wave pool at the water park. She didn’t want to. We did.

Over going out for dinner. She didn’t want to. We did.

Over eating what she’d ordered. She refused.

Over leaving the Hilton Resort Orlando after checkout on Thursday. We had to.

We fight over brushing her hair.

We fight over brushing her teeth.

These days it seems like we fight about pretty much everything. Which is a good thing. It means she trusts us enough to state her desires with some confidence they’ll be met.

It means she has specific desires and is learning how to rationally explain those desires. 

I ask questions to get her to elaborate on her logic. I sometimes let her win.

Being willing to fight means she’s assertive enough to get what she wants. It means she won't be bullied, go along with the crowd, or believe her wants don’t matter.

Then, last week, I read this blog post about letting a little girl say “no.” And I did what I think the blogger wanted me to do, I really thought about it.