Teens are Working Hard Now and Adults Need to Show More Kindness

I recently wrote a Facebook post about a restaurant experience picking up takeout curbside. I thought my friends would appreciate it. Then people asked me to make it public so they could share it.

This is a story about how Jen loses her mind over a takeout order and generally loves people but really loathes some and…

Posted by Grown and Flown on Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The post was centered on how unbelievably irritated and irritable the customers were toward the staff. A young staff; some of them just barely adults.

Everyone was angry at the employees

Customers were angry at the restaurant employees who needed to enforce guidelines handed down not only by the business owner, but now by the state. And they were unreasonable about waiting and reservations and capacity limits. Simple things. The day I wrote that post I had witnessed rage; toddler style rage but by adults.

I was embarrassed as I watched how hard these people were working to please the patrons and how little gratitude they got for it. And the post struck a nerve with some people, particularly those in the service industry. I have no idea how many other people have seen or experienced what I did. But there are obviously a lot of us judging by people’s response to my post. Employees and customers are seeing this and have been for some time.

I do not work in the service industry. I spent one summer as a terrible waitress in a small restaurant attached to a grocery store. I really was awful and only lasted three months.

teen at a restaurant
I was embarrassed as I watched how hard these teens were working to please the restaurant patrons and how little gratitude they got for it. (Twenty20 @@mylove4art)

Two of my kids work at restaurants right now

But I have three kids and two of them work at restaurants right now. The younger one doesn’t have any contact with customers. He assembles pizzas in a hot kitchen wearing a hat and a mask and gloves for four hour shifts. He has developed “maskne” (that’s mask acne apparently) and says peeling off his gloves is the best thing in the world after a four-hour shift in a steamy kitchen.

The older one is 19 and is at a host stand nearly every day of the week. She takes reservations, manages seating and coordinates curbside pickup. Two weeks ago a customer went on a profanity laden tirade when his internet search said they closed at 10pm when actual operating hours ended at 9pm. He screamed and swore at her over the food he wasn’t able to order at 8:54pm.

And I can’t help but think how patient we are with our own children. Not all the time, but much of the time. Especially when they are learning something new, doing something outside of their comfort zone, taking the first tentative steps into “adulting.” We cut them some slack. They are just beginners in the workforce. It’s a big learning curve.

We try to be gracious to our own kids, what about someone else’s kid?

But are we as gracious to everyone else? Do we extend the courtesy to other people’s kids? Or do we berate them when they make a mistake? Do we scream at them when our order is incorrect, or they can’t make change quickly, or we have to follow a new rule that we didn’t know about but they have to enforce?

My 72 year-old neighbor tells me the most difficult thing about this year has been that nobody can help each other out in the regular ways. We can’t watch the neighbor’s baby. We can’t check in on an elderly couple nearby. We can’t have a new family in the area over to dinner inside.

We can’t borrow each other’s things, organize a closet with a friend, bring someone a plate of food, stop in to cheer up someone who is lonely in assisted living. Not in the old, normal ways.

It’s a tough year and since there is no place to funnel the frustration, maybe it’s coming out sideways.

But I propose that we try to develop patience for the new normal especially out in the world. We can help one another by increasing our patience. Patience is free and goes a long way. It’s someone else’s baby behind that checkout counter. A loved son packing up our groceries for us. A cherished daughter organizing a takeout order.

Students are delivering for restaurants, for stores, for small local businesses. Kids are working in all of our neighborhoods mowing, scooping ice cream, teaching hockey clinics. Some are at salons where they are now charged with handing out PPE and taking temperatures. Many of the workers we interact with are kids who need jobs and do a good a job.

I’ll be patient with your kids, and you be patient with mine

Some of these kids are helping support their whole family during these extraordinary times. I think this is what we collectively want, is for them to be responsible citizens alongside us and make some money to pay for their own Chipotle.

I don’t know about you, but it’s not going to be great if mine all live in our basement forever. They eventually need to grow up and spill things on their own carpeting. Kids are part of the web of people keeping our world together right now. These are all our kids. Yours and mine.

So let’s make a deal, I’ll try harder to be as kind and patient with these kids and treat them as if they are my own. You do the same. I’ll even throw in a gentle nagging about something like school or getting a haircut so they know I sincerely care about the same way I care for my own.

Let us leave a legacy of being patient over-tippers.

You Might Also Want to Read:

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About Jen LarsenFortner

Jen Fortner lives in Minnesota with her husband, three children and the best dog on earth.  She has a MSW degree that never gets used other than to diagnose family members at holiday gatherings. She has a blog at mymildlifecrisis.com where she tells stories about her family that they never read.

Read more posts by Jen

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