Having lived outside the US for more than twenty years, each time I return I seem to be able to see the country through a visitor's eyes. There isn't much that makes me feel at home more than the great American waitress. In my opinion, she seems to me to be the very essence of the country.
Take my word for it; there is no better place to experience Americana than a coffee shop, café or diner. It really doesn't matter where it is located, although small towns are preferable; it is the people you can meet there that are important and especially the waitresses.
The reason I like these places so much is probably why visitors to the US may not. For the most part, they are where rich and poor, old and young and black and white all come together. Either sitting in a booth or at the counter people are close enough to maybe talk to each other, to ignore each other or at least share the sugar bowl and salt and pepper shakers.
Of course another reason visitors may not agree with me is the fact that it might be the first time they have ever experienced tipping. Never mind they are paying less for the food than almost anywhere else in the known world. Never mind the fact that the coffee cup 'never' runs dry. Never mind the fact that they sit down and the waitress comes to them, they still resent paying extra to be served. Also, I must admit, one could run into some really terrible tasting food on the odd occasion but that's not what this account is about.
This is about the wonderful waitress, the only person in the diner that fronts up, takes the heat and tries her best to provide the service we expect. She is the shock absorber sitting between the fry-cook and the customer. She is the one that tries to make sense out of; "A couple of eggs, not too done but not runny, hash-browns just the right color but not over done and not greasy, sourdough bread but not small pieces I want the largest slices and could you hurry I'm late for a doctor's exam. By the way, could you top up the coffee?"
The waitresses are the mothers, daughters, sisters and sweethearts of America and they are out there just trying to make a hard earned buck. Whether they are young or old they seem to have seen it all. They may not have been there and they may not have done that but; you can bet your bottom dollar they've served someone who has. They can make your day or destroy you with a look. They always seem to be on the run and seldom without a coffee pot in their hand. For the most part, they never make nearly as much as they should. They work long hours, stand on their feet the whole time and still most will smile back if you greet them with any civility at all. They work all hours of the day and night, most holidays and seldom get paid extra.
You don't want to get them mad at you, they know every cop in town all the way to the chief and chances are they're probably married to one of them. They know everything that's going on in town and are on a first name basis with every lecher that comes in the door and hangs around for hours nurturing a cup of coffee. They have heard every sad story that's been told and yet, will be the first in town to welcome you.
Whether they are young, old, short, tall, fat, thin, pretty or not so pretty, I love them all. They are the soul of Americana.
I know I'm back in America when I walk into a diner, sit down at the counter, see the gum chewing waitress walk up and hear those soft, welcoming words; "What'll it be Mac!"
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