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Customers sometimes have to wait for their meal to be served, but the so-called “waiters” and “waitresses” are servers, not waiters, aren’t they?

Well, sometimes a waiter has to wait for the cook to dish up the food! Then guess who the customer blames?

I spent one summer as a waiter in Gatlinburg, Tenn. Our main cook, Gracie, had a vile mouth but a great ability to do 10 things at once. We never appreciated her so much as once when she was away and we had a substitute cook. If the waitress in front of me ordered two hamburgers and I said “I need one too,” the cook would reprimand me. “I’m doing her order now; you’re next!”

I’m sure it is still the same way today. Waiters and waitresses live on their tips, not on their meager salaries.

I liked the job, though. I met lots of interesting people, mostly very nice ones. Once in awhile you got a jerk. I remember one busy day when I served two men their coffee and didn’t fill one man’s cup quite as full as the other’s. He yelled at me, in front of all the other diners: “Hey! I paid for a whole cup of coffee! Fill up my cup!”

I kept my voice low, apologized, and filled it to the rim, so high he had to lean over to sip it to keep it from spilling. His friend smirked, knowing what I was doing. Later I brought them refills and filled his to the lip again. I’m glad the boss wasn’t observing me that day.

I feel a lot of sympathy for the waiters. I know they sometimes put up with rude customers. But I also know they meet a lot of wonderful and generous people.

Today a waitress often begins her service by saying something like, “I’m Pauline and I’ll be your server tonight.”

I try to beat her to the punch. Before she speaks I say, “I’m Charlie and I’ll be your customer tonight.”

I heard about a waiter who spilled soup into the lap of one of the customers. The man reacted by saying, “How embarrassing for you! I’m so sorry; don’t worry about it.” That spontaneous response makes me feel that I have a long way to go in my own self-control and consideration of others’ feelings before I could respond like that. But what an impact that would have made on the waiter!

Some waiters and waitresses are professionals. It is an honorable line of work. They know how to be attentive without being obtrusive. They know how to serve you without reaching across you. They don’t handle your silverware by the part that goes into your mouth. They make you feel like an honored guest.

Others, of course, are working only for a few months before pursuing other endeavors. They may not be as proficient but they also can be cheerful and caring for your needs.

Don’t think of the waiter as of lower importance than you. Leave a 20 percent or higher tip. Sometimes write a note to the manager commending someone for extraordinarily good service.

And I hope you won’t have to wait too long for your meal.