Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Waiter Gene


My friend Karen likes to talk about the waiter gene. Whenever we go out to eat, she'll pass out her judgment: "She's got the waiter gene!" when our server visits our table just the right number of times and speaks with just the right combination of friendliness and politeness. Or, shaking her head, "He doesn't have the waiter gene," when our server doesn't know how to handle a request for no tomatoes.

It's not a novel concept, really, that some people seem better suited for certain jobs than others. I've worked in retail before, and I was awkward. Standing at the counter surveying the customers among merchandise I had no real connection to, I was sure that whatever came out of my mouth would reveal me as an impostor who had no business pretending to know which greeting card would be most suitable for a combination retirement and divorce party. My coworkers, meanwhile, were right at home among the trinkets, as though they really did have it in their genes.

And yet this idea there are things we'll just never do well is in stark contrast with what we learn as children -- that we can be and do anything. Apparently anyone can grow up to be president, but if you want to be a decent waiter, you'd better hit the genetic lottery.

There's truth to both points of view, of course. We all have natural strengths as well as skills we'll have to work hard at if we want to succeed. That's not to say that hard work will always lead to success. I stopped believing that a long time ago. But we owe it to ourselves not to draw too small a circle around the accomplishments we think are in our reach. Certainly I could have learned to sell greeting cards like nobody's business. I could have stuck around long enough to move with ease through the aisles, straightening glass figurines without tripping on the displays. I didn't choose that path, but I could have. Maybe I'd own the store today.

Sometimes we choose not to address our weaknesses when it's not something that's important to us. But what about those things we wish we had accomplished? Those skills and traits we wish we had, but never took the time to develop, instead saying that we were "not cut out for it"? It's easy to say we're no good at something, but it sure doesn't get us anywhere.

I know I have some of those neglected traits, skills, and accomplishments hanging around in the back of my mind. Some of them are big, too big to admit to right now. Some of them are manageable, so I'll start with those. Here's one: I want to be tidy. I don't want to feel like I have to apologize when someone stops by my house on short notice. I want to sit in my home and see order, and have that reflected in my mood. It's not easy for me, but, as silly as it sounds, it's something I want, and I'm going to work on it.

What about you? What goals, big or small, have you let slide because you somehow started to believe that you didn't have it in you?

10 comments:

  1. Oh how I want to be tidy too! (Well written, by the way!) I am only motivated by the threat of public humiliation, a tool I've been using for years. I do wish I would just be tidy for me, since it sets my mind at ease to have an orderly looking home. Maybe I'll join you in this new adventure?

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    1. I hope you will join me! I've announced my intentions to the internet, so I have to do it now.

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  2. "Some of them are big, too big to admit to right now." There is sadness in that sentence. I hope it's nothing too big. I want to be competent at an instrument. I have for a long time, but I always seem to move on from my "hobbies" before I attain any real proficiency. Not sure why that is, but I do it consistantly.

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    1. It is interesting to do new things, but if you really want to stick with something, I know you can do it. :)

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  3. Wonderful essay! Very thought-provoking. You've got one of my votes in the writing challenge, and I'd like to give you a tip: when writing for yeah write, leave off those blog-type "questions for your readers" at the end. Let your essay stand on its own merit, leave the questions implied. Thank you for joining us this week. I hope to see you again soon!

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    1. Thank you, Erica, and thanks for the tip!

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  4. I love this. Definitely thought provoking as Erica said. There's a ton of things I'm not cut out for. ha ha I DEFINITELY to not have the waiter gene!

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    1. If there is indeed a waiter gene, I'm sure I don't have it either.

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  5. You know, I think that some people have natural abilities for some things, but can develop abilities as well. Socializing and networking for the sake of my career is not something that comes naturally to me (and I detest doing it), but as it must be done if I ever want to advance professionally, I'm working on it.
    Wonderful essay!

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  6. I have always had the "service" gene. But I was also (am also) incredibly shy. I made up my mind to stop that when I went to college. It worked -- on the outside. And part of my success was because I was a waitress, then worked in Residence Life and camps. It all helped me be a better teacher and person. But it's something I've had to work on for all those years. It doesn't mean I'm no longer shy, but it means I haven't let it stop me from doing what I want to do.

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