By John Latta
If you think about it, you can easily see how some people just slip in and out of your life, hardly noticed. But when you don’t run into a lot of friendly people in your line of work every day, the few that you do can make a difference.
You know about hard work, sometimes long hours of monotony, other times a rollercoaster ride as things go wrong fast. You know how you have to stay on an even keel, stay calm, stay cool and do your job. Well, so does your truckstop waitress. It isn’t always easy for her either. Everyone’s watching her, and she has to smile as her job starts to slide and looks like it might be about to hit something.
There’s an art to being friends with someone you only see every now and then, and waitresses at truckstops are good at it. So instead of thinking that a thank you and a tip hold up your side of the friendship, how about working at it a little every now and then. No flirting, no expensive gifts, no tasteless chatter, just a friendly interest. A few kind, thoughtful words can go a long way. She knows that.
Drivers have favorites, waitresses they’ve known for years. But maybe there are some others that, if you think about it, you just take for granted they’ll be smiling, helpful and interested in you, and it’s enjoyable to spend some time in their company.
Your waitress spends her day dealing with truckers, from the sour ones to the unfunny ones who tell jokes nobody wants to hear. From the forlorn and angry drivers to the sunny ones, she is working, delivering some cheer-me-up with the coffee or “It’ll be all right” with the eggs and bacon. It can’t always be easy delivering a smiling “Hi hon, nice to see you again, the usual?” or even “Hey, you’re new through here. What’s your name and what’ll it be?” all day long. Yet I don’t think too many of those friendly greetings are forced, a practiced way of making a tip. I don’t see them as often as you do, but I think most truckstop waitresses are just the sort of people who like people, like working with people. I think they are glad to see (most of) you.
I’ll bet you’ve all known a driver who fell in love with a waitress, and there are a lot of different endings to that story. You’ve known some drivers who wanted to help a waitress they felt might not make it, and they left some pretty good tips over the years. There are a lot of drivers who start feeling good about the time they realize they’re only an hour and half away from a friend and a friendly greeting. There’ll be some women behind the wheel looking forward to getting out of a man’s working world and talking to a waitress about things men don’t talk about. Your waitress is like a beacon you steer for, and she’s ready with eggs and coffee.
In corny movies, tear-jerking songs or comic strips there would be a bartender to listen to you. But in this life it’s a waitress. Somehow it’s OK to tell a waitress things you wouldn’t tell another driver. It’s OK to ask a little advice, and it’s OK to let them influence you. It’s OK to think, “Hey, she’s right.”
So how about we start a new tradition? We’ll call it Truckstop Waitress Appreciation Day, and it’ll be any day that you think about it and tell her just how much you appreciate her. And maybe take a little more interest in her life. Nothing intrusive or too personal. But imagine that she sees driver after driver, sometimes on shifts so crowded she can’t move, other times when things are so slow the night moves like molasses. Then someone she knows (you) sits and eats and shows some genuine interest in her family or how her new apartment is shaping up and maybe how her kids are doing in school. I think there’s a good chance you could lighten her day for an hour or so the way she lightens yours.
You’ll have friends at depots and terminals, but they’re “work” friends. Your favorite waitresses make you feel like you’ve come home for a few hours. Treat her like she is a friend. Mostly, she is.