Respecting Those Who Serve Us

Working in most any service industry is hard. Working in fast food just plain sucks. The hours are long, the pay is terrible, and far to often, the customers treat you like you are somehow less than human once you place that “McDonald’s” hat on your head.

I used to work at Subway, which in the hierarchy of fast food garnered me more respect than if I had worked at, say, Burger King or Taco Bell. Even there, though, people yelled at me for putting peppers on their cold cut trio, berated me for the fact that we were out of honey oat bread after the lunch rush, and one person even threw their sandwich back across the counter at me because it was cold when it was supposed to be hot.

With that in mind, I always try to greet those serving me with a smile and leave them with a thank you. This morning I stopped by a fast food joint in the terminal at Denver International Airport before boarding a flight to Earlham College in Richmond, IN. Most of the women at the counter seemed to be East-African immigrants, likely from Somalia or Ethiopia considering the size of populations from those places in Denver. I smile and place an order, double checking the monitor to make sure I heard right when the young woman said, “$6.76, please” through her gorgeous accent.

As I waited for my order, I watched a middle-aged white man struggling to understand the woman serving him. Though she was speaking perfect English, she did speak with an accent. He got more and more frustrated, slamming his money on the counter, shaking his head and saying, “Learn to speak English.”

I could see the frustration in the young woman’s face as she undoubtedly thought, “What language am I speaking?”

You see, it’s tough to work in fast food, but’s even more difficult when you work in fast food and have dark skin or speak English with an accent.

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