By Narcissa Lyons
I have been citing this song by Bob Dylan for the last twenty years or so to help emphasize a point, and it seems I have been doing it incorrectly. I never listened carefully enough, apparently, since the meaning is quite clearly not what I thought, though I think Bob would not mind how I have been twisting it just a sly sly. The real meaning is pretty crystal.
Mr. Dylan, through quite a few verses, tells us that no matter what we do in life we are going to have to serve somebody–as in the devil or the lord/good or evil. He is not wrong, though I’ve seen plenty of people skate on both sides with startling grace. An excerpt from his piece:
You may be a construction worker working on a home,
You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome,
You might own guns and you might even own tanks,
You might be somebody’s landlord,
You might even own banks
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.
I have cited this when talking about the job of waiting on tables, and I’ll get to it, but a little history/first hand knowledge prior to that. First off, I am not going to use the term “Server” anywhere, the PC title for the job, because I find it offensive, and actually the opposite of what waiters and waitresses should want to be called. I’ll save my spiel for the de-genderization of job positions for another article (actor vs. actress, etc.). Hint: Not for it. Waitressing is the best of the jobs I’ve held, or at least my favorite. The only reason I don’t do it now is because I needed to find something a little more lucrative to pay for bills that oddly don’t ever want to decrease. It was my favorite job because I got to talk to a lot of people, most of whom were decent personalities. The pace is fast most times, calls on logic for saving steps, the back and forth jargon with your co-workers is witty and fun, particularly when you’re making fun of customers ya have to grin through, and you get to leave it all behind when you walk out for the evening. Witty dialogue can be found in many places, but I think the nature of the fast pace and having to get words out before you’re out of earshot gives you the ideal practice for slinging choice words and wisdoms.
Invariably, you meet the jack asses. And it’s true, they are not scarce, but most nights you’re not riddled with them. The main problem with jack asses is they tend to be louder than others, they like to share their opinions, and the opinions can be offensive or stupid, but usually both. They are condescending and do in fact look at people in the service industry as subservient in general, and not worth treating the same as, say, those with whom they are dining. My own logic almost always prevented me from trying to enlighten them, an impossibility anyway. But experiencing the boobs in our society is something that naturally would sometimes come up over after work drinks.
The way a person treats wait staff tells you a lot of what you need to know about them, because if there is even a hint of “well I am going to be nice to you because I feel bad you have to wait on tables for a living” then that is ickiness and only slightly better than open rudeness (snapping fingers, “hey”, etc.). When speaking of serving others for a living, waiting tables is the most literal of all such jobs. Physically and actually that is what you are doing–handing over plates, drinks, food–serving. And many, even some who themselves do it for a living, translate it to something more demeaning than another job or more demeaning than what it is. But it is not demeaning at all, unless being a jockey, baseball player, CEO, news anchor, playwright, etc. is demeaning. Unless a person is independently wealthy, he/she has at least one customer that needs to be pleased in order to keep the job and the money flowing. This is how Mr. Dylan’s song has been mis-cited by me, but I’ll do it again. No matter what you do, what your role is in life and how wealthy you might be, you’ve got to serve somebody. We are all in the role of servitude, for financial reasons try to do it with a smile, and hopefully the majority of those smiles is authentic. Because an authentic smile means you like what you do…and it is grandly cool to like what you do.
Thanks, Bob Dylan, for being there when I invariably pulled out the important lines to give my grand finale of a point. It’s not that any of my friends, co-workers, bosses or restaurant owners disagreed with me, but when I quoted the lines at the closing of my little lesson they looked at me a little more with the “I get it” eyes and a sincere nod of the head, like “this chick knows what she’s talking about”. If Bob Dylan said so, then who is anyone to argue?