The title of this post was advice given to me years ago, when I was a waitress working the insanely busy lunch shifts at the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Hundreds of guests would converge after every eruption of the Old Faithful geyser, those who’d postponed their meal to watch the “show” mingling with those who’d opted to eat first, and so were eager to get out to the boardwalk or up to the rooftop patio so that they wouldn’t “miss it”. Strangely, although they’d all come to see a geyser so predictable that eruption times were listed in the hotel lobby, and even though the geothermal feature’s very name gives testament to its famous reliability, a great many guests seemed to be deeply fearful that they’d come all this way, only to miss it.
With so many people in such a hurry, even a 300 seat dining room could get hugely chaotic. The pace was intense, and there was little time to make guests feel special – one of the biggest reasons I loved waiting tables so much. I often found myself torn between my desire to connect and offer that extra level of service, and the need to be moving so fast I seldom had time to stop and think, let alone take that moment to engage beyond introducing myself, giving the specials, taking the orders, and delivering their drinks and meals.
“Talk less. Smile more.” said my manager.
A smile and eye contact can be given in passing; it’s a sort of nonverbal “I see you” for the guest, and allows the pace and rhythm integral to successful waiting to be maintained. A smile at the table, again with eye contact, makes the business of the interaction more personal with no extra time needed. Smiles and eye contact while delivering food, checking back, clearing, bringing the check and collecting payment added that warmth that made the meal more pleasant for all of us.
I haven’t waited tables for years, now, and being a writer is an avocation with a different pace. I can set my own goals and my own schedule for attaining them. I can decide what areas of craft I want to perfect, and how I want to interact…it’s another aspect of mindfulness, knowing what will carry me closer to my current professional goals.
Right now, I’m in the midst of immersing myself in the art of revision. It’s my weakest area – I’m fast at drafting, and becoming much more efficient at planning and plotting. Revision is the thing that stands between me and publication at a rate that will eventually earn a modest income, and help me share my writing with more of those who may be touched by it.