I have a restaurant serving voice. It’s higher in pitch, a little more breathy (comparable to Enya), and very accommodating. It doesn’t miss a beat to sweetly say, ‘Thank you” when a large party leaves a fake thousand dollar bill imprinted with a verse about riches in heaven in place of a tip. And it always sings, “No problem” when all twelve people at one table need last minute separate checks. A week ago when one of the bussers overheard me direct a customer to the bathroom, he laughed and said, “What was that? That’s not your voice.” His comment made me think about whether my Italian restaurant persona was a part of my personality or a cover. Sometimes after spending generous amounts of social energy on a table, the tip on the check seems like a report card – if the customers like me and think that I’m funny then they leave twenty percent, and if they don’t “click” with me then they leave less (or occasionally nothing). When the latter is the case, it’s comforting to think that they weren’t rejecting the real me, just the server wrapping.
A few weeks ago when I was working a chaotic Saturday night, a gentleman at one of my tables snapped his fingers in my direction and then lifted his eyebrows as well as his empty beer glass. I dropped the five things I needed to be doing, walked over to him, and I calmly asked him in a lower tone, “Did you just snap your fingers at me?” He shifted in his plastic deck chair. I gave him a half smile and continued, “Maybe your mom didn’t tell you, but it’s rude to snap at people as if they are animals. Would you like another drink?” I felt liberated as I walked away – using my voice in that moment cleared away any concern for whether or not I had failed in his estimation. When I went to reset their table later I found a generous tip, perhaps an unspoken affirmation for speaking from a place of authenticity (even as a waitress).
Different people and places bring out the diverse aspects of a person, but multi-faceted in this respect should be like the many shapes and colors in a stain glass window – all illuminated by the same light within.