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Excerpt from 'Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress'

Ronnie Bello
Boulevard Diner, Worcester, Mass.

I was raised to be a hard worker. My mom and my dad worked hard. I guess you could say that waitressing is a tough job, but to me, this isn’t hard and I don’t think I’d ever be happy sitting behind a desk. I’m a mover. I don’t like sitting still.

Waitressing was the perfect job to raise my kids because it was mother’s hours and I could always be home in time to cook a meal for my children when they got home from school. It also provided me with the money I needed to raise my children and my three grandchildren, who all went to private school–on a waitress’ salary. Yes, I sometimes worked extra hours to give them everything they needed, but it was worth it.

I don’t think the kids today have the stuff that the older girls have. And I think things are handed to them too easily, and I don’t think they really know what work is. They don’t want to be here. I used to train the kids at the Almaraco and I’d tell them, “If you don’t want to be here, find something you like. I don’t care if you drive a taxicab or clean a sewer. I don’t care what you do, but you be happy.

You have to think, what are your rewards? For me, it’s more important to see that I’ve done something with my heart for somebody, instead of just thinking of myself, which is what I think is wrong with this whole world. I get customers coming in here bitching over nothing and I say to them, “You should come with me to the hospital where I volunteer and see children who are burnt all over their bodies; some have no arms or fingers. One girl has no eyes and yet she’s smiling everyday. You come in here and you have everything and you’re bitching?” I tell them, “Spend a little time with someone, do a little something for somebody else and you won’t be so bitchy.” You find it’s the ones with the most that complain the most. Isn’t that the way?

I’ve accomplished a lot in my life. And maybe not moneywise to some people, but I’ve accomplished a lot of humanity things that mean something to me anyway. You know to someone else it’s a whole different ballgame. If you want the new house, the new car, and the diamonds then, no, I haven’t succeeded. But I can turn around and say that I’ve brought up three beautiful children and then three beautiful grandchildren and they’re all healthy and they’ve had their problems, but they’re great. That’s my wealth.

Copyright © 2009 by Cornell University Press & Taylor Made Culture. All rights reserved.



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