Editor’s note: This article was submitted anonymously by a student as a response to The Saint’s recent investigation into harassment of those working in the hospitality industry in St Andrews. The full piece can be read here: http://www.thesaint-online.com/2017/04/hospitality-culture/
Dear fellow students of St Andrews,
I am just like you. I complain about 9am classes on Mondays, and often skip them. I go to the library and sit on the ground floor so it feels like I’m working, but if I get really into Buzzfeed for an hour, there’ll be no judgment. I’ve been in an enormous foam fight and say things like “so did you hook up with your dad?” and know that it’s not weird. I’ve run into the North Sea at 5am in May and thought nothing of it. I’ve dodged standing on the PH. I spent a ridiculous sum of money on a red gown that I’ve worn twice.
So you see, fellow students of St Andrews, I really am just like you. But there are a small number of us, a select few, who haunt the bars and restaurants of this town early in the morning and late at night. We’re pulling your pints in the pub, we’re frothing milk for your skinny latte, we’re lining up shots on the bar at 2am, and we’re bringing food to you when you’re hungover. We’re mopping the floors of the Union at 7am on a Thursday after Sinners the night before. We’re the waitresses you ask “oh my god, are you a student?” on a regular basis. We’re just like you, and we’re everywhere, but you don’t always see us. Because we’re in disguise. We’re wearing our uniform and not our privilege.
So on behalf of everyone in the service industry in this little town, I have something to say. It might be shocking. It might seem unnecessary at a university where people pay £9000 a year in fees. It might seem redundant at a university where a privileged background often feels like it is an essential accessory.
Here it is, fellow students of St Andrews. This is what I have to say, the secret I’m letting you in on: get some manners.
I have worked part-time ever since I first arrived in this town, four years ago. I’ve handed you your jägerbombs and I’m still serving you pizza. I’ve had some time to process this, and it is something that has to be said.
When I come to take an order from you, it’s polite to look at me when you tell me what you want. A smile doesn’t go amiss. When I bring the order to you, it’s polite to acknowledge me, and maybe even thank me.
There are some things that aren’t polite. It’s not polite to shout at somebody across an empty restaurant. It’s not polite to interrupt your waiter’s well-rehearsed welcome with an abrupt “yeah, we’ll take some water.” It’s not polite to dismiss your server with a wave of the hand and a roll of the eyes. It’s not polite to feel up your bartender while she’s collecting empty glasses.
To the ten drunk and disorderly male students in matching ties one busy Saturday night – shouting “hey lady, hey lady” every time I walk by you and waving your arms at me, that isn’t really polite. When I ask if you could perhaps pay your cash all together instead of separately, telling me “Can’t you count? This is a restaurant, deal with it.” Not very polite. Hands on my waist as I collected your plates. Not all that polite.
When I say that no, I don’t fancy dating one of you, it’s polite to let the proposition go, instead of leaning over to your pal and saying “aw mate, mate, you just got rejected by a waitress.” That wasn’t polite.
I love St Andrews. I love this university. Most days, I even like my job.
But when a bunch of guys who are no older than I am lean over to each other, put their hands on my waist whilst placing their order, and then make me small by insinuating that I am worse than them because I’m a waitress, I hate my job. But more than that – I hate my fellow students, and I hate that they’ve made me ashamed to call myself one of them.
St Andrews has a well-established reputation for being full of posh entitled kids with money but no empathy. Working in the service industry here makes it hard to dispute that reputation. It doesn’t matter that I am a student as well as a waitress; those ten guys truly believed – believe – that my being a waitress automatically makes them better than me. It doesn’t matter if it’s me, or the cashiers in Tesco, or the hairdressers in Sophie Butler, or the barista in Starbucks: being a student in St Andrews and having a lot of money makes you no better than anyone else that you encounter in your daily comings and goings. Even if I am “just a waitress”, I am still your equal. So, fellow St Andrews students, get some manners. I don’t want to be ashamed to call this university my own.
You just got rejected by a waitress.