Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Waiter's Anti-Rant

The internet has a love/hate relationship with waiters. On the one hand there are those bashing waiters for being obsequious moneygrubbers, pretentious snobs, lackadaisical do-nothings, or self-victimizing banshees. On the other are the angry waiters voicing their complaints about their restaurants, customers, managers, and tips. Why, it's enough to make you wonder why become a waiter in the first place?

In response, I have decided to compile an "Anti-Rant" of a few of the things I do like about waiting. Oh, I'm not glamorizing it in any way - it most definitely has its downsides - I'm just showing a few of the ups.

  1. It's relatively easy to get into. (Perfect for college students, hopefuls, recent grads, and never went)
  2. It has an excellent earnings:hours worked potential. (Note the word potential. While a waiter can make $80-200 in 5 hours depending on the restaurant, he can also walk out having wasted 5 hours of the day)
  3. It can be pretty flexible. (Mainly, that depends on the managers, though)
  4. It's different every day. (Okay, that's halfway true. You're doing the same thing each day, just with different people, which brings me to my next point.)
  5. You meet some of the weirdest, funniest, craziest, smartest, dumbest, and most interesting people. (Sure, they're maybe 2 tables out of your whole night, but hey, they're gems from the dross and the crap - yes, you take a lot of crap, too, but I'm just highlighting the ups).
  6. You have some interesting conversations (I know, this point ties in with the one above it, but for me it's a facet worthy in its own right.)
  7. You get to work magic. (I have made ladies cry on their anniversary from a simple "Guest Appreciation" cupcakes with a "Happy Xth Anniversary" message written across the plate in chocolate sauce. Yes, that particular lady may have had a couple of drinks already, but who am I to judge?)
These are just a few highlights of serving. I'm under no illusions that waiting is the most illustrious career, nor is it always the most pleasant, but it's a stepping stone and it's one I don't mind taking.

Monday, July 29, 2013

TCK Confession: Supermarket Freak-Out

So, for those new readers (or those TCM veterans who're a bit slow on the uptake), I was born in the USA, grew up in South Africa, and have now moved back to the USA for university.

I've been back in the states for 3 years now and I'd figured I was pretty much through with all my "I miss x from SA" phase (well, except for biltong, boerewors, pepper steak pies, and good tea. I'll never stop missing those).

Guess again.

So, I was taking a quick stop at Kroger to pick up some breakfast food and pens (waiters lose pens like my dad loses his keys) and we decided to pass through (unbeknownst to me) the international section. I saw a packet of digestives, which, as any Brit will tell you, are pretty freakin' awesome. So, I stopped and skimmed the shelves. I saw some pretty cool stuff: Cadbury drinking chocolate, proper tea biscuits, etc. Then I heard my girlfriend (who's American) say, with a great deal of puzzlement, two magic words: "Wine gums?"

The world. Just. Exploded. With. Rainbows.

I whipped my head up and gazed with wonder at the most magical sight. Wine gums! In America! I could have died happy right there and I may or may not have freaked out a little bit.

Of course, like any sane TCK, I started tearing through the shelves, looking for any food i might recognize from home. Chutney. Chicken tikka masala. No Weet-bix or marie biscuits, though... :'(

After a few minutes, I composed myself, and put the wine gums back on the shelf.

Twas magical.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Esse Quam Videri

"To be, rather than to seem."


Integrity is one of those character traits that is often both lauded and mourned. People praise it when it's seen (sometimes, depending on how it's shown or what it's shown over, however, it's maligned) and many (usually older generations and some fundamentalists) mourn its apparent demise.

But, what is it?

People often describe integrity as "being the same person that you are in public when no-one's around." It's a good working definition, but it's lacking some soundness. Being the same person publicly and privately is merely an aftereffect of integrity.

Buildings are said to have integrity or to have their integrity compromised. What do people mean when they say this?

Well, structural integrity is built off of two key factors: the quality of the foundation and the quality of materials.

A foundation lacking integrity lacks stability. It shifts and warps with the seasons, weather conditions, and age. Any homeowner dreads to hear that their foundation has shifted as the stability of the house is compromised. Cracks creep up walls; leaks develop; or floors could cave in. It doesn't matter what the house is built from, if the foundation isn't secure, if it doesn't have integrity, the house is doomed from the start.

Integrity-less building materials lack strength. They can be soft, porous, untreated, etc. As time and wear buffet a structure made of weak materials, breakage and rot sets in. Soft bricks erode and crack from the weather and strain; untreated and unprotected wood warps and rots; and porous or hollow materials begin to harbor pests or fungi. The house can no longer protect its inhabitants. It becomes a danger to its owners. It breaks down regardless of how well set its foundation is.

The same goes with personal integrity. Personal integrity stems from a firm foundation and material strength (aka strength of character).

Each of us needs to firmly establish our foundation, our worldview, such that we won't find ourselves shifting and our entire character/definition falling apart. Church, one of the reasons many individuals of my generation are falling away is because they never developed a firm, solid foundation in Christ. One must investigate one's beliefs, test it, try it, before the foundation can be set. Anything less and the foundation's set merely in sand, not bedrock.

Similarly, we must all choose our choice of building materials. Are we building with whims, passions, and concessions or with discipline, self control, and wisdom? Whims are hollow; discipline is solid. Passions are untreated; self-control is cured. Concessions are soft and porous; wisdom, true wisdom, is unyielding and without holes.

Of course, faulty materials are often packaged and sold as their superior counterparts, so one must pay careful to the source of one's character. The Bible calls these materials the "fruit of the Spirit". As Christians, we need to be looking to God for these materials, not to ourselves as we humans are flawed by our own sin, making anything of our production faulty, but God, by very definition being perfection, is able to provide perfect, flawless materials.

It's funny. Solomon wrote just that:
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight."                                                                   - Proverbs 3:5-6

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Purity and the Battle for Integrity

This is a hard post to write. Purity is one of those qualities most often stressed in Christian circles. It becomes a looming giant of ideal perfection. It's also [censored] hard to attain.

Many consider purity to be actions-based, that one's actions make them pure or impure. I disagree. Outward actions stem from an inward desire, thought, or attitude. It stems from what is being fed into the mind and soul.

As Christians, we war against our "fleshly" yearnings, the desires to take actions, speak words, or think thoughts that run counter to the nature, goal, and directives of God. We ostracize ourselves from other Christians, thinking us fouler than the others, leprous, deserving quarantine.


We are told, particularly in the New Testament, to confess our sins to one another and to uphold one another. We are not meant to be ostracizing ourselves. Part of Christian Fellowship is reaching out and finding that other are experiencing/have experienced the same things.

But I digress.

This summer has been one of forging. God has definitely done a great deal of work in my life and it's not really been that pleasant. The best image I can devise is one of a blacksmith forging a ploughshare. The smith must heat the metal and hammer it repeatedly into shape, never letting it cool until the blade is formed and is ready to be sharpened and put to its proper use.

Over these short few months, I have had the... pleasure... of having a particular vice of mine worked upon. I have an avid curiosity which nothing piques better than the scintillating, sensual, titillating, or bizarre. With the vast internet at my fingertips, a bad combination very easily arises (or, more correctly, had previously arisen).

So, my actions: I started cutting back. When that didn't work 100%, I blocked sites. New sites with softer, cleaner content (but still in the same vein) were "stumbled upon" (and later blocked). And the cycle repeated itself once more.

Each time, I asked God, "Why again? Why now? Why is this all happening?"

"You haven't learned the lesson, you're just whitewashing over the cracks. You're supposedly preparing to serve Me on your residence hall come this fall, you're in a deepening relationship with someone and this needs to be addressed."

I'd been looking for a plaster, something to cover up the wound and make me "feel better". It wasn't working. I felt hollow, thin (still do - I'm still being worked upon), and false, like a mask upon a mannequin.

Recently, however, something seems to be coming together - an idea, a principle that is being hammered into me, so to speak: Integrity.

I'd been fighting mostly earnestly on my own strength, but I was also walking into sin. I was confessing to God, seeking in His forgiveness while a part of me relished the distraction. There was little integrity to my efforts and pleas. Each time God worked something out of my life, freed me from a particular sin/vice, I walked myself back into something similar to (but removed from) what I was previously doing.

I was like a dog returning to its own vomit and I was, am, disgusted at myself for it.

My prayers were, "God, deliver me from x. Give me the strength to fight x. Give me the wisdom to see x coming." God did, and I walked myself into y.

That was the whitewash, the attempting to cover the surface issues. I need/-ed to go deeper, to face the source of these issues, the underlying desires for fleshly satisfaction warring against the calling to present myself as a "living sacrifice to God, wholly pleasing Him". "Wholly." I need/-ed to grow in integrity and in my personal relationship with God before any of this will/would be resolved.

Now, my prayer is this, "God, give me the integrity to be who I present myself to be, who I should be; to not only say I'm free, but to actually be free; to live as one walking in Your footsteps, forsaking sin, wrath, anger, lust, immorality; to not be subjecting myself to the desires of self-satisfaction, worldly pleasure, and instant gratification..."

That's my prayer, well, a large portion of it, anyways. This is a battle that cannot be fought alone or in one's own strength, but must be fought with the full armour of God, with the perseverance and prayers of fellow believers, and the grace, mercy, forgiveness, and strength of God Himself.