Hot Water, Big Boxes: Workplace Nightmares

2019-11-07T15:42:34-08:00Categories: economics|Tags: , , , , |

It’s the yelping that comes back to me across the decades: the sound of an old man yelping after I spilled hot water in his lap. I was the greenhorn waitress, the clumsy college girl, always several steps behind the professionals. I was working the breakfast shift in a busy hotel restaurant in downtown Seattle. It was the late 1970s, a time when busloads of tourists—who all wanted breakfast at the same time—were a new phenomenon in our city. I was rushing, of course, with too many plates in my hands, of course, and as I reached in to set down a tiny teapot full of hot water on the table of a solo diner, I fumbled, somehow, and the water poured into his lap. He yelped, loudly, several times, as he tried to push his table out from the wall so he could stand up. All I remember saying is, “Oh! I’m so sorry!” as I helped him squeeze around the table from his bench sit to a standing position. The manager came rushing over. I tried hard not to cry as I explained that I had just poured scalding hot water into a customer’s lap. She fixed her eyes on him. “Sir, would you like me to call a doctor?” “No, no,” he mumbled. “I’m all right. I just need to go to my room and change.” I watched as she escorted him to the elevator, her arm lightly around his shoulders, her voice soft and reassuring. She didn’t stop talking until he got [...]