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Give the Working Class a Break

As part of Assignment Detroit, is working with 11 high school students from the Detroit area. They come from all walks of life, from suburban prep schools to city schools both strong and weak. The project will illustrate the Detroit region from their point of view—what it's like to live there now, and whether the area has a place in their future or not. Today's post is from Liz Sawyer, a senior at Waterford Kettering High School in suburban Detroit.

My mother has been a waitress at Big Boy for more than 20 years. During that time she has worked as hard as she possibly can to provide for our family. And until recently, that was enough. But on more than one occasion in the past few months, regular customers have made degrading comments toward my mother and her job. When a customer asked about me, she said that I had just won a scholarship. He replied, “So your daughter is a success, despite you? I bet she doesn't want to end up working here.”

It takes a special kind of audacity to say that to someone's face.

What I can't understand, though, is why being a waitress is so utterly repulsive. My mother makes a living serving the public, just as so many other Americans do. She makes almost $500 a week with wages and tips. No, she didn't dream of becoming a waitress as a child, but over the years she has stayed in order to put food on our table. Seems like an honorable profession to me.

Besides, every mother is a waitress in one way or another. Most mothers cater to their family's wants and needs; it just so happens that my mother caters to everyone's needs.

Even more foreign to me is the elitist attitude. Who is this man to judge my mother's career choice, when so many of the people here can't find work? With the decline of the auto industry, people in Metro Detroit are lucky to even have a part-time job, let alone full-time. People with bachelor's degrees are getting turned away from McDonald's. And it doesn't look like it's going to get better soon.

The truth is, the working class drives this city, it doesn't hold it back. We shouldn't be ashamed of those blue-collar workers who spend their lives making ours a little more comfortable or a little less complicated; we should be grateful.

I'm the way I am because of my mother, not despite her.  

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  • 1

    Your mother should have slipped the felow a little Lyesol from the cleaning closet.

    It's the Repubican attitude.

    They won the war on the poor and they launched their first salvo on the middle class in 2008.

    Jolly group they have.

    One of my College fraternity brothers was cited by Time Magazine years ago as being an outstanding professor at the Harvard Business School.

    It seems that he was known for teaching the "Killer Instinct".

    Probably W. had a course by him.


  • 2

    Of all service jobs, I admire waiters and waitresses for their hard work and dedication to making my dining experience pleasant. In fact, I've always though all persons should spend some time working as waitstaff at least once in their lives as the lessons learned are invaluable in many other facets of life.

    Such as smiling and continuing to provide pleasant service to a rude, ignorant, elitist jerk like the one who tried to insult your mother. Kudos to her for not "accidentally" spilling hot coffee in his lap... I'm sure it was tempting! :P

    Bravo to you for your scholarship! I'm sure you are making your mother proud!

  • 3

    This is the best commentary written on this site in months it is full of honesty and a true living declaration of love.


    I hope you and your mother continue to share the respect and love you have for each other.

    Please do not let the evil and depravity of empty souless people sting or wound you or your mother...These worthless slugs do not deserve to be in the same room with you and your mother...

    I am so happy that people like you and your mother live in our world her care for you and your respect for her is truly what makes the world go around...

    Thanks for reminding me that wonderful good people like you and your mother exist out here to often I forget that....

  • 4

    I now own a company. I have scooped ice cream at 31 flavors, washed dishes in a hospital. Babysat, pulled weeds, mowed lawns, and had countless other thankless jobs. I can't tell you how many kids of clients and friends think that working hard is beneath them. I look back on those struggling years, and realize that they have made me what I am today. Kudos to Liz's mom for supporting her family and raising an insightful child. I know that when I hire for entry level positions, I will call in the waitress, or fast food worker for an interview

  • 5

    How about this? Instead of the waitress having to rely on the 'generosity' of vicious halfwits like that, why not lift the dignnity of those jobs by paying waitresses (etc) properly in the first place?

    I can hear the bleats of the hambuger munchers crying that the price of the burger would be prohibitive.
    Here's another 'How about this" for you:

    Make the employer put a few cents on evrey burger, just a few cents. That money would go to straight to the wait staff as an entitlement, not a 'gift' or 'charity', and would never legally be the property of the employer.

    The complainer should have been refused service.

  • 6

    Great job, Liz! I'm so proud of you!

  • 7

    It is so sad when you think about bullies. Yeah, you want to beat their heads in at first, but when you stop and really think about why they act the way they do you realize how sad their situation really is. The man who said such awful things to your mother was in essence just a bully. He belittled your mother because it made him feel better about himself. That is what bullies do, pick on others so they can inflate their own ego's a little. They are small minded, selfish individuals that cannot see beyond their own pitiful lives.

    The working class outnumber all others in this country. We, the waitresses, salespeople, beauticians, grocery store clerks, etc. are the ones that uphold this country by the hard work that we do every day. Without us, IT would NOT get done.

    So, your mother should stand a little taller knowing that without her hard work this country couldn't make it. I applaud her successful efforts in raising a family, she obviously is doing a GREAT job!

  • 8

    This issue is not about Republican or Democrat, it is about the fact that morals and standards that once were prevalent in our society are no more. I am a mother, who was once a waitress for many years. I hold at bachelor's and am finishing up my master's. I have had the same type of comments regarding why I can't do better. The people who say these things are ill mannered and usually think way more of themselves than they should. Maybe if they realized what it would be like if their favorite restaraunt was to close its doors, they would realize what a vital service these people perform. Good on this mother for providing for her children. We need more people like her instead of more people who just want to be taken care of.

  • 9

    I'm betting your mom - like most mothers regardless of their careers - will say the most important thing she's done in her life is raise children with values they need to succeed and live happy, well-adjusted lives. Judging from this column, she's clearly done a great job with you. You are right to be proud of your mom. And I'm guessing she's proud of you too. Congratulations on the scholarship. And good luck with whatever career path you ultimately choose.

  • 10

    Liz, Your mother must be so proud of you!!!

    Your mom is teaching you all the right lessons in life, I am sure she is glowing with pride.

    I have 3 teenagers who work waitressing and busing. It's a tough job but at the same time it really can be so rewarding, because most of the time you meet the nicest people.

    I have a masters degree and a managerial position, and I still waitress on the weekends to make ends meet!

    There is no shame in doing a hard day's work.

    You sound like a wonderful young woman who will be successful at whatever you choose to do in life.

    Just remember It's a benefit in life Not to be handed everything in life.

    Learning how to actual work is one of the best lessons you can ever learn, because in this economy when you can't find a job in your chosen profession, you always have waitressing and I can't tell you how many times my skills in waitressing have put food on my family's table!!!
    Good Luck to you, You will always be successful in life because you have a great head on your shoulders!

  • 11

    Dear Elizabeth,

    I absolutely love your article and know exactly where you are coming from since both of my parents work in restaurants.

    I am so proud of you babe and can't wait to see your pretty face again :)


  • 12

    Great job Liz, very proud of you and the great article.

    Ate at Big Boy tonight before reading your article. Had great service as always, enjoyed a great meal, and appreciated all of the staff.

    Your mom is an inspiration, sacrificing for her family to give them opportunities. You will be a success in life in large part of the example your mom has set for you. :)

    Josh Wenning

  • 13

    Good Post

    I initially started working for my parents when I was in high school. I think it helped in creating a strong work ethic which I have used in all of my jobs. I worked as a security guard, bartender, waiter and breakfast chef at different times going through school and university.

    There are a lot of people out there who look down upon people in the service industry. I have said many times that because you may be successful in your chosen career, it does not make you a better person. You get idiots everywhere, regardless of you education, profession, nationality, ethnicity and sex. I have observed this working offshore both in the UK, Europe and the United States.

    Congratulations on your scholarship and I hope that your mum does not have to endure degrading comments in the future.

    I also have to respond to posts 1 and 8. It is unbelievable that the first response to the article claims that it is the Republican Attitude! A negative post stereotyping approximately half the population in the United States immediately after a daughter is thanking her mother for working hard and setting a good example.

    Poster 8 was correct in saying that it is not a Republican / Democrat issue. Some individuals for whatever reason like to make themselves feel more important by belittling people.

    Thanks for the good article and good luck in school

  • 14

    Judging on the number comments your article struck a cord.

    This is not a political issue but a moral issue. When we judge someone by their job, their career or their income are values are missed placed. If the condeming person had for one minute stopped to inquire of about Liz mother's heart, he would have found a lady with a strong work ethic and a passion to support her family.

    It is better to make $500 a being a waitress than $5,000,000 being a crook at AIG.

  • 15

    Apparently the author of comment 14 and I are of like minds.
    I find it incredibly ironic that in the age of an economy brought to its knees by the avarice and ego of legions of white-collar criminals, where an attitude of entitlement so often replaces a work ethic, anyone would have the nerve to speak critically to or about those who earn their money honestly and serve (in any capacity) others with integrity. I'm not sure when people will learn that the quantity of a person's paycheck does NOT equal the quality of his/her character. The fact that you see this puts you miles ahead of your mom's customer in so many ways.
    Your article was wonderful.
    Mrs. Ballew

  • 16

    Great article Liz!
    I have known both of your parents for many years. They are both highly intelligent, hard working people who would do anything legal, moral, and ethical to help their children become the best people they can be, as all parents should strive to do. Truly exemplary people! But then you are already keenly aware of this and grateful to have such great parents, as your article clearly shows! Congratulations on the scholarship! Keep that good head on your shoulders, fire in your belly, and tenacious spirit, as it will help you reach your goals in life!
    Michele Bradley

  • 17

    Excellent article Liz, well though out, logical, and passionate at once. My late wife worked as a waitress while attending college and through the years we valued and respected waiters and waitresses for their service.

    I learned to appreciate service from my wife, you article Liz was a nice and gentle reminder to remember to appreciate everybody's role in society and support their efforts.

    Well done!

  • 18


    Your mother is one of the kindest people i have ever met. She is hardworking, honest, and as good a mom as one could ask for. Being a server is a hard job and too often you are forced to swallow your tongue for rude people. Adding that job to coming home and being the great mother that she is, like many other hardworking parents, is truly remarkable.

    Like others have already said, people like your mom are what make this country work. Its not about Republican or Democrat, white or black, young or old. Those are all just reasons to keep us bickering amongst each other. The real struggle is rich or poor, and in this article specifically, the way many upper-middle class and up treat those that serve them.

    We are all not only proud of your sholarship and amazing article, but equally proud of the job your mom has done at work and at home all these years. Congrats to the both of you!

    The Assistant

  • 19

    One of the most insightful pieces in a mainstream news Publication i've seen this year.

    Thank you Liz. And I hope the future for you and your family continues to be bright, and blessed.

    Zainab Jeewanjee

  • 20

    Wow, so many positive and intelligent comments on a mainstream news source... this article must have really struck a chord. More power to you!

  • 21

    Great Article

    Your Moms sounds like a heck of a Woman!

    Union Maid

    There once was a union maid, she never was afraid
    Of goons and ginks and company finks and the deputy sheriffs who made the raid.
    She went to the union hall when a meeting it was called,
    And when the Legion boys come 'round
    She always stood her ground.

    Oh, you can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union,
    I'm sticking to the union, I'm sticking to the union.
    Oh, you can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union,
    I'm sticking to the union 'til the day I die.

    This union maid was wise to the tricks of company spies,
    She couldn't be fooled by a company stool, she'd always organize the guys.
    She always got her way when she struck for better pay.
    She'd show her card to the National Guard
    And this is what she'd say

    You gals who want to be free, just take a tip from me;
    Get you a man who's a union man and join the ladies' auxiliary.
    Married life ain't hard when you got a union card,
    A union man has a happy life when he's got a union wife.

    Woody Guthrie

  • 22

    Congratulations on your scholarship!

    Don't let that jackass get you down, and I hope your mother doesn't either. Some people have no clue what hard work is.

    I would love to see him do what your mother does, for just one day. The abusive customers, her getting stiffed on tips all the time. Its not an easy job and I applaud her for caring enough about her family to be able to do that.

  • 23

    Poor Bill! “It's the Republican attitude”??? Sorry you're so partisan that you can't see beyond political parties. I really hope this guy doesn't vote, but you bet he does, straight down party lines. People like this would elect Manson if he was in their party. Parties don't matter! Think for YOURSELF and get rid of the baggage. And I am being sincere, I just find this so very sad…he has no idea of the party affiliation of the person who shot his mouth off, or even if that person has a political party. His prejudiced is blind, venomous, and he wears it like a badge of honor. Sorry for you Bill, and your family.

  • 24

    [...] February 8, 2010 · Leave a Comment Girl from a local high school wrote this little essay – thought it was pretty good. READ HERE [...]

  • 25

    Liz, I wish we had more media commenters with your background and values.

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