I was about eight, my brother five and we were watching our Dad take the garbage cans to the curb for the waiting garbage truck. We were making fun, holding our noses and saying things like “those are stinky men” when our Dad, the kindest, gentlest of men rounded on us and spent the next few minutes scolding us for what he saw as disrespect.
I remember it as if it was yesterday and his words have been a touchstone for my career. “Respect the working man and the job he does”. Over time I amended that to “respect the working men and woman and the work they do”. I have interviewed thousands over the years and always remember to start with respect, correcting others along the way for saying things like “just a secretary” or “only a server”.
The extraordinary circumstances we find ourselves in these days have in some cases brought out the very best in our populace and equally the very worst. The disrespect shown the restaurant industry is astonishing. The lack of understanding of what the industry contributes economically is discouraging and the cavalier attitude towards hundreds of small businesses has been frustrating.
The restaurant business in Nova Scotia employed over 30,000 people in April 2020 and lost almost 25,000 jobs immediately. Despite retooling and onerous regulations things are still dire for the industry. My surprise was the reaction by politicians and the public. It was like these jobs; this industry itself was not important and didn’t deserve respect.
Is it because we go to restaurants to be entertained? Is it because we are “served”? What ever the reason it is disheartening especially given how much the industry contributes in direct employment and indirect through their suppliers.
Everyone has had to sacrifice during the Great Pause but it diminishes us all when we disrespect working men and women and the job they do.