The curious wisdom of non-partisan restaurant servers
It’s interesting to me how over-the-top-friendly many restaurant servers are.
As I thought it through, there’s a non-obvious lesson in it, highly relevant to today.
I mean, they’re working for the tip. Of course.
But here’s the interesting part: They don’t know which party I vote for. They don’t even care.
All they care about is that we have an opportunity for a mutually-beneficial collaboration, that they want to make that as beneficial as possible for themselves, and that that necessitates making it as beneficial as possible for me.
Now, it may be that I think their prices are higher than I’d prefer paying. And maybe I grouse about being charged for that iced tea refill.
They may think they’re not getting paid enough per hour, or that I annoyingly demand too many iced tea refills.
But we both are willing to make concessions on those things, because we know it’s a win-win if I get my lunch and they get their tip. And we know the only way I eat and they earn a living is if we find a way to make some form of collaboration like that work.
Going further, the server knows the happier he makes me, the happier he is likely to be with the tip. And I know that the more I tip him, the better the service I’m likely to get on my next visit. Even if he doesn’t love rushing around and I don’t love over-paying.
Hence, smart, successful, prosperous servers are over-the-top friendly.
And each day, all day long, in massive volume, Americans collaborate for mutual benefit. (notably, not just for meals)
No so in politics.
In politics we celebrate the opposite approach: It’s important that I block your “paycheck” even though it means I won’t get my “lunch.”
You may reason, “Well, in politics, people don’t begin with a mutually obvious collaboration; we fundamentally disagree.”
Disagree on what? Gun violence? One side wants more gun violence?
No, both sides want to reduce gun violence, they just disagree on to what degree each side may shave back its principles to achieve that end. But we should know that the only way we’re going to reduce gun violence is if we find a way to make that collaboration work.
You ponder, “Well, maybe … but what about issues where there appears to be no consensus at all, like Climate Change. Or border security?”
So you want to earn a living (ie: climate change) and I want to eat lunch (ie: border security) and I’d really rather not pay you so much for lunch (ie: support your climate change) while you’d rather not rush around filling my tea for such a low hourly wage (ie: support my border security) but …
How else are we going to accomplish those things? We may not like not getting everything we want, but realistically, how else are we going to get any sustainable progress on climate change or border security? I mean, realistically, how? By beating up yet harder on the people whose support we must have to succeed?
Look at the last twenty-five years and ask if either party has accomplished any sustained, meaningful legislation working alone (I can name only one meaningful exception). The approach of electing leaders that excel at opposing others has failed. Simply fighting political opponents has failed miserably. What we should be electing is leaders that excel at figuring out how to get things done with others.
One thing for sure. Servers learn that they’re not likely to achieve what they’re after if they approach their counter-parties as deplorable enemies. And yet inexplicably, even former servers, once we elect them to office, often fail to transition that simple wisdom to politics.