everyone should do a stint in hospitality

Following a showdown between James Corden and beleaguered British Airways staff in Portugal, I was introduced to conservative politics (or at least, some version of one) for the first time in my life.

Forget plans for national service in the army or community outreach – Corden’s behavior it proves to be a period in customer service that should be mandatory, with corrective recharges for the most intractable uppiness among us.

After his flight from Faro to Heathrow was delayed and then forced to land in Lisbon, Corden was apparently asked to queue in the wrong place: annoying, but not tragic. The footage shows him gesturing at BA staff, clearly in an old fight.

Now, I like to think of myself as a calm and kind person. But like everyone, there are a few things that drive me to irrational levels of anger: the first is the sound of chewing gum; the second is rudeness to service staff.

I’m not talking about reminding someone you asked for ketchup or asking when a late flight might land, but rather the exhausting power play that an opportunity to complain seems to ignite in some people. At best, such a blunder is shooting the proverbial messenger; at worst, it is nothing short of cruel.

However, although he has been known to be rude to service staff in the past – in 2022 he admitted to being ‘rude’ to staff at Balthazar restaurant in New York over a hair he apparently found in -an omelette and was temporarily banned – anyone who has worked in the industry will tell you that Corden is far from alone.

And while there are undoubtedly some sadists who genuinely enjoy upsetting people, I have to believe that most bad behavior is thoughtless – as such, mandatory time in a relevant role should be enough to remind us of our manners.

It definitely did the trick for me. After waitressing in what felt like every coffee shop in Brighton between the ages of 18 and 22, I’ll never, ever be able to muster anything but friendly feelings for someone in uniform and a rictus grin.

I’ve never worked for an airline, but I recognize the look on the face of the woman answering Corden’s grievances from the depths of my soul – being yelled at isn’t any less annoying when you’re at work, but she’s doing a beautiful job of -set his expression to “unpleasant/bearable”. If he threw himself into the toilet for a little cry afterwards, anyone who has ever worked in a similar role would be more than familiar with the feeling.

The dynamic created by service, where part of the job is to smile at strangers and solve all their problems, should not be confused with a power imbalance. Of course, it can be exploited as one. Just because someone serves you doesn’t make them submissive, but try telling that to customers who hold rank.

It is no coincidence that service roles, with all their invisible emotional labor, are undervalued. As well as being seen as poorly qualified, waiters and shop assistants are underpaid, exploited with zero hours contracts and unsociable shift patterns. Rude is never acceptable, but in customer service, it’s nothing short of insult to injury.

It’s also no exaggeration when I describe my time in restaurants as some of the most challenging of my professional life, and the very opposite of “low-skilled”: doing 10 things at once, on my feet, for 12 hours at a time , I do business. with the audience as well as hot chefs, all with an impermeable smile. It’s almost superhuman. People who do this deserve your respect.

If you can’t collect any, five minutes trying to keep up should do the trick. It’s also the kind of daydream that keeps your spirits up at the end of a double shift: I’d love to see the twerp on table four carry five plates at once if he’s that smart.

In theory, we shouldn’t need direct experience of something to empathize with it; however, behavior like Corden’s is an important reminder that some people still struggle to imagine how someone else might feel.

As such, my plan is not only instructive and restorative, but full of poetic justice. Rude to a hostess? Welcome to your shift, bringing audience members on a plane while she can follow you around complaining. I can’t say it more accurately than that.