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December 09, 1973 - Image 3

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1973-12-09

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tony schwartz
marty porter
contributing editors:
laura berman
bowie brick



books-page four
on energy-page five
page six

Number 11 Page Three December 9, 1973


A local
the hasi
ED. NOTE: This story is done in a com-
posite style. Facts and antecdotes culled
from interviews with nearly 40 Ann Arbor
waitresses have been used to draw one
"typical" character. The same has been
done for the restaurant in the story. All the
incidents are true, drawn largely from the
experience of waiters and waitresses at
the Delta, Stadium, Olympic, Wolverine
Den, Brown Jug and Betsy Ross Restaur-
SOMEPLACES, so the story goes, she
is a hardboiled worldly woman,
mashing a perpetual wad of gum in her
mouth, hand on her hip, hair frowsy
bleached blonde, loose change and note
pad stashed in her hip pocket. Whether
or not this is true, the tough image
changes in the mobile Ann Arbor com-
munity where student-waitresses are
noncareer proletariats, sense themselves
as transient in the job.
"The desired image is more of the
wide-eyed innocent cute looking chick,"
says Kathleen, "something nice up front
for the restaurant, good for service and
sales." She is not really beautiful as
much as she is presumed to be sweet,
young, naive, and in her working world
rather dumb.
In a glorified hamburger joint, a sit-
down restaurant where plastic vinyl
booths are set against a background of
flashy murals, Kathleen, 21, tall, blonde,
a faceless waitress in a high turnover
situation, works 16 hours a week for
self-support. She wears the traditional
black apron, her hair is tied back as per
the health regulation to keep it from
getting in the food. She stands, delib-
erately planning every one of her next
ten minutes-get the new spoon that
someone's asking for, check on whether
the mashed potatoes are real or in-
stant, water and menu the new party
who's just ente'red, see to the man whose
hamburger is up before it turns dead
Hungry America with open mouths,
they want what they want when they
want it-bang, pronto. The Ginos revo-
lution has made it a crime to have to
wait for a hamburger. They're crying:
Miss, m'am, waitress, someone pulls on
her skirt to get her attention.
Kathleen freezes. What's she supposed
to do ... smile? She is no longer a hu-


in GrecoA
man being but ten legs and twelve arms
or perhaps one big breast. Last night a
drunken customer had compared her
left breast to a steak. Smile at them,
they smile back at you and are inclined
to tip better - "It's a really screwed-up
system", Kathleen bitches.
"Hey waitress, can you get me some
cigarettes?" A dollar bill waves in the
air. The customer is angry that she
seems busy. She wishes for her sake
that he would be content to be patient,
to sit back and listen to the soothing
radio music in the background, "Bridge
Over Troubled Water" so mellow it goes
down your system like custard.
"Can you get it yourself, the machine
is straight back to your left? She fishes
around for some loose change in her
"I said I want you to get it."
"Well I have to get this hamburger
first and then I have to do other
"I was gonna give you a tip," he with-
drew the dollar, "but since you're that
way about it, I'm gonna leave you noth-
"Can I get you something from the
kitchen?," she asks.
"Are you on the menu?"
Kathleen's heard the line before.
"I don't want nothin', then," he gig-
gled, then left, a half-empty water glass
in his aimless wake.
There have been customers worse
than him. She remembers two going at
each other with knives and forks that
night she worked the late shift or the
people who ran off with whole place
settings or that one time a man walked
out after having run up a nine dollar
bill, she had to pay for it.
She delivers the hamburger. "Any-
thing else, sir?" I'll bring you your cof-
fee later." She knows his eating habits,
he's a salesman who comes every day
for a hamburger and two cups of coffee
extra cream. He always leaves a quarter
tip. She oddly enough knows a lot of
people in this town by what they eat
and drink.
A ten minute break. Her customers'
immediate needs have been taken care
of, perfect for sitting down and relax-
ing, she's exhausted. No sooner does she


catch her breath and light up a cigarette
then the boss comes breathing down her
"You have to work, if everybody sits
down people will look and see and they
won't come in," he says. He is, after all,
owner of the joint, to him every little
nuance of the "works" ranks of utmost
importance, the counters should shine,
there are booths to be wiped down for
crumbs if you have nothing to do. Ex-
cept for the constant turnover of wait-
resses he prides himself on running a
"tight ship."
Kathleen receives her pay in a little
envelope with a voucher of deductions
and hours worked. No recognition was
paid to the de facto overtime, and
times when she's come in only to be told
to leave early because business is slow.
She conceded. "That's the inevitable
hazards of a lousy job."
"I'm only doing it part-time so it
doesn't make much difference to me,
and beside I can quit anytime I want
In compensation, meanwhile, there's
always the fact that "they need me more
than I need them," -- unless she speaks
up, that might be a job risk.
Once and only once did Kathleen
mention a union to her boss. "If you do
that," he said, "I'd fire you, sure, there's
some things you have to do. I won't let
the waitresses run me. I won't let the
students have a union. I won't let some-
body else run my business."
So, with the boss breathing down her
neck she gets up and finds a table to
clear. Kathleen scraps off the tip, a 50
cent piece, decent, especially for stu-
dents; a lot of them forget to tip. Many
people don't realize that that's how
waitresses make their money; her base
wage is $1.40 an hour gross, it's one of
the only jobs where the boss can get by
without paying the minimum. The best
she's ever made in tips, and that was a
weekend night, was 22 dollars.
Part of the job is psyching people out,
predicting how they'll probably tip.
Businessmen tip best of all. The regular
stiffers she knows by sight and tries
not to seat them at her table.
Just as it seems everybody has mater-
ialized at once so too all of sudden the
place is deserted. Kathleen goes to wipe

Daily Photo by STEVE KAGAN

off a table and finds three dollars with
a note attached: "The two dollars is for
you, the dollar is for that old man in the
kitchen because nobody thinks about
him and we're all going to grow old
She remembers the lady who poured
out her whole life story to Kathleen in
the space of one meal. She has a daugh-
ter Kathleen's age and maybe they can
all three go out for lunch someday. She's
a lovely woman who comments on
Kathleen's nice smile, a really lovely

person, who seems like an angel in all
this grease.
The metamorphasis is already taking
place, with an hour to go until the end,
so she'll pick up, change her uniform,
let down her hair so nobody can tell
she's a waitress, then go relax, divorce
her head from the whole thing.
Marcia Zoslaw is a Daily staff writer who
has worked at the Olympic restaurant in Ann

Inno va tive

foster care for counter-culture kids

When Paula was 14, she walked out of
a juvenile detention home, stuck out her
thumb and hitchhiked the thousand
miles to Ann Arbor.
Paula was angry. She had spent the
last four years of her life making the
rounds of unsympathetic counselors, so-
cial workers and juvenile court judges.
She had been shuttled back and forth
between an unhappy home and an un-
happier detention home.
Now 15, Paula is no longer on her own
but settled in a new and, she says, hap-
pier home.
Her 'parents' are two single women,
19 and 26, who agreed to care for Paula
as part of an innovative foster parent
program run by Catholic Social Services.
For want of a better name, the pro-
gram has been dubbed "counter-culture
foster Care" because it caters specific-
ally to homeless teens who have been
unable to function in a traditional envi-
The program takes a somewhat radi-
cal departure from conventional foster
care in its entire approach. Gone are the
obstacles to temporary adoption: The
red tape, the income requirements, the
preference that foster parents be mar-
ried couples.
"We're trying to appeal to anybody
who wants to give a kid a break," says
Diane Blumson who heads the program.
"We're not looking for a controlling
home situation but a sariny one. We

with a stable unmarried couple.
A University graduate with a degree
in social work, Diane approaches her
job with a profound sense of compas-
sion for the youths who come to her.
Most are hard to place 13 to 17 year-
olds. Many have been labelled 'delin-
"Communities do a lot of labelling but

tions, preferring to assume a stance of
defiant independence.
"I'm growing up angry," she drawls in
her honey-tough voice, "and I'm going
to stay angry until things change."
But beneath the bravado, there is a
sense of the vulnerability and youth.
When pressed to talk about her family
her voice gets sharper.

ceived a $70 per month allottment from
the state.
Another girl living in the house
caused problems because they were
cramped for space. And even the small-
est demand on Paula precipitated major
"When she came here, she wanted
everything her own way," one of the

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"For most kids who come here freedom means having control
over their lives. What we're trying to do is help a kid be as free as

"But she's only 15 - true, a very
courageous, very independent 15."
Jean's partner in parenting, whom
we'll call Doris, has become the family
mediator. "What we expect from Paula
is completely different from what her
parents wanted," Doris says. "They de-
manded obedience. They wouldn't let
her smoke or swear-things like that.
"We want some respect, some help
around the house. And we want Paula
to learn how to take care of herself be-
cause she is going to be on her own
The foster parents say they have
learned much from Paula but neither
are sure what will happen when their
contract for her expires in December.
And in her street-wise way, Paula is
philosophical about the future. She has
learned not to trust the permanence of
any situation.
"In a way it scares me that they may
leave and in a way it doesn't. I can't
hold on to them forever."
The counter-culture foster care pro-
gram has run into some community op-
position. Diane Blumson has been criti-
cized for "letting delinquents run
around wild."
It's a small program so far and has
been in operation less than a year. Only
about 12 parents are in it. But there are
more kids waiting for just such homes,
Diane says.
"For most of the kids who come here,"

possible within the bounds of society,"

says Diane Blumson, the

program director.
. - : . : .. . - .- - . . v : -. - : . . . : : ... , v : . - . v r " : v : N n : . . -

these kids aren't bad kids," she says.
"They are just unable to fit into the
rigid mold society demands of them."
She sees Paula as a classic example
of the child that has been deprived of
a place in society. "Everyone realized she
couldn't live at home. But no one put
her parents or the judge in a detention
home because they had no solution. It
wasn't only Paula's problem but her

"They didn't want me. They wouldn't
trust me past the front door. Fear-they
used fear on me to make me behave."
But she smiles when she talks about
her foster parents. "They're really more
like roommates than parents. They
treat me on a human basis."
Paula and her foster parents, who pre-
fer that their real names not be used,
live in a three bedroom home on the

'parents' (whom we'll call Jean) says.
"She'd been living on the streets and
couldn't get used to rules. I would
scream at her and because of what her
home situation had been, she didn't
think I could yell at her and still love
Like Paula, Jean grew up in an un-
happy home and when she left it, lived
"on the streets." Like Paula, Jean is

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