During a wedding reception today, my youngest was fascinated by the food servers. They'd disappear behind swinging doors and return with iced tea at exactly the same time you needed more. After the cake cutting, several servers took the cake away on a little silver cart.
“Mommy, where are they taking it? When am I getting my piece of cake?”
As we waited, she became more and more agitated about the cake, her piece of it, and what in the world was happening behind those swinging doors to the kitchen. As a way to pass the time, I helped her try to imagine the secret world of reception hall kitchens.
“Can't we just go back there?” she asked.
I asked one server if we could watch the cake being cut for the guests, and he reluctantly agreed. We tip-toed back, deep into the heart of the kitchen, lifting our dresses to keep them out of the way.
Seven sweaty servers, like nervous surgeons, stood around this delicate and elaborate cake. My daughter peeked around my back to view this inverted perspective of wedding receptions. Back here, in the heat and pressure of food service, the reception experience was being made for the rest of us by real people. Tired people. People who looked up at us, embarrassed, like we'd just caught them all skinny dipping.
They apologized for not working faster.
When we returned to our table, my daughter waited with her hands in her lap. She didn't say a word. The cake came in due time, and instead of just enjoying it, she appreciated it.
Sometimes I need to remember to take myself and others back behind an experience—to see how it's being made for us. There's an infrastructure to our lives that other people make on their backs. It's not just food service. It's any service that we take for granted that makes our days happen. Someone is picking up the garbage, sorting the recycling, delivering my mail, or keeping the street lights working. Maybe I wouldn't demand so much if I could just journey back and see what's going on from a different perspective.
Living with flair means to sit with my hands in my lap and not demand my piece of cake.