Everyday Observations: Finding our own rhythm and sticking to it


We all know people who describe something in a way that means not to offend. Such as when a realtor says that the house is charming or an older person is defined as being in their advanced years. We all know what those things mean until we don’t. 

Sometimes, softening up language gets in the way of what we really mean to say or to understand. So, let's start a movement of saying what we mean, when we mean to say it, and how we mean for it to be heard. 

Old waitresses with names like Flo and Sunny do this every day. The waitresses who still wear aprons and nametags. They serve up coffee in ceramic mugs that should have been retired years ago. They take your order in cafés with large windows, bar seats, and the sounds of the local AM radio. I like those kinds of waitresses. They don’t mess around, and they know what they were created to do on this good earth. 

Old barbers are the same. The kinds with the perfectly lined up salt and pepper mustaches. They work in places called Joe’s or just Barbershop. The seats are worn, and the red-white-and-blue barber pole sticks a little with each revolution. Still, everything is meticulously clean when you walk in, and they know what they are there to do – to give you the exact cut you’ve been getting for years. Don’t ask for something different. 

Old barbers and old waitresses don’t deviate from their plans. They show up, they tell it like it us, they do a good job, and they go home to their families. There is a rhythm to their lives and to how they contribute to society. There’s something noble about that rhythm. 

Life should go in rhythms. Familiar rhythms and changing rhythms. Fast-paced and steady as a drum. It helps us know where we are going and what to expect. We all have rhythms, but to really know each other, we have to stick them. 

We don’t do that anymore. We walk on tippy toes, and we speak with hesitation. We are afraid of how we are going to come off to others, and we are afraid of saying what we really mean to say. There’s something to be said about not being able to say anything anymore. 

The Soup Nazi on Seinfeld had a rhythm. A very short and declarative one, but he had one. It made him who he was, and it made us laugh because we all knew someone a little like him. We like characters on TV and in books because we all know a character like the ones we are seeing and reading. Characters with different ways of speaking, of sharing, of being. 

The homogenization of our culture is causing us to lose our individual and distinctive rhythms. Rhythms that communicate culture and traditions. Rhythms of genetics, of nature, of nurture. Rhythms that sound different because we are different. 

We can all soften ourselves when needed, just like a composition, changing from page to page but creating a sound of our own. We all need to soften from time to time. If we soften too much, we’ll lose our shape, our notes, the real sound we were created to make. 

The next time you stop by the diner on a historic route to somewhere, sit back, relax, and let the old waitress be herself. Her direct and candid self. She’s been that way all her life, and it’s okay. 

The coffee will be good, and you won’t forget her no matter how hard you try. 

Abe Villarreal writes about the traditions, people, and culture of America. He can be reached at abevillarreal@hotmail.com.