The Big Questions: How Do You Keep Smiling for 50 Years?
Photo/Art by Christian KozowykWe ask Judy Beck, longtime waitress at Maine’s famed Moody’s Diner, how she keeps smiling.
Judy Beck began waitressing when she was 13. Her father, Percy “P. B.” Moody, founder of Moody’s Diner in Waldoboro, Maine, which opened in the early 1930s, needed help one day and asked his daughter to lend a hand. More than 50 years later, Beck, now 72, is still waiting tables–and still doing it at Moody’s Diner. We sat down with her at the Route 1 restaurant after one of her weekday shifts.
“Because I’m a Moody, it makes me very proud of the work my mom and dad did in the early years. It wasn’t easy. My dad cut Christmas trees in winter to keep the diner going. As kids, we weren’t allowed to go in and get something to eat without paying for it. ‘You can’t give away food or you won’t make any money,’ my dad would say. We worked while many kids were having fun. I’m glad for the character it built in us. I don’t think there’s one Moody of the nine of us who isn’t a hard worker.”
“Near the end of his life, my dad would come in, and he’d always have half a shrimp stew and a small Pepsi. Sometimes he’d have to wait to get a seat, and at that point his mind wasn’t so great, and he’d go, ‘I don’t know what’s so great about this chowder house.’ That’s what he’d call it. Then he’d sit down and say, ‘These booths are so uncomfortable, I don’t know who designed these things.’ [Laughs.] Well, Dad, you did.”
“You’ve got to enjoy people to do this job. I love just serving people, making them happy. You don’t know what’s going on in someone’s life, and when they come in and you can give them a nice time while they’re eating, it’s a nice feeling.”
“You’re going to have difficult customers, and you may have to go out to the kitchen and go, ‘Ohhhhhh …’ But then you’ve got to come back and smile. I’ve seen some waitresses say some things they shouldn’t. That usually means a trip to the office.
“If I haven’t given good service, then I don’t deserve a good tip. I had a party several weeks ago, and it was toward the end of my shift, and we’d had a really busy day; the man had ordered a frappe, and for some reason it went right out of my head. Never gave it to him. And his wife had ordered coleslaw, and I forgot that, too. Well, when I gave them the check, I’d charged them for the coleslaw. I was so upset with myself that I said, ‘There’s no charge for this meal.’ They still put money on the table, and I wish they hadn’t. I didn’t deserve a tip, and they didn’t deserve to pay for their food.”
“When I take an order, I know the customer I started with, and then I go around the table so that I know where the food goes. You shouldn’t auction it off: ‘Who had the hot turkey? Who had the fried clams?’ It makes you much more efficient, and you’re faster getting to the next party.”
“I’m getting more tired than I used to, and I don’t know if I’m as efficient as I used to be. But I’m going to do this as long as I can. I just love it.”