《纽约时报》2017美国大学申请优秀文章(二)

《纽约时报》每年会征集美国学生关于金钱、职业和社会阶层方面的大学申请陈述,并发表其中最出色的文章。下面是今年的四篇优秀申请文章之一。本文的作者是来自美国亚利桑那州图森市的凯特琳·麦考密克(Caitlin McCormick),她文章的题目是《我母亲的格子围裙看起来像是金属盔甲》。麦考密克是格雷戈里中学(Gregory School)的学生,计划就读巴纳德学院(Barnard College)。

When it comes to service workers, as a society we completely disregard the manners instilled in us as toddlers.

For seventeen years, I have awoken to those workers, to clinking silverware rolled in cloth and porcelain plates removed from the oven in preparation for breakfast service. I memorized the geometry of place mats slid on metal trays, coffee cups turned downward, dirtied cloth napkins disposed on dining tables.

I knew never to wear pajamas outside in the public courtyard, and years of shushing from my mother informed me not to speak loudly in front of a guest room window. I grew up in the swaddled cacophony of morning chatter between tourists, professors, and videographers. I grew up conditioned in excessive politeness, fitted for making small talk with strangers.

I grew up in a bed and breakfast, in the sticky thickness of the hospitality industry. And for a very long time I hated it.

I was late to my own fifth birthday party in the park because a guest arrived five hours late without apology. Following a weeklong stay in which someone specially requested her room be cleaned twice a day, not once did she leave a tip for housekeeping. Small-business scammers came for a stop at the inn several times. Guests stained sheets, clogged toilets, locked themselves out of their rooms, and then demanded a discount.

There exists between service workers and their customers an inherent imbalance of power: We meet sneers with apologies. At the end of their meal, or stay, or drink, we let patrons determine how much effort their server put into their job.

For most of my life I believed my parents were intense masochists for devoting their existences to the least thankful business I know: the very business that taught me how to discern imbalances of power. Soon I recognized this stem of injustice in all sorts of everyday interactions. I came to understand how latent racism, sexism, classism and ableism structure our society — how tipping was only a synonym for “microaggression.”

I became passionate. Sometimes enraged. I stumbled upon nonprofits, foundations, and political campaigns. I canvassed for Senate candidates, phone-banked for grass-roots action groups, served as a board member for the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona, reviewed grant applications for nonprofits and organized events for the nearby children’s hospital.

I devoted my time to the raw grit of helping people, and in the process I fell irrevocably in love with a new type of service: public service. At the same time, I worked midnight Black Friday retail shifts and scraped vomit off linoleum. When I brought home my first W-2, I had never seen my parents so proud.

The truth, I recently learned, was that not all service is created equal. Seeing guests scream at my parents over a late airport taxi still sickens me even as I spend hours a week as a volunteer. But I was taught all work is noble, especially the work we do for others. Slowly, my mother’s gingham apron began to look more like metal armor. I learned how to worship my parents’ gift for attentive listening, easily hearing the things guests were incapable of asking for — not sugar with their tea, but somebody to talk with while they waited for a conference call. I envied their ability to wear the role of self-assured host like a second skin, capable of tolerating any type of cruelty with a smile.

Most of all, I admired my parents’ continuous trust in humanity to not abuse their help. I realized that learning to serve people looks a lot like learning to trust them.

以下是《纽约时报》中文网对英文进行的翻译。

每当面对服务业从业者,我们这个社会上的人会完全无视自己年幼时被灌输的礼仪。

过去17年里,我一醒来就会注意到这样的服务人员,注意到准备供应早餐期间裹在餐布里的叮当作响的餐具,以及从烤箱中取出的瓷盘。我会记得餐具垫被放在金属托盘里的形状、咖啡杯被倒扣以及弄脏了的布餐巾被撂在餐桌上的样子。

我知道永远不要穿着睡衣走到外边的公共庭院里;我母亲年复一年发出的嘘声让我明白,不能在客房的窗前高声说话。我成长于游客、教授和摄像师晨间压低声音闲聊的嘈杂声中。在长大成人的过程中,我习惯了那种适用于与陌生人寒暄的过度礼貌。

我是在一个提供住宿和早餐的客栈里,在有着厚重的酒店业氛围的环境里长大的。有很长一段时间我对此颇为憎恶。

我曾经没能准时去公园参加自己的五岁生日派对,只因为一位客人迟到了五个小时,而且连声道歉都欠奉。某个人住店一周,专门要求其房间每天打扫两次,却没有留过一次整理房间的小费。诈骗小企业的人光顾过几回。客人把床单弄脏,把厕所弄堵,把自己锁在房间外,然后要求打折。

服务业从业者和客人之间存在天然的权力失衡:我们用道歉应对冷嘲热讽。我们让顾客在他们吃喝住宿之后自行决定,服务人员在提供服务上有多用心。

在生命的大部分时间里,我都觉得我父母是极端的受虐狂,他们把自己的一生献给了我所知的最不讨好的生意:也是教会我如何辨别权力失衡的生意。很快,我就在各种日常交往中注意到这种不公平。我开始明白,潜在的种族主义、性别歧视、阶级歧视和残障歧视如何充斥我们的社会——给小费如何只是“微歧视”的一个同义词。

我变得狂热起来。有时还很愤怒。因为偶然的机缘,我加入了非营利组织、基金会和政治运动。我给参议员候选人拉票,给草根行动团体接听电话,担任南亚利桑那州女性基金会(Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona)的董事会成员,审核非营利组织的经费申请,还为附近的儿童医院组织活动。

我把自己的时间投入到帮助别人的历练之中,在这个过程中,我义无反顾地爱上了一种新型的服务:公共服务。与此同时,我也做着黑色星期五的夜班零售工作,清理油毡毯上的呕吐物。当我把自己的第一份工资单拿回家时,从没见父母那么自豪过。

我最近发现的事实是,并非所有的服务都是天生平等的。看到客人因为接机出租车迟到而对我的父母大叫大嚷,仍然让我感到厌恶,尽管我每周也会花数小时时间做志愿者。但我从中学到的是,所有的工作都是高贵的,尤其是我们为他人做的工作。慢慢地,我母亲的格子布围裙看起来也更像金属盔甲了。我知道了如何欣赏父母细心倾听的天赋,他们很容易就能明白客人没有准确提出的要求——不是给他们的茶里加糖,而是在他们等待一个电话会议时能有人跟他们聊天。我羡慕他们能那么自然地扮演胸有成竹的东道主角色,能带着微笑忍受各种恶言。

最重要的是,我钦佩父母一直相信人性,相信人们不会对不起他们提供的帮助。我意识到,学习给人们提供服务和学会相信他们极其相似。

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