Over the years I've had the opportunity to participate in the Great American Teach-In at schools throughout the Tampa Bay area. Do you have any idea how hard it is to compete with the police K-9 unit, or the firefighters who show up with a hook and ladder truck, or the television weatherman who descends from the heavens in the station's helicopter? • Show-offs. • Me? I'm left standing there with a notebook and a pencil. Riveting. • So I was grateful not to be invited this year to explain the wonders of the declarative sentence to the scholars at the K-12 Calvin A. Hunsinger School in Clearwater.
One of the presenters there was 23-year-old Brittany Morgan, who earns her living as a Hooters waitress. I suspect all the firefighters, cops and blow-dried weathermen also probably would have wanted to pack into the sixth-grade class to hear her speak. And she had a lot to say.
What began as a fairly benign exercise in exposing young people to the various opportunities to be found in the workplace erupted into a minor national brouhaha over the propriety of inviting a Hooters employee into the presence of schoolchildren.
This wasn't as if the state executioner was invited to explain how everything works.
In a complaint to the school, Ashley Dominicci was particularly aggrieved that her sixth-grade son was one of the pupils to be lectured to by Morgan, which has turned the young waitress into a cause celebre. Morgan has invitations to appear on national television to defend her work and by extension her character, since as we all know, Hooters servers are famous for wearing uniforms that defy the tensile strength of Lycra.
Dominicci, in an Olympian leap of logic, compared Morgan's appearance with that of a former porn star who was invited to a California school to read to students. Lady Chatterley's Lover, perhaps?
Really now, one could hardly equate serving chicken wings to Debbie Does Dallas.
The mother was concerned Morgan's appearance would send a negative message to the kiddos that "you're all bad kids, and this is all you'll be in life."
Morgan, who aspires to study psychology and graduate from college, did not appear in Hooters garb, opting for sweat pants and a sweater. She also stressed the importance of hard work, looking presentable on the job, learning to order from a menu, the proper way to tip and the various charitable efforts her employer contributes to the community.
While many parents fantasize about their children becoming doctors or scientists, for the sake of argument, let's assume that becoming a server is indeed all you'll ever be in life. This is such a terrible thing? After all, good waiters, much like a good mechanic, are not that easy to find.
We've all had encounters with the sullen, inept waiter who disappears for days on end and then gets the order wrong. So when we happen upon a gracious, friendly, competent server who makes the dining experience memorable, aren't we all grateful — and likely to return to the restaurant again? And leave a generous tip, too?
Serving is as much an art as it is a job. Been to Bern's Steak House lately, where waiters have to serve an apprenticeship?
And if you've been navigating Black Friday, which feels as if it began on Labor Day, you probably appreciate the customer service of waiters and sales clerks who act as if they really do want to help you.
While it is certainly true that the restaurant chain's waitresses are somewhat famous for showing a bit of decolletage to go with the Lots-A-Tots Hooterstizers, this isn't quite a Mons Venus experience.
To put this as delicately as possible, you can probably see more Sodom and Gomorrah exposed flesh by walking through any shopping mall or high school, where many of the lasses seem to be matriculating in Introduction to Hoochie-Coochie Girl 101.
By comparison, the Hooters servers are practically dressed in burkas.
The kerfuffle over the comely Morgan's appearance soon went into overdrive as news outlets across the country and the world picked up on the story, while talk show host Joy Behar discussed the controversy. Even Anderson Cooper took time out from the protesting crowds in Cairo's Tahrir Square to extend an invitation to Morgan to appear on his daytime show.
All this hand-wringing — over some cleavage with a side of guacamole.