‘Must-have’ experiences can shape your life

I’ve long believed that anyone who eats in restaurants should be required to work in one.

The restaurant industry — and the world, for that matter — would be a better place if everyone perusing a menu knew what it means and how it feels to be “triple sat” while “in the weeds” just after the kitchen “86s” the most popular dinner special.

I did. I worked for Perkins Restaurants for 13 years before going back to school at age 28 and getting my journalism degree.

The experience was a valuable one that stayed with me forever, and any former or restaurant employee will always know how many tables their waitress is juggling, whether the hostess is helping with drink orders and how many saltines the family at the next table has allowed their toddler to pulverize before throwing them on the floor.

Restaurant work should be one of life’s prerequisites. It helped prepare me for life.

Aside from restaurant work, there are several other lifetime achievements that may not qualify for any awards, but would go a long way toward making the world a more equal and understanding place.

For instance, everyone should live with a roommate who is not a relative.

Everyone should have to get stitches, a cast or minor surgery, and spend at least a few hours in a hospital.

Everyone should have to speak in public — as an adult and in front of adults.

Everyone should have to deal with a flat tire. (I’m not requiring them to change it by themselves, but everyone should have to address the issue in some way, whether by calling AAA, the police or accepting help from a stranger.)

Everyone needs to experience the feeling of breaking up with someone and of being dumped. Because after you’ve been on one end of that conversation, it changes your view of the other.

Everyone should have to run for a flight, if only to appreciate the sense of relief that comes from arriving in time to grab a drink and wait at the gate for a few minutes.

Every kid should have to move or change schools sometime before high school. It’s terrifying, but in a good way.

Everyone should have to go on a job interview.

Everyone should be required to know the name of the country’s president and vice president and should watch at least one State of the Union address per year.

Everyone must change a diaper before having children and assemble a piece of furniture that shows up in a heavy, flat box.

Everyone should have to paint a room in their house, fail a test and cry at a movie.

Everyone should kill a cockroach, attend a concert and experience at least one hangover. (Disclaimer to cover my butt: The drinking age in this country is 21 and alcohol can impair your judgment and make you do stupid, dangerous things.)

Everyone should volunteer at a homeless shelter, soup kitchen or other facility for people in need.

Everyone should be embarrassed in public, whether by falling down, splitting their pants, dropping something breakable or doing anything else that draws the attention of several onlookers.

At the end of the day, you just might be better prepared for all the twists and turns that life can throw at you.

Jeff Hage is the editor of the Princeton Union-Eagle. Reach him by e-mail at jeff.hage@ecm-inc.com.

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