Q&A with Lou’s Waitress Becky Schneider
Although mile-high apple pie and cruellers are considered the staples at Lou’s Restaurant and Bakery, waitress Becky Schneider is also a long-standing figure. Schneider has worked at the restaurant for 39 years and has seen several changes during that time.
How long have you worked at Lou’s for?
BS: I started working here in 1978 for Lou. I was 17 years old [and] had just moved to Hanover. My parents moved in my senior year of high school, and I wasn’t very happy about it. So I started working here full time as a senior in high school taking most of my classes independently, and then I just kept working until then. Although I left a couple times in the eighties because of the stigma that I shouldn’t be a waitress.
How did that stigma affect your job?
BS: Here’s a good point: the picture of all the servers on the wall wearing white uniforms. I am personally responsible in 1980 for getting us out of those white uniforms because I find that if you dress like an indentured servant, you get treated more like an indentured servant. I feel like you’re more humanized. I started with wearing Dartmouth shirts too, but that was much later on.
Over all your years working at Lou’s, what drives you to work here?
BS: I love the students. I really love the students. And, you know, in some families you have three siblings come to Dartmouth. One family, the Simons, I waited on them for eleven years running because of their three boys and their age gap. They were from Oregon. I meet people from all over the world, and I find personally that I love the students ... Older people generally have those “damn kids” comments. I feel absolutely the opposite. I feel that the kids are just getting better and better. And what I mean by that is that they are much more country-and-community oriented, way less self-centered and, I hate to say snobby, but it was there a lot in the earlier days. I feel the progression in years, the times have gotten better.
Do you have a favorite moment from your time working here?
BS: It’s an accumulation [of favorite moments]. I have so many favorite moments, I really do. For instance, in , I broke my leg. I was greatly missed. One of the Phi Delts came in and got my address and phone number, and he sent me cards and pictures and all kinds of stuff ...
One particular aspect of the service industry is that it demands a lot of energy and happiness from servers. What is your secret to this energy and happiness?
BS: I always tell people when they ask me, “How are you in such a good mood every day?” I like to go “I like to thank the members of the academy,” just to joke. That’s like my standard.
Well, when I was younger, it was different. I have just gotten older and wiser. When I was between 17 and 27, I am sure I had a little temper going. I could be somewhat of a hot head. I was very nice, but my temper could flare. As I have gotten older, it takes something really extraordinary to rattle my cage or an extraordinary person to get me going. I just don’t let it happen. Another thing too is that you just don’t know what any person is going through on any given day. The person you’re waiting on that seems unhappy or rude can be at Hitchcock with a dying relative. You just don’t know what’s going on with people ... So, when I am waiting on people, I like to take that into consideration. I try to think to myself that this person could just be really hungry, and once they get fed, they will be much happier ...
How does it feel when you form a close relationship with a student who eventually leaves after graduation?
BS: It is heartbreaking sometimes. Sometimes it is really rough. There [is] one student who comes to mind when you say that. He was an ’08, and he was the most dedicated Lou’s regular I have ever seen for Dartmouth, not the town. We open at 6:00 AM, and every morning, and I worked more those days. The minute I opened the door, he would be the first one to walk in. He always would have black coffee and a warm blueberry muffin ... I find myself every year during reunions just watching at the door for him and hoping that he comes in and that his life is going well for him ... During reunions, I am no exaggerating, I will be taking an order, and someone will walk up and pick me up, and yell “Becky.” It’s really nice. It’s great for my ego and everything. It makes me really happy, and I think that is one of the things that has kept me here. It really brings a joy to my life. People don’t realize when I say I really love you, I really mean that I really love them. I really do.
How has Lou’s changed over the years?
BS: ... One of the times that I left, I came back two years later, they started staying all night on Fridays and Saturday nights for drunk Dartmouth students after frat parties. I worked that by myself ... I used to walk around the resultant and chuck bread at people just because I thought that they might get sick. Not to throw something at them, to keep them okay until their food came out of the kitchen. We just could not keep up with that because you’re dealing with drunk people. You would have three boys go down to the restroom. One would pee in the sink, one the pee in the drain in the floor and one would pee in the toilet. People would be upstairs making ketchup hats and it was starting to turn into a fraternity at night, and we could not do that any longer. When Toby bought the restaurant, he brought an end to the overnight shift. It just really was not working.
Recently, Everything but Anchovies closed down, and there has been a lot of concern about the financial health of businesses in Hanover. Are you worried about Lou’s?
BS: Every time a new restaurant in town opens, we have a meeting ... Unless we start doing something stupid or our quality starts to slide, I do not think that Lou’s can be hurt. I really don’t. It’s such a tradition. Like on the freshman shirts, the top ten things you do when you come to Dartmouth, number one is go have a hearty breakfast at Lou’s. At least it was, I do not know if they changed it. Last when I saw it, that’s what the shirt said ...
You wear a lot of Dartmouth apparel. Do you have a favorite shirt?
BS: When a certain student sees me wear a shirt that they brought me, you can see them just light up. My most popular shirt at this time is my Heorot shirt because I have never been given a fraternity shirt before. I started wearing it on Sundays, and I have never gotten better reactions off a shirt in my whole career. One weekend I was waiting on a group of girls, and they said, ‘Excuse me, Becky, do you mind if we get our picture taken with you wearing that shirt’. I said sure. A couple hours later, a couple of guys come in, and I did not even recognize them. They just said, “We say you a couple of hours ago on Facebook posing with that shirt on, do you mind taking a photo with us too?” I was like, “Sure, go ahead, but please tag me so I can see it.” But they did not ...
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.