A couple of months ago, right after my first son wasborn, I thought about the lessons I wanted to pass along to him that I had learned a little latein life. Among the morals I scribbled down in my mind one that stood out began with a storyinvolving Steve Jobs and ended with the serving of my mother’s last meal.

几个月前,我的第一个儿子诞生时,我想着自己人生中各类迟迟才学到的履历教训,能够传授给他。在我铭记于心的各种道德准则中,最凸起的一条始于一个同史蒂夫乔布斯(Steve Jobs)有关的故事,遣散于我母亲的着末一餐。

The Jobs portion of the story occurred on a late-October morning in 2010, when he was sittingwith a mutual friend in the restaurant of the Four Seasons hotel in San Francisco. The waitress,a shy woman who looked to be in her mid-30s, according to the friend, approached them andasked what they wanted for breakfast. Mr. Jobs said he wanted freshly squeezed orange juice.


After a few minutes, the waitress returned with a large glass of juice. Mr. Jobs took a tiny sipand told her tersely that the drink was not freshly squeezed. He sent the beverage back,demanding another.


A few minutes later, the waitress returned with another large glass of juice, this time freshlysqueezed. When he took a sip he told her in an aggressive tone that the drink had pulp alongthe top. He sent that one back, too.


My friend said he looked at Mr. Jobs and asked, “Steve, why are you being such a jerk?”


Mr. Jobs replied that if the woman had chosen waitressing as her vocation, “then she shouldbe the best.”


Hearing this story, I was immediately put off by how Mr. Jobs had acted; he was being — toborrow from his breakfast companion — a jerk. But looking past his rudeness (Maybe he washaving a bad day?), I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind: No matter what you do for a living,should you do the best work possible?

听了这个故事,我一会儿就对乔布斯的所作所为孕育发生了反感; 用与之共进早餐的同伙的话来澳门葡娱娱乐ag85856平台说,他确凿是个忘八。然则假如撤除他的粗鲁(大概他那天恰恰心情不好?),我无法把这个动机赶出脑海:不管你靠什么谋生,难道不应该做到吗?

Of course, this question breaks down a bit when a job is just a job; it’s not your vocation. Itcan be especially disheartening when you don’t believe that what you’re doing for a living isappreciated or that it is having very little impact on other people’s lives.


I get it. I was a waiter for many years. I was a line cook. I worked in the garment district inNew York City carrying spools of fabric between warehouses. I worked in a salon washingwomen’s hair. And I worked for a birthday-party camp, dressing up in one of those giant furrycharacter outfits (they stink inside) and doing magic tricks for kids who were not impressed bymy card skills.


And yet it wasn’t until my mother found out that she had terminal cancer in mid-March andwas given a prognosis of only two weeks to live that I learned even if a job is just a job, youcan still have a profound impact on someone else’s life. You just may not know it.


My mother loved shrimp. She had no qualms about where her shrimp came from, if they werefresh or frozen, large or small. She would eat them in a grimy airport cafe or a five-starrestaurant. And when she was done with her crustaceans, she always beamed a big smile and,in her posh British accent, said, “Oh, that was just lovely.”


My mother was the one who taught me how to cook shrimp — and everything else. (When Iwas really young, I was allowed to lick the leftover chocolate cake icing out of the bowl when Ihelped in the kitchen.) So I jumped at the chance to become her personal chef for the last twoweeks of her life.


When she asked for some vegetables to nibble on, I fastidiously julienned a cucumber into thinslices, layering them atop one another in a semicircle on a florid porcelain plate.


When she asked for a pita and hummus, I cut the bread into perfect little triangles, foundelegant small bowls in her cupboards, and carefully quenelled three dipping options, as ifThomas Keller were watching over my shoulder.

她要吃皮塔饼和鹰嘴豆泥,我就把面包切成完美的三角形,从她的柜橱找出风雅的小碗,小心翼翼盛上三种蘸酱,就像托马斯凯勒(Thomas Keller,美国名厨——译注)在身边监视。

I proudly took every meal to her on her finest china, placed carefully on an ornate tray andfinished off with a single English flower. I prepared every menu with meticulous detail, unsure ifthe meal I was taking to her bedside would be her last.


As the days went by, her appetite started to wane, as did her mind. The m澳门葡娱娱乐ag85856平台eals she asked forgrew smaller and smaller. There were fewer slices of cucumber and one less dipping sauce. Thenshe stopped eating altogether, barely able to finish a cup of white tea.


We all knew the end was near.


Then one evening my mother became incredibly lucid and called for me. She was cravingshrimp, she said. “I’m on it,” I told her as I ran down to the kitchen. “Shrimp coming right up!”


The problem was, I didn’t have any. So I did what anyone in that situation would do: I called fortakeout. From my mother’s house in Leeds, England, the closest place was Sukhothai, a tinynondescript Thai restaurant a few miles away. My sister ordered, and we headed over in thecar as quickly as we could.


The restaurant was bustling. In澳门葡娱娱乐ag85856平台 the open kitchen in the back I could see a dozen men andwomen frantically slaving over the hot stoves and dishwashers, with busboys and waitersrushing in and out.


While I stood waiting for my mother’s shrimp, I watched all these people toiling away and Ithought about what Mr. Jobs had said about the waitress from a few years earlier. Though hisrudeness may have been uncalled-for, there was something to be said for the idea that weshould do our best at whatever job we take on.


This should be the case, not because someone else expects it. Rather, as I want to teach myson, we should do it because our jobs, no matter how seemingly small, can have a profoundeffect on someone else’s life; we just don’t often get to see how we’re touching them.


Certainly, the men and women who worked at that little Thai restaurant in northern Englanddidn’t know that when they went into work that evening, they would have the privilege ofcooking someone’s last meal.


It was a meal that I would unwrap from the takeout packaging in my mother’s kitchen, carefullyplucking four shrimp from the box and meticulously laying them out on one 澳门葡娱娱乐ag85856平台of her ornate chinaplates before taking it to her room. It was a meal that would end with my mother smiling for thelast time before slipping away from consciousness and, in h澳门葡娱娱乐ag85856平台er posh British accent, saying, “Oh,that was just lovely.”