I’m leaving town for a week this Friday. I haven’t been on a vacation since I was about 13 years old and spent the week with my Grandpa in Phoenix Arizona, or since my honeymoon in Chicago, but 13 sounds more drastic. I’ve taken trips, but I wouldn’t call them vacation. There’s a real distinction between the two that you don’t realize is real until you have kids. Trips are taken with family. Vacations are times that you spend with just your favorite person in the world with no distractions, external relationship problems, or expectations of your time.
My wife and I are taking our first real vacation in the 10 years we’ve been married.
The unfortunate thing about this vacation is that it comes on Labor Day week. That’s usually a good thing, unless your second source of income is working as a waiter in a restaurant that is closed on Labor Day. Especially when two of my 5 shifts that I work at the restaurant happen to be on Mondays, which was Labor Day. So, on Monday, I started feeling kind of desperate. I was only going to work 2 of my worst shifts this week before leaving for a vacation that is going to cost more than I can wrap my mind around. It is a cruise we’re taking. We will likely spend some money. Thankfully, my coworker Rebecca was willing to let me work tonight for the two Friday night shifts she is working for me in the next 2 weeks.
Tuesdays are interesting days to work. You never know how busy its going to get at a restaurant on a Tuesday. It could very likely be pretty dead. After all, its Tuesday. Who goes out to eat at a fancy restaurant on Tuesday? And, when I arrived to work, it definitely looked like and felt like it was going to be dead (a term meaning slow at a restaurant, for those not familiar with the term). But I was grateful for the potential 50 “extra” bucks I expected to make tonight. Until it got hairy (a term meaning busy all at once, in restaurant speak).
Me and Zach, my friend and sometimes coworker, were the only 2 wait-staff and we were balancing about 6 tables each at around 7pm. And people kept coming in. There’s this feeling of dread each time a new group walks in that I get when I’m not expecting it and I’m busy. I want people to walk away, not walk in and expect prompt service, especially when there are only two of us working.
A group of three people walked in around 7:00, two men and a woman. They were in goofy moods. I was not. They were all about my parents’ age, and the lady seemed to already be drunk. I wasn’t up for jovial. Jovial is not a mood I relate to when I’m busy. I actually hate jovial when I’m busy…and I’m a pretty fun-loving guy.
One of the guys asked me about our special tonight. As I shared the special with the table (pan-seared Salmon over risotto with a lemon bier-blanc sauce and soup or salad for $22), the guy who asked got this really big, annoying, surprised expression on his face. It was sarcastic. I wasn’t in the mood. When I finished sharing the special, he said, very sarcastically, “I don’t want that!” and laughed. I was not in the mood (I think that’s apparent). I, with a straight/annoyed look on my face, asked if he wanted anything to drink other than water. He did not.
I immediately decided that I didn’t care about this table. I was too busy and too annoyed by this guy’s sarcasm to care about serving them. I knew that my job required me to serve him, but I didn’t want to. I said some really terrible things to the cooks about this table. I didn’t care. I didn’t have a sense of humor anymore.
I took my time coming back to the table to get their orders. The guy who told me he didn’t want the special ordered the special. I could have grabbed him by the ear and thrown him out. I didn’t. But I was already way past done with this table, and they were just ordering (this is not a good sign). I was thinking about how terrible this guy must be to be in such a good mood when I’m clearly not up for it. To top it off, he ordered a special salad that required the cooks to prepare. They were busy too, and this was not a good sign.
I brought the two regular salads out to the table and informed the annoying guy that his salad wasn’t prepared yet, because it wasn’t up to me. He said, “Go tell the cooks that I’m waiting for my God damn salad, and that they better make that God damn salad. Tell them who I am and that I want my God damn salad,” and laughed. Again, I was not in the mood. I joked with him about his “God damn” salad, and went into the kitchen to check and see if it was being made. I put on my “good waiter” face, and within 3 minutes, I delivered the “God damn” salad to the annoyingly happy guy.
Everything else went swimmingly with the table until the drunk lady spilled a glass of water all over the table at the end of the meal. The annoying guy gave me his credit card and asked for the bill. When I delivered his card to him, he thanked me for my good sense of humor.
Did he not realize that I hated his table?
He proceeded to tip me $25 on $107, which is way more than I deserved and way more than he should have. My attitude towards him was absolutely terrible. Why did he treat me so well?
I walked away with about $140 tonight, way more than I expected. And I owe that to the annoying table that ruined my night. I learned that I can be a terrible person sometimes. I get annoyed too easily. I don’t deserve the goodness that is offered to me every day that I work at the restaurant.
I was humbled by an annoyingly happy, sarcastic, jovial man who in turn blessed me beyond what I expected or deserved. That’s how grace works.