Monday, June 12, 2006
Waitresses in Sunglasses
The other night around one in the morning, I came in from a waitressing shift, poured myself a glass of milk, and turned on the computer. I read several of the blogs on my sidebar, and tapped out comments when I felt moved to do so. Then I came to Mole where Dale had written about the grace of saying thank you. Just in from my service job, I nodded to myself as I read that people are much more likely to complain about what went wrong than to offer thanks for what went right.
Of course, it doesn't apply only to customers. Just that night, three people had earned this server's gratitude. I thanked all of them at the time, but thought I might add a little public appreciation.
1. First was the dishwasher, whose own job is hard enough, but who came out of the kitchen when he saw me carrying a heavy bag of dirty linen at the end of the night. Though he doesn't speak much English, he intuited that my back hurt and carried the bag outside for me. Then he followed me into the tent and asked, No mas? I wanted to tell him that his kindness was more than enough. But since my Spanish is rudimentary at best, all I managed was an inadequate gracias".
2. Then there was the slightly, okay, very inebriated guest who rudely accused me of stealing his jacket and camera. (There's at least one of these at every function and the server is never the one who misplaced the errant belongings, so the next time you're tempted to--no, never mind, none of you would ever....)
And why do I want to thank an unruly drunk? you might ask. Because unlike all the ones before him, this one came back when he'd sobered up and said he was sorry. I was sweeping the floor of the tent when he returned, and offered a sincere apology. "I had too much to drink earlier," he admitted, looking chagrined. "I was acting like a jerk." It meant a lot, so thank you. And I'm glad you found your camera.
3. Then there was the old man who spent most of the night sitting in a quiet corner, looking slightly forlorn. When I asked him if he wanted to dance, he said he was waiting for them to play "Shine on Harvest Moon". I told him I hadn't heard that song once in ten years of weddings, and he laughed. "Now you're beginning to understand how I feel."
I brought him cake and coffee in his forlorn corner, and we spoke every time I passed. At the end of the night, he sought me out, and reached for my hand. I thought he was just saying good-bye until I realized he'd pressed a ten dollar bill into my palm.
Thank you, lonely stranger. It wasn't the money I most appreciated, but what it represented. The shared humanity that passed between us. The fleeting image of that harvest moon.
Whenever I get a cash tip, I stop on the way home and spend it. It's my way of reminding myself that generosity isn't just a vague intangible. It's something you can use and trade, something that can actually make you stronger.
On this particular night, I bought three cartons of milk. Lactaid for my son who's lactose intolerant, 2% for the rest of the family, and the fat-free kind I always drink. But when I got home, I decided to live it up. I poured myself a glass of 2% and drank it as I thought of everything I'd experienced that night. The milk was so rich and good, it tasted like cream.