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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Customer Leaves a Letter for Server

Well, file this under "warming the cockles of my tired black heart." A reader named Whitney sent me an email explaining that a woman came into her station recently and asked for a quiet booth away from people. She then ordered a bottle of Merlot, spinach dip and worked on her laptop for the duration of the afternoon.

At this point, most of us servers with hardened attitudes are beginning to grumble things like, "If you don't want to be around people, then don't come into a restaurant" and "Great. Thanks for using my table as your office all day and not letting me turn the table over even one damn time."

When the lady left, there was a note on the table along with a twenty dollar tip. The note said:

Thank you. I found out that I have cancer today. And I needed a quiet place to sit and work. Remember what's important in life and no matter what, whatever the circumstance-be thankful. Even for the shitty stuff. Take care and thank you for letting me sit here.

p.s. Sorry if any customers were offended- I didn't realize my ear buds weren't working right and blared Prince for a while. Oh well. 

What can we learn from this, folks? We can learn a few things, the least of which is that a cancer diagnosis cries out for spinach dip and Merlot. If it were me, I'd probably be more of a nachos and margaritas or Pepsi and Butterfingers kind of guy, but you say potato and I say potato. (That saying doesn't really work when typing it, does it?) We also learn that the musical stylings of Prince soothe the soul when one is down. What we really learn is almost a repeat of what I was trying to write about last week: be grateful. I suppose when you are told that you have cancer, then even the "shitty stuff" is better than the alternative, which is "no stuff."It isn't that different from when my Mamo Rita would catch herself complaining about being old and realize that being old is better than being dead. I know that couple of my posts lately have been less about the bitchy and more about something else, but maybe 2013 is trying to remind me that waiting tables can give me extraordinary experiences and not just shitty ones. Besides, the letter is teaching me to be grateful for the shitty ones anyway.

As servers, I guess we have to be aware that, like it or not, we are affecting the lives of our customers, sometimes in a completely insignificant way but other times maybe quite a bit. Whitney was nice to to this woman without even knowing that at that moment, she needed kindness more than ever. What if Whitney had told her something like, "I'm sorry, but I need to turn this table over so maybe you can go to Starbucks with your computer?" Whitney, unknowingly, gave the woman exactly what she needed that day which was a quite place to sit and work. But Whitney also gave the woman something else: kindness. Could it be that more of our customers want that from us than we think? Perhaps they are coming into our stations making demands and spouting off their needs but in reality they are crying out for a shoulder to cry on.  Okay, probably not. More than likely, that woman who yelled at me last week about her burger being overcooked was in fact just a true bitch and not reaching out for kindness. Maybe she needed a lesson in gratitude and to be reminded to be thankful for the "shitty stuff" or in her case, a medium-well burger instead of a medium-rare one.

My point is, I guess we all have to be nice to our customers with the assumption that they are dependent on kindness to get them through their day. Maybe our job is more than carrying food to someone. Could it be that our job is to make sure people leave our station in a better mood than they were in when they got there?  Could it be that I am waxing poetic simply because I chose to have two mimosas for breakfast this morning and my fingers are typing drunk words? Either way, I suppose that kindness is something we should aspire to have and give.

But back to the woman who wrote the note: Isn't is nice of her that on the very first day she has been diagnosed with cancer, rather than wallowing in her own misery, she made the decision to immediately start teaching others how to take full advantage of the life they have? I wish all good things for this mystery diner. I hope she makes a full recovery and that she has plenty of time to blare Prince all she wants. And thank you to Whitney for sending the photo so we can know that sometimes our customers need more than spinach dip or a bottle of Merlot. Sometimes they just need a friendly smile and a thoughtful hello. We can do that, can't we?



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18 comments:

anne marie in philly said...

as a 24 year cancer survivor, yeah. you don't worry about the small stuff and you have a different attitude about life. I understand what this person is saying.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. I get a giggle from your stories, but I also really appreciate the thinks.

Clay said...

BW,

I don't think your fingers were on a Mimosa-induced spree at all. I think what you typed—and passed on—was truly what was in your heart and more importantly was what your we, your readers, needed to read today: a little kindness goes a long way.

Keep up the good work and have a Mimosa for me.

Kalei's Best Friend said...

That letter says a lot about the character of that woman.. Yes, you are right about how we all should be nice to one another- we all should think before we speak and most of all put ourselves in the other's shoes.. We never know what other people may be going through.. That customer is handling her future with a lot more grace than some I know.. Kudos to you because she must of sensed a sensitivity about you in order for her to leave u such a note..

Rogue Wino said...

I'm always nice to people, even when they are grouchy or make odd requests. Nine times out of 10 they are hypoglycemic and/or stressed out, and they just need their first course or glass of wine to mellow. So I give them a chance, whether that be to eat, to have someone be kind to them, or to have some quiet time as illustrated above.

Workingdan said...

Kindness is something that has recently eluded the service industry. It's good to see it still exists somewhere.

Confessions of a Degreed Waitress said...

What a fantastic story! This is my favorite thing about waiting tables -- seeing the beauty of the human race that all too frequently gets hidden by all the shitty people of the world. Thanks to you and Whitney for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing - I needed the reminder today. I believe from my time in customer service that the ones yelling the loudest are the ones most in need. Sad they don't have a different place to fulfill their needs, eh? But it's pretty fun to watch the lion transform into a kitten by just applying a little respect. Best to you all.

Mary A. said...

Very true! I love snark as much as the next gal, but I will forever be greatful to Brandi, the Denny's waitress who had a "hey -- we're all moms -- it's no big deal, happens to all of them" attitude when my 3 year old puked all over the table.

I kinda think most people would have been all "WTF lady leave your sick kid at home".(I would be) Not Brandi.

Did I leave her a $20 tip? You bet your ass I did.

Great job Brandi! Great job Whitney!

... said...

This reminds me of a saying I've heard a few times - something like "Be kind - everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle". Thanks for a timely reminder, Bitchy. :-)

Lolamouse said...

Beautiful story. Thanks for reminding me.

Anonymous said...

That's great! So heart-warming. It's never the customers for me, but my colleagues who are nasty. Anyway, good one Whitney! Love you all. Xx

Asiah

KC said...

Great story, one that we need to remind ourselves about from time to time. You are starting to remind me of the Grinch when he discovered that Christmas wasn't just about presents.

Anonymous said...

Why is she working when she has just been diagnosed with cancer....???

Isn't the life lesson to NOT work so hard....?

Speaking with cancer as a familial and genetic blight.

Queen of the Rant said...

My glasses are fogging up right now-that was very touching-thank-you!

Anonymous said...

Am I the only server who read through this story to see if she left a $20 tip for the merlot, spinach dip? Better not be $5 for taking up the table. Cancer or not.

Christine T. said...

I remember when I got out of the hospital after being in for a few weeks, I was really upset and worried about my life. I went with my mom to Denny's and all I wanted was crackers for my soup, I asked the lady for a bunch of crackers. I guess she could tell I was sad because she came back with a giant box full of crackers and just put them on the seat next to me. She just smiled and said "darling you can have as many crackers as you want." I was so surprised and couldn't stop laughing and smiling. She made my sadness disappear. Sometimes a waitress is better than a therapist. :)

stondfairy13 said...

beautiful, i love this site and the beautiful caring stories also the funny ones, ive been a waitress over 30 yrs, been thru most all scenes, to me a waitress is just like the movie the help we hear and see all that gos on all the secrets, etc and were great listners. love the page keep it going!!!