I started a new job, and thus more new lessons. Here is one:
In alternating tables as we do, I looked over to the two people seated at the table that would be mine to serve, and realized that one of the men was the husband of a former teacher and employee I had worked with. His wife was someone I had jointly testified to the School Board against and who was subsequently fired. Being a small community, it had caused much turmoil and grief as well as embarrassment to her and her family. All these thoughts crossed my mind as I wondered how to get out of the situation.
I tried to get the attention of the other server to see if she would trade tables with me but to no avail. She had started the order with her table and he was a looker to boot so I knew she wasn’t going to give him up. All I could do was go forth.
Believing from the start that I would be snubbed and treated rudely, I reluctantly put on my best poker/lawyer face as my attorney sister calls it and proceeded to set them up and take their drink order. I was relieved when the first interaction went as any other one might with any other unfamiliar patron showing no apparent recognition on his part for who I was. Or so he acted: but I believe he knew, that he was just being decent, maybe for his lunch companion’s sake.
I imagined him telling his companion what I had done and what an evil person I was. I prepared myself to be uncomfortable but professional through their lunch also telling myself that I should not expect a tip or if one was left, to prepare for an insulting one: just to remind me of the hard feelings that we had left with. I imagined the companion might follow his lead.
I proceeded to follow the usual routine up until the end; with no mention of recognition the whole time while taking the order, refilling drinks, clearing the table, and leaving the check. As he approached the front desk to pay, I wished I had been in the back so as not to have been the one who had to face him at this crucial, telling, final moment. His change was .02 cents. When he didn’t say, “Keep the change” or hand it back to me, I was even more offended, feeling it deep in my gut that I wasn’t even worth a two-cent insult.
After they left, I walked over to finish cleaning the table off expecting the worst and noticed a proper tip. They had had separate bills and each left a tip. My heart was touched by it all as I learned some valuable lessons.
I learned that not everyone is going to act in the way I think they might. That I was wrong about this man’s character. If he felt any animosity towards me, he kept it to himself and did not display it in some immature way as could have very easily been done.
I learned that maybe not everyone wants to or does carry grudges, or at best let them influence their actions and behavior.
I learned that my fears were uncalled for. That I had set myself up for something that didn’t exist or ever happen. I had pessimistically made this into a tense experience with no cause except my own insecurities.
I learned that I would have been able to handle rejection had I had to and should not have been preparing myself to take it personally. That this man’s tip had nothing to do with me and everything to do with him, and because of that fact, his failure to tip would have been about whom he was and not a determination of my worth. The same as his choice to tip did not determine that I had done anything special or that he liked me personally.
I sadly realize that I would have let two cents be the difference on how the rest of my day went. Two cents! How many times have we lost a full day in our lives over two cents?! I ashamedly confess I often have.
I learned that had I not taken that table, I would not have learned these valuable lessons. I would have made preconceived judgments of what I positively thought would happen and would have been grateful I did not have to work that table, because I was sure it would have been a negative experience. Wrong.
I have been blessed by this experience. I wish I could say a sincere thank you to this man for doing what he did and all that it taught.
And I hope in the future, before I close opportunities I will be open to some valuable lessons worth way more than two cents.
It was the best tip I got all day!