He came home from fishing in the late afternoon and suggested we eat out. I am no fool; we spruced ourselves, and off we went at almost 7:00 p.m. (This kind of weekday evening expedition is unusual for us!)
Right off the bat, our server told us this was only his fourth day on the job. He also mentioned he was used to making more money. Maybe that was an early bid for a great tip, or maybe he was embarrassed about taking a job he thought was somehow beneath him. Either way, he was pleasant and personable, especially as he returned one minute later to refill our water glasses.
It’s just that we didn’t hear from him again.
We waited and waited. Maybe they were short staffed in the kitchen? Then almost thirty minutes in, I saw a couple I had noticed ordering after us being served their food, by the same guy, who never looked our way. Not once.
This was not good.
My husband managed to get the eye of the manager, and when he asked as kindly as he could if she could check on our order, she promptly left to do so. Her face looked a little drained.
In only a few minutes, she was back. “Is it okay if I sit down with you?”
Wanting her to know we weren’t angry, I smiled when I said, “Sure. Do you have a story?” and my husband joked that she better not be after him as she sat beside him. She looked kind of relieved, but confident. Maybe she had braced herself. Maybe we had looked mean. Maybe lots of people had been mean in her food service career.
The guy had been doing a good job, she said, but earlier that evening she let another person go and had to ask him to serve in our section of the restaurant as well as his. And, well, he forgot us, not even getting our order in. (Yes, I am still wondering how you can miss an order right there on your order pad, but that is beside the point and I only ever worked in a doughnut shop back in the day.)
She offered to make our dinner herself, in ten minutes flat. And she really did it. As my husband paid her for the meal (at a nice percentage off for our trouble, thank you), the server came out to explain and say he was sorry, which was another opportunity to say, “That’s okay. Things happen.”
Yes, we were tired and hungry and out later than we had hoped to be, but so what? We had no pressing business or cranky kids with us, but so what if we had? We had an opportunity here, and though we are generally nice people, we still had a choice to make: stoically accept our fate with no sign of understanding or do what we could to be intentionally kind.
Are we always nice when something goes wrong, never annoyed, with each other? No way. (Yes, I am the worst.) Have we ever lost it a little with someone who did not treat us like we thought a customer should be treated? Yep. We make mistakes, react badly, and have “faces.” You know, faces that say, “I disapprove,” or “I can’t believe you did that,” or “You just made my life harder, thank you every much.”
I am only telling this story to remind us all, me included, that kindness goes a long way, especially on someone's really bad day.
Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Col. 3:12 NIV)