Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Open Mouth, insert foot

Open Mouth. Insert Foot.

So now its true confessions time. After all of my many, many (probably too many for those of you reading my blog all along) posts about crappy tippers, difficult customers, and especially crappy Christian tippers...here's how I failed yesterday.

It was slow yesterday (merely to set the stage, mind you, not excuse me) and my first or second table was a couple of ladies. They wanted to split a breakfast, one had coffee (decaff) and one wanted hot tea. Hot tea makes most waitresses at our restaurant cringe. Unlike coffee, which only needs a cup and maybe a creamer, hot tea requires a tea cup and saucer, a small teapot and matching lid, filled with hot water, a box of tea packets, and perhaps creamer and honey as well. This particular customer only wanted Earl Grey -- which in our "Passion" and "Calm" teas selection, means decifering attractive labels of soothing nothing-much-to-help-you. I brought the tea. After quite some time, one person ordered a meal. They asked if it was too early for a hamburger (at 9:30). I was determined to dislike them. Especially after the lady wanted a refill on her teapot, and if I wouldn't mind, I could just put a fresh teabag in there for her, thanks. The other lady was a gusher. Everything was just wonderful from the china pattern to the poached egg. I'm not great with gushers in the morning. Then, came the crux of it all, an hour later. I cleared their plate away and one went into thoughts and prayers she'd been praying for the other. Oh I was set to hate them, now. Early morning, hot tea, one breakfast, sitting for hours, and now PRAYING. I could be they'd leave a crappy tip....

$6 on a meal less than $15.

Slightly shagrined, I asked forgiveness for my bad attitude as I washed the table.

But I hadn't learned anything later on. There was a couple in for lunch. No drinks. Maybe one coffee. They weren't ready yet. They weren't ready yet. Still not ready. Maybe just a touch more coffee, and lets discuss the menu, shall we? Ok. I couldn't possibly have them make just a (something we didn't have on the menu). No? Well, I guess.... They were polite, but they ate and ate and ate deliberately. Fork in one hand, knife in the other, European style, put down between bites, and chew like its your last meal on death row. His plate is empty, she's still chewing. Still going. Still cutting tiny slices and talking. I check on them. Ten minutes later I check again. I offer to take his plate. Oh, lets not do that until....rueful shrug. I walk away annoyed, determined to let them sit for a LONG time now. Finally they let me take their plates away. I bring the bill. He pays, and they both head to the bathroom. Cash. $6 tip, 20%. Oh. And they've left $5 more on the table. Crap. I go up to talk to him, ask him about themselves, and a conciliatory act (some of my faulty memory wants me to think that I went to talk to him as I took the money, not sucking up after he gave it to me. Can't remember now. Oh wait, I did. Because I saw the money on the table after I talked to him, and called after him "oh wait, you've given me far too much" as he headed to the bathroom). Where are they going?

Well, my wife is suffering from cronic kidney failure and the doctor says this is our last trip into the mountains.


I almost cried. Then I almost threw up. How can I take their money now, with all the horrid thoughts I thought about them all through dinner. I can't go up and hand it back -- that might assuage my guilt, but it'll make them feel terrible if I walk up and say, "I don't deserve this 'cause I was thinking aweful things about you for over an hour." So, after I failed to catch his attention, I waited for them to come out of the bathrooms, and I bought them dessert, on me, to take with them on their last hike in the mountains. Both, whatever they wanted.

And she hugged me when I brought it out, like I'd made a dying woman's last day so happy.

I still feel sick. I'm crying while I type. Still. A whole day later.