During my table waiting days at the coffee shop in the Inn where people came to celebrate holidays I had a lot of interesting people encounters. The waitresses, busboys, dishwashers and cooking staff were fascinating enough but it was the people coming in to eat that could be amazing, amusing and sometimes unpleasant.
The Sunday afternoon shift was always unpleasant because the church people who came in left terrible tips and demanded everything right now. They left religious propaganda instead of a tip and clearly had not read the part of the Bible about gluttons not entering the kingdom of heaven. One week a very round, “why do they make these booths so small”, man and his similarly sized and shaped family ate and ate and at the end of their meal, he decided to impress his family with his witnessing skills. “Tell me son,” he said, fixing me with his eyes, “are you born again?” I’d just recently decided I wanted to follow Jesus, be a Christian, get all born again, however you want to put it, and I smiled back at him at said, “Yes, I am.” He smiled great big, I’d obviously made his day, and then he asked, “Do you speak in tongues?” “Um, no, no I don’t.” I said as I calculated how quickly my tip potential was going down the longer the conversation went on. “Ah,” he said, looking very, very sad, “that’s too bad.” And that was it, conversation over. I stood there for an awkward few seconds longer until I realized the conversation was over. Total tip for that booth: $0.
On Wednesday nights I waited on a couple who I could tell were very much in love with each other. They were older and she seemed very frail. The scarf she wore around her head was like a red badge of courage as she did battle with the cancer that was growing inside of her. Each week she seemed weaker and ate less but they ordered the same thing, shared some of their conversation with me and then I would retreat and watch them from a booth on the other side of the room. His eyes never left her face throughout their meals together and I felt the intensity of his love for her and how he hungrily devoured every second he had with her not for them to pass but for them to be stored, every detail stored in his memory.
One Friday night something crazy happened. There was a convention going on at the hotel and during the break the coffee shop filled up with women.
Loads of women and not a man in sight. Tall women, short women, big women and small women, old women and young women. There were 3 of us waiting tables and we were all run off of our feet by the requests, demands and orders of all of these ladies. But they were great tippers.
As the dust settled, one table was left. I’d been waiting on them. They were there for the conference but not attending it, they were working it. They were 3 young women from the city who had been hired to do modeling at the conference of some of the upcoming product the ladies had been there to check out. It was a hair and make up thing, the 3 girls told me. I stood around and talked with them a lot more than I normally would one of my tables. How often did I get to have a booth with 3 models listening to me and laughing at my stories and stupidness? Never.
It was one of those rare moments where I was actually conscious of being in a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity. Then, suddenly, reality got a whole lot stranger than fiction. One of the girls with long, thick blonde hair looked up at me with big blue eyes and said, “We’ve got to go but if I give you my phone number will you call me some time so we can go out?” I stared at her as my little nerd brain tried to make sense of the words she had just spoken. Never in all my life had those words ever been spoken in that order in a sentence directed at me. Finally I heard myself say, “Um, sure.”
“Smooth.” I thought.
She opened the tiniest purse I’d ever seen and pulled out a card and reached over and took the pen hanging off my pocket. She scribble down her name and phone number and handed it to me. “So, you’ll call?” she said as she stood up from the booth and totally invaded my personal space. She smelled like peaches. I was still inhaling when I realized she’d asked me a question that required a response. “Um, yeah, definitely.” Her two friends laughed and together the 3 of them walked away from me whispering back and forth to each other as they left the coffee shop.
…to be continued…