So today I was at work and it was maddeningly slow and I had made no money, when Priscilla says, "Three cars just pulled up all at once. Maybe we'll all get a table!"
"Yeah," I said, "and with my luck one of those cars will have just one person in it and that will be the table I get."
Wronggggggggg. Next thing I know, I am up and it is fourteen people. Most waitresses love big-tops because they have the biggest bills and you can slap a gratuity of 18% on that shit if the party is larger than nine. But they terrify me. I needed the money, though. Last night I only made $17.50.
I took a deep breath and plunged in. Got drinks. Poured coffee. Poured coffee. Tried to smile. Even though there were fourteen of them, they were all so nice and friendly that I felt bad being anything but my super stellar waitressing best back. They almost all got big dinners. I got soup, I got salad, I got bread. I got the harried-looking dad at the end of the table his three Amstels. I poured more coffee. I got food out. I smiled until I thought my face would break. I fetched hot sauce and water and mustard and parmesean cheese and made sure everyone was okay, and then I let them eat.
I came back a little bit later. More coffee. Dessert. Cookies. To-go boxes. Are we sure we don't need anything else? I printed up the check and explained that I had already added the gratuity to it. (Some waitresses don't do this because they hope the people won't realize it's already on there and will double-tip them, but I don't feel right doing that.) I smiled and walked away, but then I felt a hand on my arm.
"Excuse me, miss," said the man from the head of the table. "Here, this is for you."
He handed me some money. "Oh," I said. "Oh, I thought I told you, the tip is already..."
"No," he said. "This is extra. See, three of us are all brother and sister, and we just came from our mother's funeral. We're driving back to Texas and it's been a long, sad day. I just wanted to let you know that you made our day so much better. You were so nice. You made our day. Thank you."
And then I realized that this is why it is important to be good to everyone you come across. Not just because you will get a $65 tip out of it, but because everyone you meet could be coming from their mother's funeral. Everyone you see could be having a long, sad day, and if you can do anything to make it better, you probably should.