So far my return to waitressing has been very successful, both financially and emotionally. I have loved getting to interact with guests and take care of people that are in need of a little R&R in the form of wine and gourmet food. There were two couples in the past week that have touched my heart and I feel that they are stories worth sharing.
Last week I waited on a couple in their late fifties. They were extremely pleasant people and a joy to talk to. For dinner, the woman ordered a salad and her husband decided on a personal pizza. This plus drinks totaled their check to about $40, usually a major disappointment. At this restaurant, an average check for two people can range anywhere from $75-$175. I enjoyed their company so much though that if they had ordered two waters and were sharing a house salad, I would have waited on them as though it had been a bottle of Silver Oak Cabernet and a Filet.
Anyway, after serving their appetizer-sized entrees, I stopped by the table to see how they were enjoying them. The man looked up at me and said “Miss, can you please add a split charge to our bill?” I said “I’m sorry I don’t know what you mean.” He replied with big, innocent eyes “My wife has had a few bites of my pizza. I want to be honest and have you charge us for sharing a meal. Please add it to our check.” I couldn’t tell if he was kidding or not, so I produced my well-trained this-isn’t-actually-funny-but-you-might-tip-me-well-if-I-laugh-at-your-pathetic-joke laugh. All servers have a fake laugh, it is one of the most important parts of the job. I can make the most perverted man making crude remarks in front of his friends think he is charming the pants right off of me. I can make a family with a screaming, troll-like toddler think their child is the cutest, most angelic child I have ever seen. Most importantly, I can make a pretentious business man with stupid jokes and lots of cash think he should quit his day job to pursue a stand-up comedy career.
The gentleman’s confusion confirmed that he was not joking. Crap, DEACTIVATE FAKE LAUGH IMMEDIATELY, TERMINATE TERMINATE! “No sir, she can have as much of your pizza as you want. Your honesty is remarkable, and I appreciate it, but please do not worry about it.” What a fantastic human being. What a rarity. I was not used to this type of honesty. I walked away from that table with an $8 tip and a priceless smile.
The second couple who made an impression on me was seated at one of my tables last night. They were celebrating their 69th wedding anniversary! 69 years!!!! The time that they have been married is equal to my entire existence on this planet times two plus 21 years. I was thrilled to be taking care of a sweet elderly couple and promised myself I would try to not cry tears of admiration in their fettucine alfredo (sometimes I have a problem crying when I see or interact with elderly people).
They told me about being newlyweds after WWII and stories of raising their children. The husband was nearly blind so I covered their table with several tea light candles; it looked like a scene straight out of The Notebook. For dessert, I surprised them by putting birthday candles in each of their complimentary desserts. “Time to make an anniversary wish!” I said as I set down her crème brûlée and his peanut butter cake. Her eyes sparkled in the warm glow of all the candles. Her mouth formed into a flirtatious and mischievous smile. She looked at him through her thick glasses and said “here’s to 69 more years, my love.” I smiled, quickly turned, and made a beeline for the bar. Through tear-filled eyes I told my friend, Hannah, what had just happened. I choked out “they may not even have TWO years left together, it’s so SAD and so beautiful!”
Retelling the story to Isaac later that night, I wept again. It is a beautiful and curious miracle the way people can stay married for so long and still be so in love. It is something I plan on doing.
On their way out the door (almost a ten minute process because of their tortoise-like speed), the wife exclaimed to me “I can’t believe it’s been 69 years, it feels like 29!” Her husband coming up behind her chimed in “feels like 169 years to me” and laughed at his own joke so heartily it was contagious. My “waitress laugh” was nowhere in sight, I was full of joy and boisterous, belly aching, genuine laughter spilled out of me.