It had been a grueling trip and here I was at yet another airport restaurant. But instead of the normal bored server, tired of the indifferent travel clientele, my waitress was absolutely great. She was all smiles and when she asked me how I was doing, I felt like she really cared.
Lest I thought I was imbued with some special charm that day, I watched my waitress with her other customers. They were all equally well treated. She checked back frequently, smiled easily and seemed to be genuinely concerned about our collective well-being.
Her service and attitude in this busy place, filled with its transient clientele, was quite intriguing. I guessed her to be in her early 20’s. I watched her interact with everyone with the same sincere care. She also treated the other employees, including the usually ignored busboy, with the same charm.
Most customers, already harried from the challenges of post 9-11 security, are not exactly overflowing with charm. Cheerfulness is not easily found at airports these days.
I watched several stressed out looking passengers plopping down at tables as my extraordinary server attended to them. Many of her customers were brighter and even smiling by the time they got their meals.
However, many of the other server’s customers still looked like the finalists in the local Lemon Sucking Contest.
Then there was one table close by, also being tended to by my charming young server with two very unhappy looking people. Have you ever heard the phrase, “They could brighten a room just by leaving it?” That was this duo.
The man, who looked like the Grinch who not only stole Christmas but every nice moment within range, had a glowering demeanor . I’d heard him grumbling to the woman he was sitting with, who I assumed was his wife.
If words could leave physical marks, this woman had been battered. She just kept nodding, looking down at her plate, as he went on and on to her, complaining about items too numerous and depressing to repeat here.
I noticed that also he kept giving my waitress a hard time. The coffee wasn’t hot enough, his eggs were too hard, the sun was too bright in his eyes, etc.
My first reaction was to be protective of her. She was so sweet and kind, I didn’t want her hurt. I didn’t need my Knight’s tin can armor. She did just fine without help. Did she ever.
She stood over Mr. Grinch looking down at him and paused. He finally looked up and then she said, “Sir, I know this must be a tough day for you. What with the security, traffic jams, crowded terminals and maybe not the greatest food here either. I am so sorry we didn’t live up to your expectations. Please do not even leave a tip and I’ll see that your check is paid for myself.” Then she smiled and said, “I hope your day gets better!” And she almost skipped away.
Mr. Grinch turned from looking grouchy to the most delightful look of confusion I’d ever seen. Even Mrs. Grinch looked up, here eyes wide, head tilted in amazement like a confused puppy as she absorbed what had just been said to her snarly companion.
I noticed that the Grinch was turning shades of red. He saw for the first time that others at surrounding tables were looking his way. Of course, we’d all heard his grumblings and our waitress’s response.
He hurriedly plunked down a $10 bill and stood up and walked quickly away, followed by a brightened, smiling woman who suddenly looked ten years younger.
No TV reality show could have duplicated that scene! It was glorious to watch.
I got the waitress’s attention for my check. I told her that I admired her amazing attitude with that guy. She just shook her head.
“I feel so bad,” She said. “I know there’s decency in most folks, and when I do something like that I know they’re going to feel just awful, which makes me giggle. Isn’t that terrible of me?” She said. I think she meant it too. Now I better understood the phrase, “Killing with kindness.” She’d really whacked him good – What a technique!
I told her that it might make him more mindful of his actions and reactions. She just smiled, gave me my check and bade me to, “Have a great day!”
I left a generous tip that I hoped would convey my appreciation. As I was getting ready to leave, I realized that the tip alone wouldn’t do. I made sure to tell her manager how great she was. He just smiled and said, “Yes, I know, boy do I know!”
As I left, recalling my ability to be too impatient at times, I made a resolution; “Be patient and be kind.” I now repeat it to myself numerous times daily, thinking about that smiling young lady who changes lives just by being who she is.
I wish that I’d had a copy of my book with me that day. I would have really enjoyed handing it to Mr. Grinch as my gift.
Darn it! I could have whacked him with kindness too!
Feel free to pass this along for others to see. This “teacher’s” work should be known by all, especially anyone dealing with the public for pay.
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Tom is the author of “How To Take NO For An Answer And Still Succeed” .
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