A Server’s Story: The Tip
One Day Serving at a Gainesville Restaurant
This post was originally published on July 26, 2014 on www.radha-nath.com. On February 3, 2017 it was migrated to Medium.
(Feel free to skip this part.)
I’ve been a server on-and-off ever since I was seventeen. For anyone that has worked in the service business, I’m sure you know the struggle that comes along with the industry. But if you don’t, here is just a tiny glimpse:
1. Income is highly unpredictable.
Most of the money we earn come from tips. These depend on a variety of factors: Serving section, lunch/dinner shift, time of year, weather, size of party. Just naming a few
2. We are only the face of the experience.
Behind us…there are cooks, managers, hostesses, food runners, and dishwashers. Many times, if something goes wrong, we get the angry looks and unfortunate tips.
3. There is a sea of requests (or demands) thrown at us.
‘I want. I need. Get me.’ After all, I’m your server and it’s my job. Asking nicely goes out the window because servers aren’t humans…right?
Now, I’m not telling you this to complain or whine about how hard serving is. I’ve actually brought you to here to tell you a story.
A story about a group I had the utmost pleasure to serve about a year and a half ago.
A story about a tip I’ll never forget.
A ‘family’ dinner on a patio shift with an unforgettable tip.
I had a shift serving the patio section in Florida. My thoughts,“Great, it’s hot outside. I’m going to leave with mayyyybe $20 in my pocket after 3 hours. I’d rather be studying, watching TV, or hanging out with friends. Oh well, I’ll power through this shift, any money is better than none…”
An hour went by and I finally got a table. It was a group of four (I assume a family) that were daring enough to eat out in Florida’s humidity, with the beautiful view of the mall parking lot. It didn’t take long into the obligatory ‘intro-speil’ for me to realize they were pretty cool. Very down-to-earth, understanding, and just all-around pleasant people — which definitely made the time fly by.
The dinner took a bit of a turn when the younger girl dropped her phone into the toilet. While I couldn’t do much, I offered to bring a bowl of raw rice from the kitchen. Even if they said not to worry about it, it was the least I could do. They had been great to talk to and I really didn’t have any other table to tend to, so it was no inconvenience at all. Upon finishing their meal, we packed up the riced phone in a to-go box, I gave them their bill, and they finished paying. But, they continued to give me expecting looks. Oh God…did I forget something?
When I went back to the table, they told me they’d like to order a second round of drinks. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to rush you,” I apologized. They assured me that they didn’t feel any rush and handed me the check. So, I ordered their drinks and opened the check book to see scribbled “Tip: $100”. Nearly %75 percent tip…
What? How? Why?
I picked up their drinks from the bar and approached their table. What should I say, what should I do? The first thing that came out of my mouth, “Thank you so much for that generous tip, it really helps a lot right now. I don’t even know what to say…”
Before any awkward silence, the older of the two men (maybe mid-50s) said,
“You don’t need to thank us, you fully earned that tip. You’re really good at what you do, and I’m not talking about just being a server. I’m talking about being a good human being.
I use to serve in college, and I know how annoying it can be having only one table your entire shift. Now I’m an engineer, but [having been in your shoes before] I have an appreciation for people that treat others kindly…especially as a server. A lot of people can take an order, put it in a computer, deliver food, and run a credit card. It’s in your job description. BUT, you didn’t just settle for your job description. You made a connection, treated us like friends eating dinner in your living room. And that is why you deserved it.
Nowadays, people often forget how to treat each other…it’s not hard, we learn it in Kindergarten. Treat others how you’d want to be treated.”
Wow…people like this exist? I almost starting tearing up. We exchanged a brief conversation about people becoming more negative as they grow older, with feelings of resentment, revenge, or sadness. He left me with a piece of advice…a tip that I think about almost every day:
‘AS YOU GET OLDER, LIFE WILL HIT YOU HARDER AND HARDER. NEVER LET THE WORLD BITTER YOUR SOUL.
I’M TELLING YOU… AS LONG AS YOU DO THAT AND WORK HARD, YOU’LL BE SUCCESSFUL IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE.’
So, when my jobs start to overwhelm me, when people make ‘not-so-great’ decisions that affect me, and when it seems like the world’s working against me…I think of this simple advice. Breathe. And just do the best I can do. Somehow, it has always ended up working out for the best.