Serving On A Thankless Day

I get to my favorite breakfast joint this morning just wanting to relax and enjoy my coffee and solitude. My heart still smiling from last evening’s wonderful Christmas program which my daughter produced, I wanted to write a thank you note, and just reflect on a great day.

But the greeter was nowhere to be seen, and no waiter came to me, so I finally just picked up my own silverware and headed to a table of my choice. I sat reading for ten minutes before someone noticed me, and came apologetically. I brushed away his apology. He serves me often, and he is a great waiter.

It’s a slow morning in the restaurant, so you’d think the few customers would get sterling service. But I heard a lady complaining to the manager that her bill was “forever” in coming. When she left, the manager huddled his waitstaff over in a corner and chewed them out. They were not there to talk to each other, he sternly rebuked. They were there to pay attention to the customers’ needs. They scurried away when he finished.

The three men hurried to a station by my table, and two of the women darted into the kitchen to grab waiting trays. But the third woman rushed to the bathroom with suddenly-flowing tears.

One of the men near my table whispered ugently to the others, like a soldier calling a helicopter rescue for the wounded, “Server down! Server down!” There was compassion in his voice.

I mused at his use of the word “server.” He had not said it derogatorily. He just said it as fact. Server. He knew what he was. He knew his role. He was there to serve.
I watched the bathroom door for her exit, and when she emerged a few minutes later, the tears had been wiped away. There was no hint of “server down” as she tossed smiles to customers on her way to the kitchen.

None of the other waiters spoke to her, but one by one, as they passed her in the doorway to the kitchen, or by the coffee stand, they would slightly pat her arm, or gently squeeze her shoulder. I watched these people give silent messages. With a touch, they were saying things like, “Hang on.” “It will get better.” “Don’t quit.” “Make it through the day.” They said it all with quiet touches and gentle pats.

In a small way, I related to them. And I admired them. They were servers. Still serving on a thankless day.

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