Perpetual Motion: A Server’s Struggle to Maintain Faith in Humanity

An elderly couple comes into the restaurant, around 12:30, obviously coming from a service and requests a booth in a quiet area so that they can enjoy their dinner. This is no problem at all and we are very accommodating. Here is where the fun really starts:

Me: Hello folks, how are you doing today? My name is David and I’ll be taking care of you. Can I interest either of you in starting off with a glass of wine to compliment your lunches today?
Woman: Excuse me? We do not drink at all. We are Christians.
(After this she scoffs and turns away but the husband seems interested so I explain to him about the wine and the flavors the certain bottle I am pitching contains. He looks at me and smiles, saying politely that it is too early for him. He asks me briefly about my faith.
Me: Well sir, I would identify myself as Christian as well although I’ve never understood the abhorrence for alcohol. I personally don’t drink too often, but other than avoiding drunkenness, I’ve never truly understood the idea of temperance. Wasn’t turning water into wine one of Jesus’ first miracles?
Man: You know son, I have wondered that as well. I personally choose not to drink but I don’t harbor any ill will toward those that do, so long as it is within reason.
At this point, you might be saying, “This is going rather well.” You would be correct of course. I had built a nice rapport with the gentleman and we were discussing things like normal adults. This is where something happens to change the situation.
Me: That’s good to hear sir. Well, since you two won’t be needing the wine, could I offer you a co…
Woman: I said we don’t want any alcohol. Don’t you understand? I don’t want to hear whatever devil juice you and your friends think we would like to drink because we aren’t having it.
Me: I understand that ma’am. I was going to offer you a soft drink. A coke, or a diet coke perhaps. And I do apologize for the wine. I have to offer it or I run the risk of being fired.
Woman: Well that is no excuse. You should know that as soon as you see this cross around my neck, I wouldn’t be drinking anything anyways. You are just so disrespectful.

From here, the woman became louder and louder, calling a manager over to the table, who promptly told the woman that I was in the right for my asking of the wine. The woman huffs and puffs, attempting to get something for free but when that fails, she eats quickly, says something rude under her breath, and storms out, stiffing me. Luckily, the husband tells her “he has to go to the bathroom,” sneaks back in and slips me a tip.

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True Happiness is perpetual motion.

Cynicism is a strange condition. We all feel it, we all know it, but how many of us indulge daily? I miss the days when I wasn’t this way, when goodness and kindness didn’t depend on race or age or standing. I miss the days when I had faith in people…

Sunday mornings.

This is the day the Lord has made so let us rejoice in him….and not tip or be even remotely polite to our server. On the whole (for those of you who are already offended, I implore you to understand that I do not mean everyone from this demographic) church goers, especially men of the faith (i.e.: preachers, pastors, reverends) are some of the worst tippers the restaurant industry has ever encountered. That isn’t even taking into account the poor attitude and lack of respect they afford to those of us who are trying to make an effort to serve them to the best of our abilities.

This event is just one of many more in the vault. Take for example, the pastor who proceeded to curse myself and another server out because we charged his party of 15 with 18% gratuity, something that, once again we are forced to do. This happens a lot with church groups.

How about Pastor Ed, a man who became one of my regulars (much to my constant struggle to avoid him). He and his wife would come in twice a week, order things that we didn’t have on the menu, complain about the cost of the food because it was more expensive than it was 12 years ago (inflation doesn’t apply to God evidently), and then, no matter what the bill was, he would leave $5. Keep in mind that $5 isn’t a bad tip on a $25 check but when your bill hits $70 repeatedly and you still only leave $5, there is an issue. He would also badmouth all of our black employees, especially our manager, by saying things like, “Considering his skin, he’s doing a decent job,” or “He just dances around like he owns the place, doesn’t he.” The worst one was when he pulled me aside, dropped THE word about the manager, and then laughed it off, saying, “At least one of them has done something with their lives.”

Yeah…that really happened…from a preacher.

I have had struggles with faith but none more so than after seven years of dealing with people like this.
From church groups to the elderly to teenagers, the parade of humanity’s worst continues.
Outside of work, I love most people although my experiences have begun to color how I see everyone. And now for the big statement: I HATE THE RED HAT LADIES.

There, I said it. People complain all the time about my anger toward this particular group, that they are adorable, a kindly gaggle of grandmas so to speak. But you know something; these people have never had to deal with them in a servile manner. Let me enlighten you…

The Red Hat ladies are an organization of older women who all decide that wearing the colors of royalty entitles them to the treatment royalty would deserve. They reserve tables for fourteen or fifteen and when only 4 show up, they get angry that we want to remove the other tables for more incoming guests. The group is also segregated, but at least the all black red hat ladies are polite. The white group are the most rude, insensitive people I have ever had the displeasure of meeting.

Experience with this group of older ladies spreads to everyone I’ve ever met who has waited on them. They run you to death, ask impossible things, spend six hours at a table meant for 12 but only being used by four, and then ask that the gratuity be removed so that they can stiff the server. This isn’t an isolated incident and we would, at times, auction off whose turn it was to wait on these people.

Kids under 20 are another serious group of offenders. Rude, incredibly, exhaustingly rude, and leave little to no money if they pay at all. Prom night for servers was like a Michael Bay movie; plenty of explosions but nothing of substantial value.

We see the worst in people…but luckily, not all the time.

An older man named Grady would come in once a week with his wife until she passed away. Afterward, as he was known by everyone at the restaurant, he would come in and sit for an hour or so and just chat with all of us, possibly seeking the comfort he now lacked at home. We were all too happy to give that to him as he was so incredibly polite, nice, and took care of us. Every Christmas he would bring in a bag full of cards for all the servers, each one containing a random amount of money which spanned from $5 to $30. I know that I shouldn’t expect this from everyone and I don’t, but he was the best that I had ever met. He was just a nice person and you run into those occasionally: the friendly English professor who would argue the merits of Robert Frost vs. Sylvia Plath with me; the Canadian family who repeatedly had to come to America to get decent health care for their incredibly sick ten-year-old daughter; the veterinarian who would always request me because he took care of my dogs, would leave me a $200 tip because he knew that the next day I would have to give him that and more for shots and heartworm medicine. These people made the job worthwhile and helped to renew my faith in humanity, but there were others.

A list of quotes from some of the worst:
– “Why would you spell pumpkin wrong? Where’s the first ‘N’ and why does it have a ‘P’ in the middle? She was convinced that it was spelled p-u-n-k-i-n.
– “Why do you have food from Tuscany if you are an Italian restaurant? Tuscany is in France.”
– “Denial isn’t just a river in China.” This one was especially hilarious considering she was trying to insult someone and was so, so very wrong.
– “What else is in your meat sauce besides tomato sauce and spices?”
– “You don’t have Boonsfarm on tap?”
– “Why are you selling a $52 bottle of red wine if it isn’t chilled?”
– “I am allergic to milk, garlic, tomatoes, and I can’t have sodium or gluten either. What can I have?” Nothing, I told her. She thought it was it joke…it wasn’t.
– “Screw this place. We are going to Fazolis so we can get real Italian food.” I couldn’t argue this because Fazolis breadsticks are like crack, and being as chubby as I am, I love them like a child of similar proportions to myself loves cake…

Dealing with constant idiocy was mind-numbing and by the end of many a shift, I was ready to take a power drill and lobotomize myself. This sounds awful but as anyone in the customer service industry will attest, you have to do whatever you can to keep a positive attitude. I always made very good money but the experience ruined me on humanity as a whole.

Hello cynicism…glad to see you again.

I do so miss those days of blind faith in humanity but years in this industry have dealt a major blow to those beliefs. I miss it…When I had faith in people…

Faith in God…

When I had faith in myself…

But those days are gone and all I’m left with is a glass half empty and a thimble full of good intentions.
Entitlement is something that I see more and more but even so, that image, that apathy, is like a reflecting pool and all I can do is bathe in its pretentious waters. I am not better, not smarter I tell myself but the monologue constantly running simply screams stop this reality TV worshipping, blind cult following. Ignore the greasy Jersey idiots and the plastic Kardashians and wannabes (plastic referring both to their insides and outsides of course).

I hate this feeling, but…do I really?

Or do I revel in the fact that on some level I will always see myself as better than them?
And then reality bites like a poorly constructed Ben Stiller comedy and I know in my heart that I am not. I am the same, just on a different wavelength. I prefer America to ‘Murica and rhetoric to baseless accusation but the minority is better they say…the road not taken has made all the difference…

Bullshit… and the greeting cards which follow that sentiment don’t understand that it is a work about self-reflection and regret, not about optimism and personal growth.

Robert Frost wasn’t writing about taking a path that is less traveled which would lead to much more fulfilling life in the end. He was focusing on the fact that once a decision is made, regardless of how much effort you muster, it is almost impossible to retrace back to that decision and choose the other. Life doesn’t work this way. Frost was detailing how in the end, you will convince yourself that the decision you made was for the best, even though in your heart, you will always want to know what could have been.

I feel like I’m surrounded by idiots who throw Great Gatsby themed parties, not realizing that the book was an indoctrination of the falsehoods and societal flaws of that time, not an instruction manual. Fitzgerald would be sick if he could see the culture he warned against now, even more famous for doing EVEN less than before.
It’s just another piece of the American pie but all the music in the world can’t make me smile, just laugh at the overproduced, computerized, unoriginal slop —

And here I am again at the feet of cynicism.

My life seems to consist of nothing meaningful. I find myself growing more and more skeptical as the days pass, a veritable wasteland of both sympathy and empathy. My only god as of now would be disparagement and I make my daily tribute to that alter as enthusiastically as any other action in my life. Whether or not my work has anything to do with my current state of mind is something that is still to be determined but as of now…it is my only option to believe. It is either that or question what it means to truly be me.

Someone I can’t understand

Or choose not to…

My life drags on through a sea of apathy, surrounded on all sides by people I have little or no connection to. If it weren’t for a select few at my job, my family, or those few kind souls I meet along the way, I feel that the world I so carefully tiptoe through would shatter like glass on the pavement.

Sometimes I wish I could shatter.

Life is a series of disappointments, punctuated by seemingly worthless relationships, leading to an eventual collapse of everything you hold to be true. This, I tell myself, isn’t right, isn’t accurate, but still I feel it when I am alone. I feel as though the longer I stand here, the closer I draw to stepping off and plummeting into the void. My apartment screams at me in the southern drawl of Ambrose Bierce, but much like Peyton Farquhar, I can’t see the truth…

I choose not to.