From Tradition to Table

Serve the Servants

I have waited tables for eight years. Sure, I’m essentially a servant my entire shift and have probably touched one too many used napkins, but I have made some unexpected connections with customers in my time. These connections may seem to be inherently superficial because there will always be that barrier, the giant wall that reads: it is my job to be nice to you. But a lot of people are unable to see that wall—much like the john believing that the escort actually likes him. And sometimes that wall is demolished entirely by random acts of kindness, or sadness, and all that’s left is a couple human beings together in a restaurant sharing a moment. Here are a few of those stories.

Comfort. Food.

My family and I received some ground-shattering news the other day. Because of this, waiting tables seemed especially trying for me. But, as always, I put on my happy face and got it done.

My first table was a well-dressed 11-top. I joked about sleeping in the cooler and they laughed. At the end of dinner, I asked an older woman with a warm smile if she wanted her soda to go. She thanked me, and then said they do not allow drinks at the funeral home.

After they left, I found $40 on the table with a small note attached. “Thanks for making us laugh, Danny. We really needed it.”

You’re welcome. I did too.

Roadside Service

My car died the other night while driving home from work. I frantically checked my empty bank account on my phone until a blue minivan stopped beside me. A middle-aged man stepped out while his wife and child waited for him. He said hello and reminded me that I was their server earlier that day, and that he happened to own a towing company. So he got out his cell and called a truck over for no charge.

A Valuable Tip

While dropping off her check, an 86-year-old woman from Pompeii took my hand, peered into my eyes and said, “You are so nice, so you need not forget these words: don’t let the bastards burn you down.”

With that, she handed me $20 and waddled out. Then I swept the floor.

Breakfast with the Author

I handed a plate of eggs and French toast to a woman reading (614) Magazine. By mere happenstance, she had it open to an article of mine. Most likely she was checking out the Cirque du Soleil ad on the bottom right, but the sensation of worlds meeting was bizarre and exciting. I was tempted to tell her about the coincidence, but I was too busy for small talk.

I hurried to my next table. A bald, babyish old man handed me a five on a $60 check, patted me on the butt and said, “Keep up the good work.”

The first woman left—the magazine and a newspaper discarded alongside the remnants of her breakfast. Feeling defeated, I went to gather the mess on a tray. Then I heard a loud yelp. The restaurant went silent. I turned around to see the woman. “Sorry for yelling,”  she said, “ but I forgot my magazine.”

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Danny Hamen

Insatiable bibliophile. Intrepid journalist. Born to run. Here for the cake.

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