CAM and I went on a girls' date night tonight. I had detention duty after school today (don't get me started ... grrrr) and so by the time I picked her up from school it was 3:45. We went on our continued hunt* for plain Keds for her baton competition this weekend, and afterwards, the two of us went to a girls-only dinner.
CAM picked the restaurant. Here in Maine, we go to this particular restaurant as a family a fair amount. I wouldn't say we're regulars -- this is no On the Border Mall of Georgia!** -- but we are there enough that they recognize us. (In fairness, it's hard to not remember us. We're the family with three redheads.) So there we were. The hostess sat us, and a few minutes later a waitress came over to get our drink order. Immediately behind us was another waitress who said to the first, "I'm here!" (It's hard to convey tone. The first waitress had just started to introduce herself when the second waitress appeared right behind her. They had a friendly oops-I-bumped-into-you sort-of two second chat where it was clear the first girl hadn't realized the second was, in fact, right behind her.) So the second girl introduced herself, took our drink order, took CAM's dinner order (minus the side, since CAM couldn't decide yet) and off she went.
When she came back with our drinks, she took my dinner order and was super friendly in asking CAM if she was ready to pick her side yet.
CAM and I sat and nibbled on our popcorn, played the games on the kids' menu, and after a reasonable wait, our food appeared. It was delivered by yet another girl, who said, "if you need anything, ANY of us can help." I didn't really think too much about it because it's not that unusual for servers to rotate who brings food out from the kitchen.
And then a FOURTH server came over -- someone who's waited on our family before -- and said that any of us could help and Julie would be a few minutes, so if we needed anything to please ask anyone for help. I asked her if everything was okay, and she said, yes -- it's just one of those things where sometimes life hits and you need a few minutes. And off she went.
Then Julie came back out to check on us, and it was very, very clear she'd been sobbing. So I asked her if she was okay, and she said she would be, and we got to talking. It came out in conversation that one of her best friends is down at Maine Medical Center and they had just gotten word that his kidneys have failed and his body is shutting down. (Please note that she did not just dump this information on me, and neither did I drill her on it. But we did have a conversation and this was the summary of it.) His girlfriend -- also a server at this restaurant, and also good friends with Julie -- had been at his bedside for the past three weeks... and had just lost her own mother in January.
Our poor server! She was heartbroken. She said she had been fine and then all of a sudden lost it. She seemed so appreciative of our patience -- but the truth was, there had been nothing to be patient about. People were doting on us and service was impeccable this evening. We chatted a little longer and eventually, she went off to continue working, and CAM and I continued our dinners.
When we were done, ice cream and all, Julie brought us the check and told us that CAM's meal was free because the Red Sox won last night.
And there it was. Here was this poor lady who was clearly heartbroken. Who was absolutely wonderful to us, and whose service was fantastic, and yet our whole tab was only $13.89.
And right in that moment, as I started to do the math of what the tip should be based on the full-price ticket, I decided that this was the time to do #70. 100% tip. I've long wanted to do this, and for so long it's never been the right time, or the right person, or, quite frankly, an experience that made me think it was worth it. But I sat there tonight and in a split second I thought, here is a person who needs the "you are awesome" affirmation that a nice tip will bring. No, it's not a lot of money. Heck, probably won't make a big difference in her total tonight. But hopefully it will make her smile on a night when she hasn't had much to smile about.
And you know what?
It felt amazing to do it. I left there feeling so good about the world. Maybe one small gesture can make a difference, and maybe, just maybe, tonight was the night that I got to do it.
* Until CAM is certain that she wants to twirl, her teacher said to just get plain, old-fashioned Keds (or knockoffs) for CAM's very first competition this weekend. We have been to nine (!!!) different shoe stores in Maine, and not a one of them carries them. Time was running short, so in a desperate move, we went to K-Mart. We got knock-offs -- not even perfectly Keds style, but literally all we could find.
** Where we ate as many as seven times in a week. Oh, yes. This was our "Cheers."