May 2003. Pizza Hut - Jenison Michigan
I'm at what could almost be described as a normal day of work at Pizza Hut. I have worked here for over a year at this point, and it would be like any other day if not for the fact that I don't always work the Sunday Morning shift, and I don't always work after getting less than 5 hours of sleep.
But it is with those facts that we set the table to this story.
Our doors open at 11am, and around 11:05am we have our first "table" walk in the door. I sit them at table F1, a family of 4, two parents and two children, wearing their Sunday Bests. And by Sunday Bests, just for the sake of honesty, it was more like their "Amish Sunday Bests". I'm just painting the picture of the reality of this story, okay?
Being on the more tired side of my existence, my more talkative animated server-self comes out as I serve this table alone in the restaurant for those first 40 minutes. I think nothing is out of the ordinary other than them seeming pretty reserved in responses to my pretty over-the-top slap-happy-tired Chad positive communications as I check in with them over that time.
But that's about it. I would be lying to say I remember more about how I served that table than those basic facts. Facts I am being liberal with, and possibly self-deprecating with, just to attempt to understand what happened next in this story, as I've been digesting it since the day it happened.
Another table or two walks in within the last 5 minutes of their being in the restaurant. Them, already having their bill and me tending to the other two new tables as they left was nothing out of the ordinary. But then one small surprise happened as I grab their billfold from their empty table. A small surprise that would have never registered in my memory beyond that week if it not for what lies ahead. The small surprise is that they simply left no tip.
That sucks. And I was annoyed. But whatever, it happened from time to time. With thoughts of 'This hoity-toity church family must be super dutch.' or 'Maybe they really were Amish and this family Rumspringa was not the moment they would become aware of "tipping" as a common US custom.', I went on with my day recovering from a momentary annoyance.
But it was at least 10 minutes later that the matriarch of the family walks back in the front door, where I was folding pizza boxes behind the counter since my duties as server were still a bit light at the moment. I see her walking in, set down my box, and walk towards the counter. As she reaches the counter, she says "Oh yeah. We realized we forgot to leave you a tip." .
"Oh yeah. Wow. Thank you." or some such dribbles out of my mouth as I extend my hand to grab the 5 dollar bill she is extending me over the counter.
As I make contact with the 5 dollar bill, she intently places her other hand on mine and throws a harsh stare at me and simply says "Are you on drugs?".
To this I obviously recoil, and do little more than what anyone could expect to say in such a situation: "What? No. What are...." is about all I get out with a scowled look on my face as she continues:
"Don't tell me. Tell yourself." And she walks out the door with me staring daggers and wrinkled forehead into the back of her head.
If I wasn't animated BEFORE this happened that day, you better believe the manager got sick of me mentally working this out and telling this story out-loud and freaking out about what bullshit just happened to me - on repeat - the rest of the shift.
Now, that's pretty much the end of the story. But the questions and annoyances that that self-righteous moment left burning in me for hours, then eventually days, and then occasionally over the next many months, could very well speak to some revelations I had about being comfortable with myself for years to come.
- "Did they sit in the parking lot for 10 minutes, creating some fictitious concerning back-story for me, with a savior complex for themselves, simply because I didn't fit their "norm" of what people should act like?". This question especially bothered me as I was someone who was labeled by small pockets in my high school as "stoner" even though I had never even tried weed at that point in my life. I didn't mind the label based on who it was coming from in high school because it was definitely not with malice. But this story...this lady...her intent? That's an entirely different dimension.
- "Don't tell me, tell yourself!?!?!" That sentence was burned into my existence from that moment. For someone to be so confident, self-righteous and so wrong at my expense, was astounding to me. It was disgusting. It was my first taste of someone holding some subjective, projected bullshit moral-highground over my existence simply because of stories they are telling themselves. It wasn't a complete awakening or eye opening moment, but it was fitting a pattern I was already coming to terms with at that point in my life.
- "All these extreme analytical thoughts and bewildered reflections I have been having, all because these people live a life where someone isn't allowed to be animated and cartoonish and spin trays on their finger and try to have fun at work?!?! Without labeling me as "on drugs!?!?" I'm kind of beating a dead horse, trying to flush this out with a third example of what questions ran through my head...but these questions bounced in my head in every iteration for months and months...and flashes for years and years...
I've got a couple other stories that could easily fit this mold, but this one really sticks the landing without added variables or unknowns. And the lessons learned through this moment in time aren't universal, nor should I paint a significant portion of the population with the actions of that one family in that moment. But it is through these moments that I eventually realized the larger lesson: Live and Let Live.
You would be hard pressed to find someone who says they don't agree with "Live and Let Live" yet we see examples that run amok of it every day: Anyone who has a problem with someone-else's sexuality. Anyone who somehow has a problem with Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. Anyone who attempts to take liberties away from anyone for their personal religious beliefs. Or in a really broad sense, as the above story suggests, anyone who would look at anyone for the kind of activity they enjoy, or country they are from, appearance they choose to have, appearance they did not choose to have, or socio-economic background they come from, and then broad stroke that individual's existence in any significant way as to act on it before you know them personally.
So, until or unless you have good reason to believe someone is directly harming your life or others, take a moment to reflect on WHY you feel the way you do, and probably STFU.
is a thirty-something guy who hasn't been able to look away from politics since 2008. Around the time he got tired of staring at religion.