Working Girl

After she takes our order, she waits on the party across from us. At that table: four adults, and a five unruly kids. The children holler in voices loud enough to affect atmospheric conditions.

The barbecue restaurant is slammed. Our waitress is tall. Blue-eyed. Middle-aged.

After she takes our order, she waits on the party across from us. At that table: four adults, and a five unruly kids. The children holler in voices loud enough to affect atmospheric conditions.

The waitress takes their drink orders. She disappears, then reappears with a tray held over her shoulder.

When she nears their table, a little boy stands on a chair. He reaches for his drink before she has even set the tray down. Everything topples.

It is a disaster of Charlton-Heston-like proportions.

One of the men in the group—a man covered in sweet tea—says a terrible word to the waitress.

She places hand over mouth and apologizes. Soon, he is half-shouting, attracting the attention of every patron.

Cleanup takes a while. The waitress is on her hands and knees beneath their table. She gathers ice cubes, cleans the floor. The adults are angry with her.

The kids play with phones while she takes care of the mess.

The man of the group calls the manager over. He tells them their meals are on the house. The family eats, then leaves.

They leave no tip.

“Have a nice day,” the waitress says to them when they walk out the door.

When she delivers our food, her eyes are red, her face is puffy. She places plates on the table and asks if there’s anything we’d like.

“No ma’am,” I say.

She cleans their vacant table, takes plates to the kitchen.

Her manager approaches her. I can tell by his body language that he’s unhappy.

She takes her scolding like a hero. She nods with every word he says. She walks away, composed and tight-lipped.

She checks on us again. She refills my tea and makes polite conversation. She smiles. She asks how the food is.

To tell you the truth, the food is god-forsaken. But that’s not her fault. To call this place a real barbecue joint would be a stretch.

“The food is superb,” I tell her.

She brings the bill. I look it over. There is a name on the print-out ticket. Cassie.

Cassie.

All I can see is my mother. The woman who once wore a food-service uniform. Who worked as hard as Forty-Mule Team Borax

At the end of the day, I’d watch Mama empty loose change on the kitchen table, counting quarters and ones.

When tips were good, it was steaks and ice cream. When tips were bad, she sat, looking at her lap.

My mother was like any hardworking woman. She made sure your order was how you wanted it. She’s refilled your Coke, scrubbed dishes, and made pleasant small-talk.

She’d tell you to have a nice day, even if she wasn’t.

After I pay, Cassie hands me a folder with a receipt.

“Have a nice day,” she says before leaving.

I open my wallet. I have three twenties and a five. My wife digs in her purse. She has two twenties and a ten. I wish to hell it were more, Cassie.

Have a nice day.

38 comments

  1. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way - July 18, 2017 1:47 pm

    I’ve seen that happen. Both my boys were waiters and I’ve heard them tell the same story. Kids spill water, throw food, and it’s the waitress/waiter’s fault. There has to be a special place in heaven for the poor souls that have to tolerate that kind of abuse just to make a living.

    Reply
  2. Judy Bludsworth - July 18, 2017 1:47 pm

    God Bless The hard-working waitresses of this world ! They have to put up with rude people and their kids who should be spanked !

    Reply
  3. Dawn Johnson - July 18, 2017 1:47 pm

    Better yet, stick up for her to the manager plus tip

    Reply
    • Kathy mcpherson - September 5, 2017 1:57 am

      That’s exactly what I was thinking! That generous tip is wonderful, but telling the manager what you saw would’ve been great too 🙂

      Reply
  4. Connie - July 18, 2017 1:48 pm

    I don’t dislike a whole of people. But people who are mean to waitresses are at the top of the list of people I despise. They work too hard, for never enough pay. They are nice and polite, all too often to people who don’t deserve it. If the food is bad, it’s not their fault. They didn’t cook it. If some bratty kid makes a mess, they clean it up, usually saying “it’s okay”. Thank you once again for a timely message.

    Reply
  5. Ben - July 18, 2017 2:03 pm

    I waited tables, was a cook, and a janitor in college. Everyone should work in food service at least once. You learn a lot about your fellow man and human nature in general. Cassie displayed a level of grace and humility that is all too forgotten in this world (the parents should’ve taken note and used the situation to teach their children, but I digress). Sure, there are bad servers, but most are just trying to make ends meet, pay for college, or working a second job to put away for a rainy day. You develop a thick skin but it still makes for a long day. Thank you Sean, for you and your wife going above and beyond to show some grace and class to Cassie!

    Reply
  6. Elaine - July 18, 2017 2:04 pm

    You made me cry. Although I have never been a waitress, my heart hurts for the uncertainty of a food server’s plight. The public can be a fickle master, sometimes, with no empathy for the person who is giving his/her best to the task at hand. As you said, the quality of the food is not the server’s fault, and the cause of the accident sounds suspicious to me. Unruly children grow into unruly adults as displayed by their parental units. Your story is a sad commentary on the cruelty and rudeness of human beings to each other. But, YOUR generous tip may have been the very best example of “what would Jesus do?” that the mistreated server will ever see. God bless you for you compassion and discernment.

    Reply
  7. Khrystia Waibel - July 18, 2017 2:07 pm

    This is our society in a nutshell, entitlement and self absorbed jerks. What needed to happen is that oyhrryables stand up for her and make it clear that those patrons were the problem. Not the server. But no one will stand for what is right and decent, just stay involved in your own little world.

    Pretty much our whole society needs a good luck in the keaster!

    Reply
    • Khrystia Waibel - July 18, 2017 2:09 pm

      This is our society in a nutshell, entitlement and self absorbed jerks. What needed to happen is that other’s stand up for her and make it clear that those patrons were the problem. Not the server. But no one will stand for what is right and decent, just stay involved in your own little world.

      Pretty much our whole society needs a good kick in the keaster!

      Reply
  8. Jean - July 18, 2017 2:10 pm

    Friends sometimes chide me for over tipping my servers but I too had a mother who worked long hours as a waitress on a hard concrete floor. I tend to bond with servers whether it be in a local eatery or a high end restaurant. Management assumes that the customer is always right regardless of the situation – unruly children or just plain rude adults. Hats off to you and your wife for your generosity. You gave Cassie a reason to believe in mankind again.

    Reply
  9. Donna Holifield - July 18, 2017 2:25 pm

    ❤️

    Reply
    • Joyce - July 18, 2017 5:20 pm

      Yes!

      Reply
  10. Marty from Alabama - July 18, 2017 2:29 pm

    Food service is one of the hardest jobs out there. And probably the least respected. As someone else said, she didn’t cook the food, so don’t blame her. She didn’t have it ready to serve, that’s the kitchens job. And she most certainly is not responsible for the darling little brats. And the customers have no idea what her life is like.

    Reply
  11. kathy Fridley - July 18, 2017 2:36 pm

    Thank you and your wife for making that poor waitress feel that not all
    people are as rude as that table and that manager. Instead of taking up for
    his employee he gave her hell for cleaning up the kids mess ?? I have never
    seen people allow their Children to behave the way they do now, and leave the
    mess they do in restaurants. It just shows a lack of class and upbringing.
    But you and your wife had to feel really good when you left. And by the way
    you made me feel really good as well thank you. Kindness…

    Reply
  12. Bob McGhee - July 18, 2017 2:57 pm

    This is but one reason that cretins should rarely be let from their cages. It’s said that (civilization) TAKES all kinds. No, we HAVE all kinds.

    Reply
  13. Mary c - July 18, 2017 2:58 pm

    Unfortunately there are far too many families like the one who caused the problem. We live in a world of “not our fault” and “lack of responsibility for our actions.” The rare people who are responsible have become the exception instead of the norm.

    Reply
  14. Susan in Georgia - July 18, 2017 3:13 pm

    You & Jamie are two kind-hearted folks who certainly were a huge blessing in Cassie’s life that day. God bless each of you in a tangible way this day.

    Reply
  15. Jane - July 18, 2017 3:22 pm

    You are a man of real substance, Sean Dietrich. God bless.

    Reply
  16. Jenna - July 18, 2017 3:25 pm

    I cried my eyes out when I read this. You and your wife are angels and what y’all did had to make that poor waitress feel much better. Those kids need to be taught some manners but with one parent yelling at the waitress, I guess that they will think it’s okay to treat people like that. Bunch of jerks!

    Reply
  17. Barbara Nelle Ewell - July 18, 2017 3:31 pm

    I guess when all is said and done that the ultimate truth in this experience for Cassie, and us, is to be thankful we are not the man in the group or the manager. I don’t mean that to sound like the Pharisee’s prayer, but God bless those who have eyes to see. Like you and Jamie.

    Reply
  18. Joyce - July 18, 2017 5:18 pm

    I too remember my mama coming home after a long day and emptying her pockets at the kitchen table. All that loose change kept us fed and a roof over our heads. Our Daddy was chronically ill throughout my childhood and left this world when I was 16 and my sister 12. He worked as a lumber grader when we were small but as his emphysema grew worse his ability to provide a living became an impossibility. Not once did I ever hear our Mama complain and she took pride in her job. No doubt she must have had days like Cassie but we never knew about them. Thank you Mama – for everything!

    Reply
  19. Suzanne Field - July 18, 2017 8:18 pm

    So sad. Irresponsible parents train children to grow-up to be just like them. Serving in restaurants is one of the most difficult and under-appreciated jobs there is. Wages are less than minimum as employers figure tips will take their place. Sometimes they don’t. Customers often think they are entitled to squatter’s rights and occupy a booth or table forever with no thought that a server depends on turnover to make a living. Needs every penny to buy food for herself, pay the rent, keep babies in diapers, pay sitters, and on and on.

    Reply
  20. Karen Erwin-Brown - July 18, 2017 8:41 pm

    Everyone needs to be required to wait tables before they are 18. Very difficult.

    Reply
  21. Jack Quanstrum - July 19, 2017 6:39 am

    There is nothing like good will towards others and you and your wife showed it through your tip. She has to work hard for a living and your description of it was excellent. We should all be good Samaritins every opportunity we get. That’s true goodness and Godly Love.

    Reply
  22. Sandra Van Dam - July 19, 2017 3:50 pm

    You are God’s angel to so many. Keep it up.

    Reply
  23. Dale - July 19, 2017 5:18 pm

    As a teenager I worked in a meat and three. Fifteen years later, after I had long since graduated from college and entered the business world, I ate lunch with a group of business colleagues. I wondered if anyone I knew still worked there. They did. I wondered what they would think of the fry cook made good. Then one of the guys with me was rude to the waitress — someone I remembered, but prayed at that moment she did not remember me. The rest of us apologized for his behavior, tipped well and realized this was not someone we wanted to eat with or work with. He was a bad person that day. I realized he was a bad person most days. We never broke bread with him again. I hope on the day he was fired, he remembered his behavior that day. The rest of us did.

    Reply
  24. Janet Mary Lee - July 19, 2017 5:28 pm

    How beautiful, what you did for Cassie!! I try to overtip. It is a seemingly small thing that allows me to pass on some of the grace shown to me. Especially when you can see someone is in a tough spot. I have no problem telling someone to treat others better. Sometimes you just have to. Sometimes we really need to. But what you did was as classy as it comes!!!

    Reply
  25. Diane Barr - July 20, 2017 2:25 pm

    Once, at a fairly nice restaurant, I watched several children open sugar packets and pour them all ove rthe table. The 2 sets of parents just watched them. I wish I could have told them what I thought of their rude boorish behavior, but when I do that, I embarrass my husband and daughter. they want me to say nothing, always. Isn’t saying nothing part of the problem?

    Reply
  26. Ben - July 20, 2017 11:07 pm

    What a family of ill behaved people……you and your wife did a very nice thing. Hope Cassie has better days.

    Reply
  27. Loy - July 21, 2017 8:22 pm

    Just yesterday my husband, granddaughter and I witnessed a young mother allowing her two young children to play with and throw food, and in addition, she was encouraging her toddler to scream as loud as he could while she videoed it. It was so loud that no one could talk over the noise,and it continued for about20 minutes. We commented to each other that she should be teaching them how to behave in a public place. A lady next to us overheard and informed us that all children, including my granddaughter, did that and it was cute. My husband said she certainly did not do that in a restaurant, and the woman replied that then she was abused as a child.
    Where is society headed?

    Reply
    • Jack Quanstrum - July 22, 2017 3:59 am

      As my Late father use to say. To hell in a hand basket.

      Reply
  28. Deb - September 4, 2017 11:32 am

    Thanks for this story, Sean. It brought to mind the days when I worked in a fast food restaurant. We were told, “The customer is always right”. That was a little hard for this redheaded gal to accept, especially when accused of shorting a customer of part of her order. It was on a night, when we had folks rushing in after a ballgame, to get a bite to eat. I was not as gracious as Cassie….I told the lady I included everything in her order. She insisted I had not. My manager slipped alongside me and encouraged me to make it right. So I did. About 10 or 15 minutes later, the same customer came back and apologized. She found the missing hotdog in the bottom of her bag. I know most people do not come back, so I was mollified by her apology. People in good service do put up with a lot.

    Reply
  29. Deb - September 4, 2017 11:33 am

    Thanks for this story, Sean. It brought to mind the days when I worked in a fast food restaurant. We were told, “The customer is always right”. That was a little hard for this redheaded gal to accept, especially when accused of shorting a customer of part of her order. It was on a night when we had folks rushing in after a ballgame to get a bite to eat. I was not as gracious as Cassie….I told the lady I included everything in her order. She insisted I had not. My manager slipped alongside me and encouraged me to make it right. So I did. About 10 or 15 minutes later, the same customer came back and apologized. She found the missing hotdog in the bottom of her bag. I know most people do not come back, so I was mollified by her apology. People in food service do put up with a lot.

    Reply
  30. Linda - September 4, 2017 12:09 pm

    God bless you and Jamie and Cassie….

    Reply
  31. Sherry Bircheat - September 4, 2017 12:23 pm

    Just a note to say you should always tip in cash instead of putting it on a card. Tips on the card are reported as income and as such are taxed.

    Reply
  32. wandika - September 4, 2017 2:04 pm

    One of the congregants from the church I served as a pastor would overtip overtime. She called it a Thank Offering for all the blessings she had received in her life.

    Reply
  33. Ronnie Hamilton - September 4, 2017 3:18 pm

    I thanked my daughter yesterday for “introducing” me to you. And, you became my Lead Feed on FB.
    I find myself eagerly anticipating reading your words and thoughts each day and just wanted to let you know you have yet another Fan.

    Reply
  34. Melodie - September 4, 2017 4:26 pm

    AWwwww….Well, at least you and your wife made Cassie’s day a whole lot better, and I bet her eyes were even redder, and puffier, from tears of joy, after realizing your kind gesture.

    Knowing the kid unbalanced the tray, yet, the parents got angry with the food server. That just didn’t happen much, back in the day, when parents were allowed to have control over their own kids. I would have taken mine outside and would have least had a ‘Come to Jesus talk’ with them, then apologize to the waitress, and help her, the best I could. There is never an excuse for rudeness. Never. Cassie rose above it all, taking guff from her employer, too. She needs her job, and probably felt she had no other choice.

    This story brings to mind something my sister and I witnessed some years ago. The middle-aged waitress, literally fell and slid under a booth where 4 grown men were eating their lunch. Not one, got up to help her. They didn’t miss a bite. We were horrified, and immediately jumped up to help her. She was grateful. I’m not going to mention what I said out loud for the men to hear, but you can only imagine…..

    Thank you for always doing the right thing, and setting a good example for others.

    Reply

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