You Can Almost Always Right A Wrong.
Many moons ago, when I waited tables at The Cookhouse, a popular BBQ restaurant in my hometown, I had an experience that I would like to share.
This is a short, true story with a beginning, a middle and an end. And for an added bonus, it also has a moral.
On a typical Friday night, when I was actively in the weeds (a term we use when it’s beyond busy and everyone is running around like chickens in a barnyard), two young guys came in and sat down in my section. Young punk-ass weasels is a better description for them, but I digress.
With my arsenal of Flo-like, kiss my grits comebacks, and my lucrative, career-yielding, college degree in English to boot, these buffoons were certainly not a threat. I could have chewed them up and spat them out if I wanted to, but I wasn’t in the mood.
They drank gallons of Guinness, and had a lovely dinner. With a smile, I provided damn good, efficient service. Throughout the course of their dinner experience, one of the weasels became increasingly offensive. He made boorish comments about my ass, for example, and he tried to engage me in some verbal combat.
He made sure to let me know, after he cleaned his plate (he probably licked it with that foul tongue of his) that his dinner wasn’t hot, or good, and neither was I, which, as you all well know, is a complete joke since I’m not only very good, but I’m also about as hot as they come.
Anyway, he would order a beer, and I would bring it to him 30 seconds later, and he would casually say something brilliant like What took you so long? or There’s too much head on it. Intellectually riveting shit like that. He needled and poked and tried to upset me.
He kept at it, but I smiled anyway, pleasantly going about my business despite the continued bait and jab job he was trying to pull. He seemed like a miserable person — a whiny, weaselly, little dumb-ass, lonely, punk, so it was all just kind of sad. He wasn’t worth the energy of a reaction.
His quiet friend appeared embarrassed, sort of, but didn’t say anything.
At the end of the meal, I presented the check. The rude one paid with a credit card and left me a one penny tip. I picked up the check, saw the penny, and followed them out. I handed the penny back to him, because clearly he needed it more than I did.
He smirked, of course, took the penny back, and basically told me that my service was worth exactly one penny, so I could take it or leave it. He attempted to hand it back to me along with a few expletives (the C-word was used I believe) and I, ever the professional, turned on my heel and let it drop to the ground. And that was that.
Just another asshole. A whatever moment in my storied restaurant history. I had dealt with a myriad assholes during my days at The Cookhouse, and he was no different.
Flash forward to six years later. Again, it was a Friday night, and again, I was in the weeds doing my thing — slinging hash and making my rounds with a weary smile that said I’ve seen too much and a sweet sashay.
In those days, I regularly employed my substantial caboose to hypnotize my patrons into a dreamlike state. As it was, a customer simply couldn’t look away. Never underestimate the supreme power of an ample rump to produce generous tip magic.
Anyway, the two young gentlemen from years before came into the restaurant again, a little cleaner, a little neater, and a little older than I remembered — but I knew them immediately (trust me, waitstaff never forgets shitty customers — keep that in mind). Of course, they sat down in my section, and here is what happened:
Me, sighing inside, putting on my perky food-service smile to set my resolve: “Hello guys, can I get you something to drink while you look at the menu?”
Asshole #1: “Well, before we order, I want to apologize to you. I had a problem with alcohol and drugs a while back, and even though that’s no excuse, I remember treating you very badly when we came in here one night. It was a long time ago, I’m not sure if you remember. I was a total jerk and I want to say I’m sorry.”
Asshole #2: “And I knew he was being rude, and I didn’t say anything to him or you, so I’m sorry too.”
I’m sorry too.
Seriously, that is what they said to me. In those words, with sheepish, repentant faces. I’ll never forget it. It was weird, and a bit of a jaw-dropper (six years later!), but I accepted their apologies because I saw sincerity and humility in their eyes. The bigger asshole seemed genuinely relieved.
They went on to enjoy a great dinner, coupled with my usual stellar service. And then they left me a $100 tip, with one penny added when they paid their bill. I laughed, and happily accepted the big tip (damn straight I did), but told Mr. Sunshine to keep the penny.
I suggested that he put the penny in his pocket as a reminder to stay sober and be nice. And that is just what he did.
I’m fairly sure that this guy had a lot of apologies to deliver to a whole list of people who were obviously way more important than me. His apology tour was in full swing, but I had a lot of respect for him that night because he remembered being a jerk to me, and he swallowed his pride in order to apologize to me specifically.
Or, it could have been the stink eye I shot him the moment he walked in, I’ll never know. His road to redemption would be long, arduous, and embarrassing, but he was indeed on his way. He was on his way because he humbled himself.
So here’s the moral of the story: It’s never too late to say you’re sorry, and you can almost always right a wrong. Even if it’s years and years later. Whether mistakes are big or small, sincere apologies are appreciated in most cases. To apologize, you must swallow your pride, humble yourself, and be human.
And if you’re the friend of the asshole who is causing the ruckus, please speak up to shut it down. Your mouth works too. Be the better person.
I know too, that inside those moments when people are behaving in an ugly way, that it’s about them and only them and what they are personally going through. Remaining true to myself, continuing to take the high road, and smiling directly into the face of bad manners usually pays off.
It pays off because the less you have to swallow your pride and apologize for, the better you feel. The better you feel, the better person you can become. Become better when opportunities present themselves.
Kimberly Valzania practices mindful gratefulness. She feels creatively driven to write about and share her personal experience and opinion on weight loss, fitness, life changes, adventures in parenting, day-to-day triumphs (and failures), and the truth-seeking struggle of simply being human. She believes that life is indeed a journey, and that precious moments appear (like magic) when you surrender, hold hands, and fling yourself into the great, wide, open. You can read more at her website.