moments that carry us

June 25, 2005

It was a silly moment, all things considered. The day was a crazy one, as far as days go in the restaurant business, as I recognized even in my trainee state. We all bustled about madly, trying to avoid catastrophic collisions in the process—steering patrons around sailing servers, mindlessly repeating the menu mantra and, for my part, desperately trying to remember all that I was supposed to do, and stressing about doing everything correctly. It is infinitely strange to me how traumatic this business has been, and how I have been on the verge of tears over something so seemingly ridiculous over forgetting the table number order and not knowing which table I was supposed to be directing my current guests towards. How does someone who has spent 2 years supervising employees and managing/organizing a department feel like bursting into childish tears over a dirty look when I ask a “stupid question” from the perspective of seasoned servers?
I don’t know—I do know that I am grateful for this experience, for this time of branching out from what I have done thus far in life. It is a choice I have made, to at least try something totally different, and it will no doubt make me a better, stronger, and more compassionate person.
But, what made this one day worth it all was one small moment in the midst of the flurry of a day. As I seated the party, leaning over to hand them their menus, their server brushed past with the next table’s order and, in passing, touched my back to get my attention. When I looked up, he asked me if I had a moment to go ahead and take their drink orders.
Technically, I was not supposed to be doing that—I hadn’t even been “trained” in how to, and in my current state I stress over the proper way to do even the smallest, most inconsequential-seeming tasks. But, I certainly wasn’t about to try to interrupt the craziness by asking at the moment. So I, in a slightly uncertain and probably fumbling manner, took their orders and got their drinks.When I returned with them, he was taking their lunch orders, and, as I placed their drinks in front of them, he looked at me with the most genuine look of relieved gratitude and mouthed a silent “Thank you!” Whether it was the knowledge that someone, anyone, was thankful for something I had done, the endearing expression on his face as he breathed a sigh of relief, or the simple act of doing something right again, I do not know. But for whatever reason, my heart swelled up at that moment, and my eyes filled with grateful tears. The day continued in its hectic-ness, and we all continued in our frazzled-ness, but I was carried for the remainder of it by a single snippet of a moment.

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