Waiting tables makes you hate people. I used to think that. This time around--and maybe it's because it's still new--waiting tables is making me adore people.
Last week I was seated with a party of eight women around 70 years old. I'll be honest, this is not a table most servers are thrilled to get, for several reasons. The likelihood of lots of food and wine ordering is low, while the likelihood you'll be making time-consuming hot tea for eight is high. And separate checks. They will definitely be wanting separate checks.
And they did! But, by God, they couldn't have been more gracious about it. I explained that it might take a few extra minutes at the end of their meal, but that I'd be happy to process the eight separate checks for them. They must have thanked me for this about two dozen times. Effusively.
I fully expected waters and English breakfast all around, but they got fun with their drink orders and got fresh, blended lemonade, flavored Italian sodas and other zero-proof cocktails. One lady even got kicky and ordered a glass of vermentino. It was obvious this was a lunchtime party.
They are all college classmates who still get together for lunch every so often. I gleaned this from bits of conversation as they sat oohing and ahhing over the bright salads and fresh pastas.
"I'm so glad we did this. I don't know what I'd be doing otherwise today. This is such a treat."
These women were a total delight. They had nothing but compliments for the food, and they treated me like a queen. Every request was couched in the kindest of terms, and they always followed it up with, "and take your time."
Desserts were ordered. Fun was had. When I brought the separate checks those who somehow missed the prior conversations were sure to tell me how much of a pain they know separate checks are and that what I was doing was truly appreciated.
I was being thanked as though I was brokering world peace.
I actually felt bad about adding the automatic gratuity for large parties, because these women, frankly, graced me with their presences. They had such an appreciation for their outing, for the food, for the service, for their day together that it completely changed my mood for the better.
And, of course, as if they were some kind of too-good-to-be-true alien race of overly kind restaurant guests from outer space, they tipped me extra on top of the large party gratuity added in.
They could have left nothing, and this group of eight would still be my favorite guests so far since returning to serving. Hands down, slam dunk.