Strangers at Dinner

“Belinda” is in her late thirties and works as a server at a popular bar and grill in a small tourist town in the Ozarks. This is her story… as verified by mutual friends.

“I didn’t see this couple come in and by the time I noticed them in my area, I could tell they had been waiting a while. You know, they’re looking around and their body language has gotten tense and you can tell by their expression they’re a bit irritated. We had been really busy and it took me a couple more minutes to get to them.

“I apologized for not getting to their table sooner and they said it wasn’t a problem but I wasn’t sure they were really being honest with me about it. I was just relieved they weren’t going to be mean about it.

“Anyway, I got their drinks and then their food order. They seemed to relax and take their time. When I checked back with them, they both commented about how good the smoked brisket was. It is one of our specialties and is pretty popular with a lot of people who come through here. Good barbecue kind of makes a name for itself, you know?

“By the time they finished up, a lot of the other customers had left. It was getting on toward ten o’clock and on a Thursday night, most of the food customers have cleared out by then. So anyway, when I checked with them about dessert, there wasn’t anyone else near their table and I really don’t know what happened with me. I never talk to customers about my personal life.

“Maybe I was just really tired, I don’t know; it had been a really long day. I’d had a couple of really rude tables earlier that evening and I’d made next to nothing on tips.

“But there was just something about that couple. They both had really nice eyes and the wife especially had such a kind expression. Next thing I know, I’m telling them about all my troubles, well, just some of them, I guess. I told them about some personal stuff I’d been through and how my husband blamed himself and the guy at the table smiled and said in a really gentle voice, ‘That’s what guys do; they always think it must be their fault.’

“What really got me was that they really listened, you know. Sometimes people pretend to listen but you can see them looking at the door or watching the TV over the bar or something. They didn’t do that; they looked me in the eye, and they nodded and made comments that showed they were really paying attention to every word. It was almost like they’d been through something like that themselves or at least knew someone who’d been through some tough times. It really touched me and I had to wipe away some tears and that really got me because I hate for anyone to see me cry, especially people I don’t even know!

“So, anyway, I bring them their check and ran their credit card and took everything back to their table and then I went on break. One of the other girls came and got me about ten minutes later and said ‘That couple at Table Eight is ready to check out,’ and she handed me the packet. I couldn’t understand why she needed to come get me so they could check out; I’d left everything they needed at the table. All they had to do was fill out the ticket, sign it and leave.

“And then I opened the packet and I got really confused then. The first thing I saw was a hundred dollar bill inside. Then I looked and saw that the guy had written in a ten dollar tip on the credit card ticket, which was a pretty nice tip, like twenty percent or more. (I’m not all that good with math.) It didn’t make sense; if they wanted change so they could leave a cash tip, then why had he written in a tip amount on the credit slip?

“It was late, I was tired and I had to take the hundred to the bartender because there wasn’t enough cash in the cashier drawer. So I got three twenties and some tens and fives and even some ones. And I take it all over to their table.

“The guy stood up and grinned at me and said softly, ‘That’s okay, we don’t need any change. We just wanted to be sure you got it.’

“‘Are you sure?!’ I asked him. I couldn’t believe it at all. These people didn’t know me from Noah’s second sister and here they were giving me a hundred dollar tip?! Well, actually, a hundred-and-ten-dollar tip…

“He gave me a quick hug and his wife stood up and she hugged me. We just stood there by the table and she held me like I was her own daughter or something. I hugged her, too, like, I don’t know, I just didn’t want her to let me go too soon, you know?

“I’d never seen them before and probably won’t ever see them again but I will never forget that. It started out with me being afraid they were mad at me about not waiting on them fast enough and ended up like that.

“I guess you never really know how something’s going to turn out, do you? It can look like it’s going one way but then it turns out completely different than you expected.

“I try to expect good but some days it’s just so hard. Maybe it’ll be a little easier tomorrow.”

H. Arnett

About Doc Arnett

Native of southwestern Kentucky currently living in Ark City, Kansas, with my wife of twenty-nine years, Randa. We have, between us, eight children and twenty-eight grandkids. We enjoy singing, worship, remodeling and travel.
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