Ultimately, I think all I want is for everyone to like me, so I don’t understand why I insist on constantly making this goal so unattainable for myself.
Yesterday I went out to eat with some friends after going to the gym, an experience that I chalk up to 10% perspiration, 20% imagination, and 70% participation. We’d had trouble finding restaurants around campus that were open Saturday at 10:30AM—they really know their audience here—and mainly were discovering this trouble only after showing up at the door and seeing “Closed on weekends.” Ultimately, we made it to this small local brunch place called Arturo’s Underground Café.
I’d been to Arturo’s twice before and loved their veggie scramble, so I was pleased with the spur-of-the-moment decision. The guy behind the front desk sat the three of us outside before giving us time with the brunch menu. There were probably less than twenty options, but for some reason I hadn’t decided on one by the time he returned. Classic benedict or breakfast taco? I opened my mouth. Taco. Benedict. Benedict. Taco.
Me: I’llhavetheveggiescramble. Uh, please. Thanks?
Me: *quietly* Dammit.
What’s important about this interaction—me having something in mind and proceeding, for some godforsaken reason, to not do said thing—is that I firmly believe it set the tone for what happened later.
After the meal, the guy dropped off the “receipt,” a slip of paper with our three prices, at our table. Friend 1 offered to pay the whole bill with card and have me and Friend 2 pay him back through Venmo (a mobile cashless exchange app that’s popular on college campuses. It’s like PayPal.) I insisted that I pay and get reimbursed because my Venmo balance was at $2.
Inside, I handed the guy my card and we chatted as he set up the transaction screen. He accidentally entered in $3.19 instead of $31.90, and I made the requisite joke of that being perfectly all right with me, and we smiled at each other. Shared a nice moment, you know? Of course, it was physically impossible for me to leave things at that.
He was using Square, that card-processing reader small businesses use for payment. Square’s easy to use; you just swipe your card, sign your name, and indicate how much of a tip you want to leave. The thing is, most places that use Square are businesses where tips aren’t applicable; you pay up front at a food truck, for example, where you don’t have a waiter who services you. The tip option’s there for social pressure. Thus, as a discerning customer, I’d gotten used to pressing “No Tip.”
Only after I’d completed the payment with no tip did I realize that the guy in front of me wasn’t just a cashier; he’d been our waiter. He’d gotten our drinks, taken our orders, delivered our food, bussed our table, been a pleasant person, and had done all the requisite waiter things. Instead of just saying something then, I panic-closed the tab and fled outside to where my friends sat waiting.
Me: We need to leave. Immediately.
Friend 2 was still working at his home fries. While I was still explaining the situation to them, the waiter I’d unintentionally stiffed came over and took the plates from Friend 1 and me. We thanked him. He didn’t meet our eyes.
Me: Oh my God, he knows. Why didn’t I just say something at the counter?
Friend 1: Does anyone have cash? I’ve only got $20, but that’s a bit much.
None of us had change. I don’t think I’ve moved so quickly in my life. Five minutes later, on the way back to my apartment, I wondered aloud why I hadn’t just said something at the counter when it happened. Or at the table when he came back. Or gone back in with Friend 1’s $20 and just asked for change. In hindsight, we’d had so many chances to be good people and taken none of them.
Friend 1: Well, the food was really good. Thanks for bringing us.
Friend 2: Yeah, too bad we can never go back there ever again.
Me: Only if you wear sunglasses. Or a dramatic haircut. We’d need to be unrecognizable.
Friend 1, a ginger: I guess I’ll dye my hair.
The two of them went on to discuss Portland mohawks. I figured they’d probably forget this incident within a day or two. As for me, I ruminated on how what I’d done would probably keep me awake at night for anywhere between a month and the next ten years. Maybe by then I’ll have partially atoned.
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