When she looked at me I could see she was still a little hurt, but we exchanged a smile and I gave her a very comical silent rendition of what the other guy had just said. She mouthed the words “I know, right?” and we both rolled our eyes and stifled our laughter. She probably is at school all day, works on her feet all evening and gets home late, makes minimum wage or less, banks a few tips and puts up with idiots like him. The guy probably spent $9 on dinner and didn’t leave much of a tip, if any at all. Why do some people think it is their right to be jerks to the employees of places they patronize? It really infuriates me.
A: On matters such as these I turn to my expert, Waitress Pam of Waffle House fame. In her decades of serving humanity, she has come to a conclusion. She says that these people have no control in their own lives, so they flex their puny muscles at the individuals who cannot talk back.
Such behavior indicates something lacking in the person’s life. I’m reminded of a quote often attributed to Samuel Johnson: “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”
Years ago I watched a Very Important Man give a pompous speech before a ballroom of Very Important People. His topic was on the importance of “lifting up” the younger folks and being a helpful mentor. He even singled out an accomplished college student in the audience and offered to assist him with a job.
The student, desperate for work, was elated. He kept an eye on the ballroom doors so that he could thank the Very Important Man as he left the ballroom. Unbeknownst to either of them, I was standing in the dimly-lit hallway when the student approached him.
“Sir, I just want to tell you how much your words meant to me,” he said. “Here’s my business card. May I get one of yours?”
The reply made my blood boil.
“Yeah, look kid, I’m late for my next event. I don’t have time to talk. Don’t bother contacting me.”
As it turned out, his speech was utterly insincere and purely self-serving, delivered in the interest of promoting multi-million-dollar relationships with the people in the room. His character crystallized in that moment in the hallway. When he thought no one was looking or listening, he showed his true colors.
Always pay close attention to how individuals treat “the least among us.” A person’s values are revealed in that instant. If you greet the janitor the same way you acknowledge the CEO, then I’m inclined to like you a whole lot.
Never forget that real power is in your ability to do good for others. And heck, it’s Christmas. Tip that beleaguered waitress double; give an encouraging word to a stranger and lessen someone’s suffering in any way you can, at any minute you can.
The second Favorite Christmas Memories column is fast approaching. Please send your most cherished or most notable holiday memory to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lauretta Hannon, a resident of Powder Springs, is the bestselling author of The Cracker Queen—A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life and a keynote speaker. Southern Living has named her “the funniest woman in Georgia.” See more at www.thecrackerqueen.com.