When Olivia put on her apron for the evening, she didn’t expect the kind of customers she was to have. The night was going to be a long one and if the universe had given her a head’s up about it, Olivia would have called in sick to work. Her father owned the restaurant, so calling out would have proved difficult but she’d think of something.
Olivia walked out of the kitchen, pad, and pen in hand, a perky grin on her face. She walked over to the table closest to the kitchen and stood before a man and woman.
“Good evening,” she greeted. “I’m Olivia and I’ll be your server for tonight’s dinner. What can I get you?”
“A new place setting, please.” The man packed up his fork, spoon, knife, and napkin and shoved it toward Olivia, who nearly it dropped it all as she tried to take it while still holding her pad and pen.
“Oh, um, is there something the matter?” Olivia stammered. She dropped her pad and pen in her apron pocket and tried to inspect the utensils without the man noticing.
“They were spotty. Bring me a new one and then we’ll give you our order.”
Olivia suppressed a sigh. She headed back to the kitchen, dumped the utensils in the sink with an eye-roll to the dish washer (he chuckled, knowing exactly what Olivia’s face meant), and grabbed another set. She took a peek, making sure they weren’t spotty, and headed back into onto the floor.
“Here you are, sir. I believe these are clean. I’m sorry about earlier,” Olivia said still smiling.
“Fine,” he said grumpily. “I’ll take the steak, medium-rare, and a soda.”
Olivia nodded writing his order. “What would you like as a side? Fries, baked potato…?”
“Just steak. If I wanted a side, I would have said so.” He glared at her.
Olivia cracked another smile, though she wanted to punch him in the gut. “Right, sure.” She turned her attention to the woman, who Olivia assumed to be this monster’s wife. “And for you?”
“I’ll take a garden salad and ice water, please.”
“Sure, thank you.” Olivia abruptly turned and headed to the kitchen.
She tossed her order in the pile with the others and made her way back out to the floor with the water and soda. She placed them on their table without a word and walking away. Normally she would have killed him with kindness, but she couldn’t bear to look him in his face.
“Hi,” Olivia said with a grin. She was now about five tables away from the grumpy man. This table had four teenage girls, all with their faces in their phones. “My name is Olivia and I’ll be serving you tonight. Can I start you guys off with something drink?”
Silence. Neither girl looked up for their phone. Olivia opened her mouth to say something when one of the girls laughed. Olivia instinctively smiled again, though it quickly turned into a frown when she realized the young lady wasn’t acknowledging their waitress at all. Instead, the teenager shoved her phone in friend’s face sitting across from her.
“He’s such an idiot!” she squealed.
Olivia cleared her throat loudly. Two of the four girls turned her way. Olivia smiled again (this was going to be a night where her face would hurt from all the fake smiling). “My name is Olivia and I’m your server for tonight. Can I start you off with a drink?”
The girls froze staring at one another as though Olivia spoke another language.
“I think we need a minute,” one girl said. The four of them, in unison, put down their phones and picked up their menus.
Olivia sighed. “I’ll be back in a minute.”
Two tables down from the teenagers were two men, both dressed in suits and ties. Olivia introduced herself and one of the men, without even looking at her, ordered an appetizer for the two of them, and promptly waved her away with a flick of his wrist. They got back into their conversation about money for Olivia even had a chance to write down the appetizer they wanted.
Olivia made her way back to the kitchen. She put in the appetizer and checked on her first table’s order. When she found out it would take a few more minutes, she figured she’d go ask the teenagers again.
As she made her way to their table, she passed the married couple. The man snapped his fingers to get her attention. Olivia took a deep breath before turning around to face him. It was too often customers snapped their fingers at her and it was her biggest pet peeve working at this job.
“Did you need something, sir?” she asked.
“Where’s our food?”
“It’s almost ready.”
The man turned to his wife and began to complain about the slow service. Not wanting to hear it, Olivia promptly walked away and headed back to the teenagers.
It was a long hour for Olivia. The husband and wife weren’t the most pleasant of people, though Olivia couldn’t complain too much about the wife. She barely spoke. The teenagers were too wrapped up in whatever drama was unfolding through their text messages or social media to realize they were in a public place and the same went for the two businessmen. They must have been in the middle of some sort of meeting with one another because whenever Olivia walked toward their table, she was shooed away.
Olivia sat in the corner of the kitchen. It was the least quiet place in the whole restaurant but she needed to get away from the customers. Some nights at the restaurant were pretty good. She’d have fun customers and her co-workers would be in good moods. Tonight, however, her co-workers were stressed out since they were so busy and the customers were at their worst. It was as though no one knew how to behave in public.
She heard a bell and one of the chefs call out an order for one of her tables. She sighed, forcing herself to stand and make her way back out onto the floor.
“My food is too cold, can you take it back?”
“I asked for medium-rare, what is this?!”
“We’re not ready to order just yet. We’ll be here a while.”
“I’ll take a refill on my drink though.”
“How long does it take to cook a steak?”
“What’s your wi-fi password?”
Olivia was relieved to see the husband and wife had left. She picked up the receipt of the check. They had paid with a credit card and when she looked at the tip spot, the husband wrote $0.00. Olivia sighed. There was no cash left on the table either.
After clearing the table, she stood by the hostess, drawing in deep breaths. Isla, the hostess, gave her a sympathetic smile.
“I think it’s been this kind of night for everyone.”
“Is there a full moon tonight?” Olivia asked.
“There has to be.” Isla shrugged. “To make matters worse, our tables are completely full so I had to put someone in Marco’s area.”
Olivia remained silent. She knew what that meant.
Isla smiled sheepishly. “Since one of your tables already left, do you mind…?”
Olivia stood straight and let out another breath. She smiled and pointed to her mouth. “Does this look real?”
Isla chuckled. “Not in the slightest.”
“Perfect,” Olivia replied through gritted teeth.
Still smiling, she headed toward her new table. She passed the two businessmen, who looked as though they were arguing over the bill. She also passed the four teenage girls, who were obnoxiously laughing over something on their phone. They had already eaten and Olivia had cleared their plates, but they wouldn’t leave.
Olivia made it to her new table and tried to sound as energetic as she could. “Hello, my name is Olivia and I’ll be serving you tonight. Can I start you off with something to drink?”
An elderly woman looked up at Olivia and grinned. “Yes, please. I’ll just have water.”
“Coming up,” Olivia replied. She turned away and let out a sigh of relief. Just one order, which meant maybe the woman wouldn’t stay too long.
“We’re not paying for this. We had two appetizers and a couple of drinks. This bill is outrageous,” One of the men said.
Olivia raised an eyebrow. “You each had six alcoholic drinks. Plus the two appetizers. The total reflects that.”
“Listen, we’re starting up a business and this is not how you conduct business.” The other man chimed in.
Olivia furrowed her brows. How was she supposed to respond to that? That had nothing to do with the fact their ordered expensive drinks. If they don’t know how to handle their money, maybe they shouldn’t be in business.
“I want the manager! You clearly don’t know what you’re doing and you’ll be getting no tip from us.”
Olivia rolled her eyes as she turned away to call the manager on duty. She wasn’t expecting a large tip from them anyway.
Olivia stared at the four dollars on the table that was left as a tip. She was glad she didn’t need to see the girls leaving, but was that really all they had? They were loud and obnoxious the whole time, ordered a lot of food, and only left her four dollars? Olivia pocketed the money and began to clear more of the table. She didn’t care anymore.
Olivia was pleased to see her three tables empty, quiet, and clean. Most of the customers had left by this time and there weren’t too many other people around. Olivia was so tired and she couldn’t wait to get out of her uniform and into bed after a long, hot shower. She needed the elderly woman to finish her meal first.
Isla nodded her head to the table motioning for Olivia to give the woman subtle hints to get out. Olivia nodded and headed to the table, though she didn’t mind the old woman. She was at least quiet and polite.
“How’s your meal, ma’am?” Olivia asked upon standing by the table.
“It’s wonderful, thank you.” She replied. “All of you work so very hard.”
Olivia’s mouth gaped open. “Oh, uh, thank you.”
“I used to come here often with my husband. We stopped when he got sick.”
Olivia grew hot. Oh, no. Not one of these stories. Please, her day had already been long enough.
The woman frowned. “His funeral was this morning. It’s been weird not having him around. I thought it would be special to come here tonight for him.”
Olivia smiled. This time it was genuine. “That’s very kind of you. I’m sorry to hear about your loss.”
The woman waved her hand. “He was old. I’m not too far behind, I don’t think. I don’t think I’ll last long without him, anyway. I think I’ve only survived so far because someone needed to plan his funeral.” She laughed.
Olivia too chuckled. She picked up the empty dishes. “I’ll be right back with your check.”
She dumped the dirty dishes in the sink and made her way to a cash register. She stared at the bill, which was only around twenty dollars. Olivia pulled the money out of her pocket, including the four dollars that was her only tip for her whole shift, and paid the bill. It wasn’t much, but Olivia realized even though she had a rough night, there were still people out there who had it worse than she did.
When she made it back to the woman’s table, Olivia told her she was all set. When the woman argued that she hadn’t paid, Olivia assured her it was all taken care of.
“I’m sorry again for your loss and I hope you have a wonderful rest of your evening,” Olivia said. She walked away allowing the woman to gather her bearings and leave the restaurant.
At the end of the night, a busboy approached Olivia as she was leaving.
“You forgot your tip!” he called.
“What?” Olivia closed her car door before getting in and turned to Niko.
“I cleaned the table where the old woman sat.” He began to explain. “I thought you forgot to put her bill in. I wasn’t going to say anything because I knew you had a rough night. But then I saw it had already been paid. So I assume this is your tip. I mean, it was left under a napkin that said thank you.”
Niko took Olivia’s hand and put a crinkled bill in it. He grinned. “People suck, but not all of them, I guess.”
Before Olivia could say anything else, he headed to his own car. She opened her palm and gasped at seeing a fifty dollar bill. She could have cried, she was so excited. She put it in her pocket and made eye contact with Niko, who gave her a wave. She nodded, grinning, and it wasn’t a fake smile this time.