John and I have recently succumbed to a slight obsession with Cracker Barrel breakfasts.
No, wait: first try their thick-cut slabs of extra crispy bacon, and *then* judge us. IF YOU DARE.
Anyhoo, being "professional" bloggers we're rarely awake during traditional breakfast hours, (I'm writing this at 3AM. What.) so we often partake in what Scrubs so delightfully termed "Brinner" - aka, breakfast for dinner.
Ok. So. The other week we mosied in to our local Cracker Barrel for a late night Brinner. After being seated by a rail-thin emo guy (is Tijuana Flats no longer hiring?) our server came over to introduce himself. I'm ashamed to say I don't recall his name, but it was something fairly common. Joe? Frank? Bill? Not sure. Let's call him Bill.
Bill had the slightly distracted air of someone with a million things to do, and not enough time to do them. When we ordered, his brow furrowed in concentration, and he repeated a few things back with great care. He wasn't overly friendly - he didn't smile - but he wasn't rude, either. I chalked it up to an off night, and thought nothing of it.
While John and I were in the midst of scarfing down way too many homestyle biscuits (apple butter, you sweet nectar of the heavens, you...) a kindly-looking elderly couple was seated directly behind me. As they sat down, they called out to Bill by name, greeting him with smiles and laughter and a sense of long familiarity. Again, our waiter did not effuse much by way of emotion, but as he talked with them, it dawned on me that his standoffishness wasn't the result of an off night; it was, in fact, the nature he was born with.
Some minutes later, a large group of diners made a mass exodus across the room. A well-dressed man broke off from the group and approached our waiter. "You did good, Bill" the man said warmly, pressing something into his hand. "You did good," he said again, clapped Bill on the shoulder, and left.
At this point John excused himself to the restroom, which is my excuse for the following chronicle of blatant eavesdropping: it was quiet, and I couldn't help overhearing. Honest. [Bambi eyes]
Anyway, what I heard went something like this:
Bill (quietly, to the elderly couple): "You guys, look at this. This man came up to me just now and he said, 'you did good, Bill,' and he shook my hand and then look, he gave me a twenty. A twenty. Can you believe it? I'm doing so good tonight." He said it with a child-like enthusiasm, in a tone of genuine surprise and gratitude.
The couple made happy noises of congratulations, but I didn't quite make them out because I needed my napkin just then to get something out of my eyes.
Bill delivered our check in the same manner he'd begun: efficiently, and with an air of distraction. Only now I think I understood him just a tiny bit better. He hadn't changed, but I'm happy to say that I had.
As we stood in line to pay the check, I told John what I'd heard. Will it show you what saps we are if I tell you that we *both* teared up when I got to the part about Bill's reaction to the tip? Yes? Well, we did. And then John sniffed, and laughed, and said, "Did he really say that? Really? Aw, well, now you know I *have* to beat that twenty."
And he did. Anonymously, and grinning like a fool.
A lovely, gorgeous fool.
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