I went out to dinner with a couple friends. After being seated, it took a while for our server to make it to the table. When she came, she started with the drink orders, taking my two friends orders then walked away in a hurry before I could even give her mine.
She only had two other tables, but I watched as she did laps around her section, tending to those two other tables and continuously walking past ours. By her third lap, when I saw her pick up a water pitcher to refill the other tables but we were still minus drinks and my drink order, I got fed up.
Being a bartender for several years I know how good customer service works and this wasn’t it. I didn’t know what her problem was with my table but I wasn’t going to stand for it. With service industry arrogance dripping off of me, I walked over to the server station and asked another server if she could take our table.
Julia came over promptly. She took down our beverages, and food–because by now we had been sitting there long enough to have decided–and was back in a flash to quench our thirst. The first server did finally come back with a few drinks–their two and a wayward coke no one ordered–but by then I resolved that we’d stick with Julia instead.
The rest of the meal went off without a hitch. I thanked Julia for her lively service, adding in my praise for her how I didn’t know what the other girl’s problem was with us and the regaling tale of woe about my experience before her, to which Julia replied, “She’s new.”
Now I feel like a bitch. 😟
Those two little words pierced through me, stinging like heartburn. I wished she had told me. I walked out of the restaurant feeling ashamed because I remember those first days in the industry, when every little thing was new. You’re juggling learning the system along with learning people and learning about the things you’re serving. Just two tables can feel like having the whole restaurant to yourself. In those early days, I blurted out to every person, “Hi, I’m new,” like it was my name.
I wished that I had known she was just starting out. Better yet, I wish that I had had the patience to observe a little longer and I would have figured it out like I have so many times before. I pride myself on being that compassionate and cool industry customer who knows how it is. I usually talk new servers through the experience and give words of wisdom and tricks to the trade. My know-it-all got the best of me.
We do something similar in our personal relationships, particularly the seasoned ones.
We think we know how our partner operates so we stop observing them the way we did when things were new. And our expectations become super high because we think they should have this relationship thing down by now. We stop asking questions to check-in and instead assume our significant other should know how to give us what we want.
The minute things aren’t going according to our plan, we bail to someone new who might be able to meet our needs better, instead of finding out what’s going on with the one we claim to care about.
We’re quite a self-centered society, and in a hurry at that. We always think the grass is greener on the other side failing to realize we could have green grass too if we only took the time to water it.
Patience is a virtue, and at the root of it is the lesson that to be patient is to consider there’s something happening with someone else besides ourselves. Patience is about empathy.
I wish I had been more patient with my first server. Let her bring us the wrong drinks and talked her down from her nervousness. I wish I could’ve been a cool memory for her and not the one she likely went home and cried about.
What’s your barometer on patience? Are you being the best customer you can to the person in your life who may get flustered sometimes but is trying hard to serve you joy?