The smoke hung over the dining room like a slow moving thunder head. And there was a storm brewing, though I was unaware of it’s signals. I sipped my tea, enraptured as I was with my pretty wife. Nothing else mattered.
When our waitress arrived at our table, we asked her questions about the menu, questions that we thought were innocuous. But our waitress couldn’t answer effectively.
“I guess she doesn’t get out much.” My wife said quite intuitively.
But for her inabilities, she did the best she could. Which is to say that we received exactly what we had ordered and in a timely fashion. But I could not help but wonder about how true the words my wife had uttered really were. Chances were the waitress did not get out much. I asked if she had kids and she said that she did. On her salary, with children, she maybe didn’t have a whole bunch of opportunity of means to do much. But I watched her move through the dining room and she did work hard. But when the storm came, I have to say, I really was surprised.
My wife and I were deep into our conversation. Her eyes danced with mine as we spoke in time to our synchronized rhythm. When the plate hit the barrel of dirty dishes, not only did it explode into pieces, but our waitress screamed. A table had ditched their bill.
For whatever reason, a group of three did their best impression of the proverbial dine and dash. What it amounts to for them, is an act of petty theft. But to waiters and waitresses who get stuck paying the ticket from their own nightly bank, it amounts to a wasted night and a blown budget. Storms away.
Time, as we choose to recognize it, progresses from one moment to the next. And as each moment passes we also choose to accept it as lost and/or gone. We can and often do take photographs of those passing moments so that we can remember them and keep those gone moments alive. Each moment is a capsule of people, emotions, thoughts, words, sounds that get mixed together and then proceeds to another moment of much of the same. But time doesn’t necessarily work that way.
The next time we saw our jilted waitress, her eyes were swollen, red and puffy. “Fuck him,” she said, “I’m not paying for it, he’ll have to fire me.” In her mind she wasn’t taking photographs of the very next moment, she was picturing losing her job at the end of the night. She was visualizing the discussion with her husband about how and why she lost her job.
But there is a happy ending. A stranger at a table somewhere behind ours was also picturing moments not subsequent. He was viewing photographs in his mind of the waitresses children burning with resentment being turned loose in the same world with his children. He, too, was seeing photographs of moments further up the road where the waitress couldn’t find work and her home budget was wrecked. “Excuse me,” the stranger called out to the waitress, “please, give me the check in question. I’ll be happy to pay it.”
“No, sir, I couldn’t let you do that. Their bill was somewhat large. It’s my problem.”
“Please, miss, you’d actually be doing me a favor. It’d be my good deed for the day.”
The waitresses’ eyes again swelled up. But this time the reason was much different. She looked at the stranger with her lip curled up and her head tilted to the right. “Thank you, may God bless you.”
The stranger left, and so did my pretty wife and I. But the waitress wasn’t the only one to get lucky that night…