Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Assuming the Best

Last week I had a friend visiting from out of town. We had a great time sightseeing, hiking, cooking and eating out at wonderful restaurants.

We went to a cafe for lunch one day that I consider one of my favorite places to eat. The food is amazing and the service is usually quite wonderful.

This particular day the server started off on the wrong foot from his first interaction with us. My friend asked him a question about adding sliced avocado to her food and he looked a little annoyed and said with a little indignation, “Well… that would cost more.” My friend politely answered, “Well… that’s ok.” It was an odd interaction.

We placed our order with the waiter. It was a Mexican Restaurant. At this particular Mexican place, they don’t automatically bring chips and salsa. They usually, however, do offer them to you right off the bat.

Our waiter did not offer them to us. Nor did he come back to our table for quite some time after we placed our order. I needed more iced tea, and I really wanted chips and salsa!!

Finally, he came back and I said, “We’d like chips and salsa please.”

“They don’t just automatically come here.” He snapped.

“I know, but usually, my server asks me first thing if I’d like some.” I answered, as kindly as I could.

“Sorry.” He snapped as he walked away.

My friend’s soup came and my lunch was nowhere in sight. My lunch came out a full 10 minutes after her soup! A manager brought it out and apologized to me and said, “There was some major mix up in the kitchen about your order.”

Our server kind of avoided our table. He seemed a bit embarrassed. He deserved to be, truth be told!

I started out feeling extremely annoyed by this waiter. My friend and I discussed it. I was surprised by how irritated I was. That’s not normal for me. Something about this guy just really rubbed me the wrong way.

As my friend and I enjoyed our lunch, my irritation melted a bit. We started to discuss what might be going on in this young man’s life that would make him act the way he was acting with us. I found some compassion.

I decided that in order to ‘address’ the reaction I’d had to this guy, I would leave him a very very good tip, even though he really didn’t deserve it based on the service he gave us.

I left him a really nice tip on the credit card. As we sat there talking, I was suddenly gripped with the thought that I should add a $20 bill to the tip. I’ve learned over the years to follow my guidance when it comes with such clarity.

I honestly don’t know what was up with this kid, but something just wasn’t right. We left him the tip (which incidentally turned out to be 100% of our bill!) and dashed out before he could see it and react to us. Whenever I do things like that, it’s always a requirement that there isn’t a scene… or an opportunity for the recipient to ‘react’ directly to me.

My friend and I wondered about his reaction and what he would think of our action, given how poor his service had been. We both hoped it would brighten his day… and maybe help with whatever was going on with him.

I felt a lot better after I did it. I didn’t like the way I had been feeling about him. After I left the tip, I felt that I had ‘righted’ myself and my thinking.

You never know what is really happening in a stranger’s life. Sometimes it’s important to give the benefit of the doubt, and not ‘react’ to bad behavior. What a gift to cut people some slack and assume that they are going through something tough. The alternative is to ‘react’ and ‘act out’ in an unbecoming way and make everyone’s day worse! I say make it better if you can!