Surprised by the Spirit at a Local Greasy Spoon

Since my sabbatical started, my wife and I have been to a number of establishments, enjoying the food we grew up on.

One thing I’ve noticed:  It’s hard to get good food and good service, even when you pay top dollar.

In one restaurant, the fried green tomatoes, etouffe, and catfish/hush puppies were to die for.  The down side?  Seems after we placed the order, the staff took off and went fishing for the lunch we ordered.  Okay, great food takes time, but after delivering it to our table, the waitress disappeared once again. It’s aggravating to be the guy who has to steal utensils and ketchup off other tables, even more embarrassing to go back to the kitchen and disturb the help while they’re visiting with each other, and engrossed with cell phones.

In another place known for fried chicken, we had the opposite experience.  The service was attentive and friendly, but as I began to eat, I wondered if someone had thrown a rubber chicken into the deep fat fryer.  There are two kinds of restaurant patrons: folks like me, who, when asked “Does everything taste good here?” will nod, smile, and keep eating, because you don’t want a do-over.  You’re pretty sure you’ll get the same the second time around, anyway.  That’s one kind of patron.  The second kind is my wife, outspoken and ready to unlimber a lot of adjectives and images to answer that question about the food.  I usually coach her not to say much.  Sometimes she listens.

Then we went to a breakfast place where both service and food was outstanding.  The interesting thing I noticed was how little I have to say when I’m content.  When all is well, it makes sense to shut-up and enjoy.  But the more I saw the hustle of the bee-hive staff, and ate the fabulous eggs-bacon-pancakes-grits combo, it just seemed wrong to remain quiet.  Part of Galatians 5:22 kept coming to me–“The fruit of the Spirit is…kindness.”

Say something.

I felt reluctant to offer encouragement, because I’m so attuned to the negative.  But being a perfectionist jerk in an imperfect world doesn’t play well.  I’ve read comments from restaurant waitstaff about the after-church crowd on Sunday—about how rude and cheap they seem to be after being “preached-up” for a couple of hours.

Say something.

So I did, and my wife as well. “We love your team,” we told the waitress, and then told her how much we appreciated her hard work and the great food.  The woman lit up.

My wife left a note for her on the check with hearts drawn on it.

And then, there was the tip.  The Spirit had an opinion on that, too, especially the amount.  The time to say something had passed.

Pay something.

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