The kids were named Grayson, Wolf and Hunter, which has no bearing on the story but I’m mentioning anyway due to how utterly badass that is.
I mean, seriously. Gray, Wolf and Hunter? I’d definitely watch that. I’m picturing a significantly more violent reimagining of the Hardy Boys, though if you have a pitch for a legal drama I’d be open to it.
They were having whole live lobsters in spite of the fact that not one of them was over the age of ten, because it was Wolf’s birthday, and their parents had at some point decided that on your birthday you are allowed to ball, even if you’re only turning seven. And, in spite of the fact that they pretty obviously weren’t going to finish their dinners, they decided that they would also have salads to start.
Which is fine. The dinners come with salads and there’s no reason I ought to care whether any particular guest, awesomely named birthday boy or not, finishes their meal.
I left three salads on the table for them, and came back five minutes later to collect two of them back, mostly uneaten. Grayson, it turned out, had grown deeply invested in the whole salad experience, discovering before his lobster even came a love of thousand-island salad dressing that was clearly going to be the high point of his over-expensive meal.
Which, fortunately for me, his family chose to find hilarious, otherwise some of their irritation with his ordering lobster and then getting bogged down in salad dressing might adversely affect my tip…
But they were a good-natured family overall, asking simply that I leave the salad there for him, that he might pick it over until his meal came. Which, again, was no trouble for me, why on earth would it be?
“That’s absolutely fine,” I told him, “doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, I’ll bring you an extra thing of thousand-island when your food comes, so you can dip your fries in it…”
And that’s where Grayson’s mother gave me a look like I had just ripped the roof off the restaurant, revealing a magical world behind the one she knew that she’d never previously thought to wonder might exist.
She had somehow made it to her thirties without ever realizing that just because a sauce was labeled “Salad” Dressing, there was nothing stopping her putting it on things other than salad. She was a grown woman, with three children of her own, beholden to none, and in that moment, there in the middle of the restaurant in which I worked, she was finally realizing that she could put any fucking sauce on any fucking thing she wanted to.
And this realization was, going forward, pretty clearly going to change a lot of things for her, in terms of meals and general sauce-usage and, I hope, as a more univeralizable lesson regarding not taking things at face value and living life on her own terms. Not the takeaway she was expecting from her son’s birthday dinner at a popular family chain seafood restaurant, to be sure, but an important lesson nonetheless, and one that she intended from all appearances to take to heart…
And that’s the best thing that happened at my day job, that day. I reminded a woman that she could dip her fries in thousand-island dressing, if she wanted to. I reminded her that she could dip anything in any sauce, if the spirit so moved her. I reminded her that part of being an adult is deciding what being an adult entails. And, even now, looking back on the night, I’m weirdly proud to have been the one to do so.
Because really, that’s why I started waiting tables in the first place.
To change lives.
Also: I tried it myself later, dip fries in thousand-island dressing. It’s as delicious as you think…