Veteran's Day Anecdote

On November 11 last year, I was working a dinner shift at the restaurant that has employed me for the past seven years (for the sake of anonymity, we'll refer to said restaurant as "Emerald Thursday"). It was Veterans' Day, and a popular thing that day was to offer a free meal to veterans of the armed forces.

A man came in by himself and was seated at one of my tables. He politely asked about the free meal promotion, which I had the dishonor of telling him we did not offer. I suggested he may have been thinking of our competitor (we'll call them "Orangefly's), who had a restaurant a block away. The man then said, again politely, he was going there instead.

I felt several things at this point:

 - Shame that my employer had not seen fit to offer a free meal to veterans.

- Embarrassment that I had to be the bearer of that bad news to a kind man

- Gratitude?/humility?/something else at the man's quiet, polite demeanor.

This last one: there was something about this man when he said he was going to the other restaurant. There was no anger, no rudeness, no air of jilted entitlement, nothing like that. I think he was a bit let down, but was gracious the whole time.

That stuck with me. Countless times before, I (and any other server anywhere) have had to deal with customers of a hundred temperaments:

  • - people who throw a virtual tantrum their steak isn't cooked to exactly the level of pinkness
  • - the much-reviled "dine-and-dashers"
  • - the woman trying to shave every possible penny off their bill by contesting every single line on the receipt
  • - high school-age kids
  • - the family who sits but promptly sneaks out when your back is turned because they don't want to pay that much for dinner
  • - the guy who sends food back after eating half of it in a poorly-veiled attempt to get free food
  • - the couple who acts as if all is well, only to tell you otherwise with the paltry tip they nickels.

One could easily imagine a veteran making a big stink over Emerald Thursday's lack of a veteran's meal on Veteran's Day. Maybe they're right in their thought process (not action) - I told the gentleman above I thought it was cheap for the restaurant to skive out like that. But he said thank you and politely excused himself, and I felt nothing negative toward him.

What does this all mean? I have no idea. I guess that, as much as I hate working with snotty customers, if there was a person who had a right to feel entitled, it should be a veteran. They've given months, if not years, of their life making sure we're safe and happy. They work to preserve the right of other Emerald Thursday customers to be as bratty or rude or haughty or pleasant as they like.

Not this guy. He acted in the way all of us should act in the presence of our veterans - kind, polite, gracious.

They've earned it more than we ever could.


Peeser said…
Thank you for that simple, beautiful anecdotal tribute.

Happy Veterans' Day!
Emily S. said…
Hey, bro! I don't know how I missed this post... sandwiched between sports talk, I guess.

But this was moving and insightful. It has me thinking.

Thanks for sharing.

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