I watched the herd get up from the table next to us and gather their coats from the back of their chairs.

There was the Mama, the Daddy, two sons, two daughters, and Baby.

Was I sorry to see them leave?  I promise you, no tears were shed on their behalf.   

Throughout the entire meal, Mama complained about her food even though she ate every bite.  Daddy belched after every third mouthful.  The two sons talked about violent video games and used their shirt sleeves as napkins.  The two daughters cursed like sailors.  And Baby threw Saltine crackers and poured grape juice on the floor.

“You all finish up,” Daddy said.  “I got to get home before the race comes on.” 

“Sally, get Baby,” Mama requested with a mouthful of Boston Cream Pie. 

“I don’t wanna,” Sally exclaimed.  “She’s all sticky”.  

“Get Baby,” Mama shouted.  “Don’t make me beat your butt right here in front of ev’rybody.”

“Grab those last two biscuits, Bub,” Daddy suggested to one of the sons. “They’ll just go to waste.”

“And pick up those packets of ketchup and jelly,” Mama added.  “We can keep ‘em in the glove compartment for extras.”

“Mama, Buddy’s lookin’ at me funny,” Big Sis protested.

“He always looks funny,” Mama laughed.

As they departed with the agility of tranquilized elephants, Daddy reached into the pocket of his jeans, pulled out some spare change and tossed it in the direction of the table.  A few pennies clanked about on the Formica table top, several nickels slid under the edge of the blue plate special, and a quarter fell silently into a spoonful of mashed potatoes on the high chair tray on which sweet angelic Baby had been finger-painting with apple sauce earlier.

A pleasant calm came over the restaurant like the unsettling peace that follows the mass destruction of a tornado.

The sweet young waitress upon whom sainthood should have been bestowed for waiting on the table occupied by the Tasmanian devil family walked over and assessed the damage.  Before her lay a table in such disarray that it would be best to evacuate the restaurant and set a match to it instead of trying to clean it up.

There seemed to be more food under the table than on it.  Taking a sledge hammer to a salad bar could not possibly have produced a bigger mess.  The nightmare of the last hour came rushing back to the poor girl with horrific recall—the constant complaining, the indecisive ordering, the multitude of Mountain Dew refills, the extra napkins, the condescending tones, and Baby who threw Saltines at her all evening.  For once, Baby SHOULD have been put in a corner. 

She gathered both her strength and the change which could barely be located among the wreckage.  She looked down at the quarter in the mashed potatoes and decided to let it follow the same fateful journey as the napkins and used ketchup packets.  It just wasn’t worth it.

She looked briefly at the change in her hand which couldn’t have been more than twenty-some cents.  She shook her head, dropped the money into the pocket of her apron and began clearing the table.

In other countries, young men and women are required to serve for a specific amount of time in their national armed forces.  In our country, I believe all citizens should be required to serve as a wait person for at least two weeks when they reach the age of eighteen.  Perhaps if everyone was on the receiving end of the condescension and Saltines for a change, they would be more inclined to act like human beings in a restaurant instead of barnyard animals—and that’s an insult to the barnyard population.

I find it appalling how some people treat their waitperson.  Yes, they are employed to serve you during a meal, but they are not there to be the victim of your poor upbringing or the recipient of your sexist wise racks or the brunt of your bad day.

I’m not saying there aren’t some real losers out there masquerading as wait persons—there are.  Every occupation has its group of losers.  But, overall, I find the waiters and waitresses in our area exceptional people who take their jobs seriously, but not so seriously that they lose their sense of humor.  They truly enhance our meals like a bit of fresh pepper or a dash of salt.  

And what is wrong with the people who are incapable of leaving a decent tip?  If you look at all the indicators, our nation is as financially stable as it has ever been and the economy never looked brighter, but many of you cheap so-and-sos can’t find it in your head or your wallet to leave an exceptional waitperson even a mediocre tip.

It’s called gratuity.  It’s not the law but it is a recommendation that should be heeded.  Is it so unreasonable to give a little more respect and compensation to our fellow human beings trying to make your meal a bit more memorable?

For all you people who enter a restaurant with reckless abandon and leave behind an abandoned wreck, my tip to you is eat at home.  Don’t make me beat your butt right here in front of ev’rybody.

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