I'm usually wary of waiting on a family fresh from church.
Years ago I overheard a customer proclaim, "If I only tithe God 10 percent, why would I tip a waiter more than that?"
My bias was reinforced when a group of seven Wednesday night church-goers once insisted that I join them in blessing their food. As they remained seated with eyes closed, I reluctantly stood at the head of their table, holding hands with two complete strangers, all of us storming God's throne for mercy.
On a recent Sunday afternoon I waited on the McProtestants, a family of four who came straight from church. Despite being dressed in their Sunday finest, the looks on their faces seemed more apropos for a family trip to Darfur than a morning of scripture and song.
The dad ("Ted," I decided) seemed the most determined to put on a happy face. On the other hand, his wife ("Peggy") was massively unpleasant, and their two children will no doubt grow up testing homemade bombs on small animals.
"Hello, how is everyone this morning?" I asked.
"WONDERFUL!" Ted said in a sing-song voice.
"GREAT! May I bring you anything to drink?" I asked.
The daughter shot me a look that suggested I do something unpleasant to myself.
"You don't have Root Beer, do you?" she asked.
"No, we don't. Sorry."
"See, Dad, that's another reason I HATE this place! Ugh!!!!!!!"
Listen, Kelly Osbourne, no one has a longer list of reasons why this restaurant should spontaneously combust. I'll show you bitter.
With that, she laid her head on the table and rarely emerged from her unfounded cocoon of angst and resentment.
And then the son ordered his drink.
"*I'd* like a Shirley Temple with LOTS and LOTS of extra cherries."
He immediately earned my pity. I wanted to distract his parents, provide him with cash and a fake ID, and encourage his escape to Key West, Chelsea or anywhere in Europe.
Peggy was busy glaring and making hand gestures to Ted about their hibernating daughter. I met mom's inner beast when I asked:
"Ma'am, what would you like to dr..."
"NOTHING. I'm fine," she said. I imagine this served as her response to any number of questions.
Ted politely paused from playing charades with his bitch wife to inform me that he'd like a coffee.
As I delivered drinks to the men, and looks of fear to the ladies, I noticed the menus were stacked neatly in a pile, the chips and salsa moved the edge of the table, and Ted's credit card was ready.
"We'd like three breakfast burritos with black beans. And then the bill," he said.
"Anything for...her?" I stupidly asked as I pointed to the daughter.
"ABBY..." Mom bellowed (I gathered this pseudonym was the human name for the little demon).
"I DON'T...WANT ANYTHING...TO EAT!!!!!!!!!" Abby informed the restaurant.
"FINE. DON'T EXPECT DINNER, EITHER."
With that, I turned in their order as fast as I could, printed the check, and ran the credit card. Ted had signed the receipt and placed it at the edge of the table long before the food arrived.
He left a 10 percent tip with a big "THANK YOU" written at the top of the credit card receipt.
As they walked out, Ted remained about 10 feet ahead of everyone else. Peggy followed, arms folded, with sweet little Abby in tow.
And the young son brought up the rear with a big smile and a friendly wave. "Buh bye!!!!'
I will pray for that poor boy every night for the rest of my life.