I visited my brother in California, and we stopped at a cafe for a piece of pie and coffee. Our server seemed disconnected and quite uninterested in doing her job. It took quite a while before she finally wandered over to our table. “What can I get you?”
Two coffees. Black. And pie. I ordered the cherry, and Mark ordered peach. She moseyed away and took an even longer time returning with the coffee. No apology. No smile. No explanation. Just mugs of what turned out to be rather cold coffee. We waited for the pie. Waited some more. Mark caught her eye across the room, where she was chatting with another server. She rolled her eyes and came over with a surly, “What do you need?”
“Our pie. And maybe some hot coffee. This is pretty cold.”
She shrugged and walked away without a word. The pie never came. She also didn’t bother to do anything about the cold coffee. Eventually she dropped off the check. When she did, I asked for more coffee and the pie. There was no response other than a nod. She left the check. Mark and I chatted and reminisced and laughed a bit about our server’s total lack of competency. Another server finally refilled our coffee cups while our server leaned against the counter. She was too busy talking to other servers to even notice.
When we were down to the dregs again, Mark got up and grabbed the pot himself. If our server noticed, she didn’t let on. Eventually we were ready to leave and I grabbed the check. It was for just the two coffees. That was okay. We hadn’t really needed the pie anyway. I said, “I’ll be the big spender and you can leave the tip.”
Mark grinned, “I’m on it.” I laughed hard. So did he.
I pulled a five dollar bill from my wallet and put it in the folder. It more than covered the bill. Mark stood, stretched, reached into his pocket and threw $20 on the table. I looked at him as if he’d lost his mind. “Are you crazy? A $20 bill for two coffees and the worst service ever? That’s just stupid!”
“It is,” he agreed. But the $20 remained on the table.
To my raised eyebrow he eventually responded, “She definitely doesn’t deserve it. But that’s what grace is, isn’t it? Getting what you don’t deserve? Imagine what she’s going to feel like when she sees the $20 tip, knowing she did nothing to deserve it.”
I shook my head. Sometimes you have to wonder about the sanity of a younger brother. We left the restaurant, and he waved to the server as we walked to the door. We had gotten into the car and prepared to drive away when she came running out of the restaurant waving the $20 bill in her hand. She called out, “You left your money on the table!”
Mark put down the window and said, “No, it’s yours. Thanks.”
We drove away. Such is the way of grace.