The cheerful waitress introduced herself to the patron. Hi."I'm _____________. I'll be your server today. Here's the menu. Can I get you a beverage?" The patron rubbed his chin. "Ummm. Just water. That'll be fine. Oh, and put a lemon slice in it if you got one", the patron replied. Alright, Sir, I'll be right back.
The waitress returned with a basket of assorted fresh bread, and a small dish of lemon slices, and placed them on the table. "What is that? I didn't ask for that! I'm not paying for that!" the patron snapped. The waitress was startled. "Uh. It's bread, Sir. It's on the house. Have...have you decided what you'd like?" The patron frowned. "No. I haven't. I don't know what I want."
The waitress said she would give him some time to decide, and asked if he would like an appetizer. "What you got? I don't know what you got in here!" The waitress took a deep breath, and pointed to the appetizers on the menu, rattled them off, and asked if he saw something he'd like. "I don't know. You keep asking me, but I don't know what I want. I'm hungry. Just bring me something." The waitress was a bit perplexed, but she remained patient and told the patron she'd bring an appetizer she thought he'd enjoy.
When she returned with a bowl of the soup of the day, the patron was sipping water and still scanning the menu. "Here you are, Sir." He looked at the bowl and frowned. "What is this? I didn't ask for this! This looks like somebody ate it already!" The patron began to address other diners. "Ya'll see this? Look at this! I know she doesn't expect me to eat this!" The waitress reached for the bowl. "My apologies, Sir. Everyone usually raves about the clam chowder. Another patron quipped, "I sure am enjoying mine, Honey!" The waitress picked up the bowl. I'll take this away. Have you decided what you'd like yet?" The patron snapped, "I keep telling you I don't know!"
The waitress walked away to serve two other patrons who'd been seated. She took their orders and went to get their drinks. The patron mumbled out loud, "I don't know when I'm gonna eat something today." A patron at the next table felt sorry for him and said, "We've got a lot of ribs over here. Want some?" The patron snapped back. "I don't want your food. I want my own!"
The manager and another server happened to walk to the waitress's station. He saw the patron sitting there, pouting. "Hello, Sir. My name is _________________. I'm the manager. Is everything satisfactory with you today?" The patron shook his head and began to lament, "I've been sitting here all this time, and all I've had is this little bit of bread and water. I don't know where the waitress is. She's gotta be in here somewhere! I know you all have food back there. I was wondering if I have to fix it myself. I guess I have to sit here and wait until she comes back."
The manager became very annoyed, and purposed to confront the waitress about her behavior. "What's wrong with her? Is she goofing off? Is she trying to get fired? Does she want to quit? Maybe she's having a bad day" he thought. "I'm very sorry, Sir. I'll go and see what's taking her so long. Would you like another server?" The patron shook his head. "No. That's not necessary. I thought you were going to say you were going to serve me. Why don't you serve me? You don't seem to be doing anything right now."
The manager laughed. "Uh, Sir, I'm very busy and have other things to do, but I'll definitely speak to that server for you. I don't like what you've told me, and her behavior is unacceptable. Wait. Here she comes". The waitress wondered why the manager was scowling at her. "Is something wrong?", she asked. Just as the manager was about to reprimand her, another patron tugged on his jacket and whispered, "We've been sitting here as long as that gentleman has. I really hope you aren't about to embarrass and accuse the waitress, because the gentleman isn't exactly being truthful. She has been nothing but pleasant. She asked him repeatedly what he'd like. He told her he didn't know what he wanted, and rejected what she did bring. I don't know what he stands to gain by casting aspersions on her. He doesn't need another server. He needs another attitude."
The patron, in a huff, got up and left the restaurant.
"Thank you" the waitress said. "I really like my job, but people like him make it so much more difficult than it has to be."
The manager apologized for misjudging her, and suggested she take the rest of the day off. "No. That's not necessary. I have to admit though, I'm disappointed that you were so quick to discount my track record here and side with that patron." The manager hung his head. "I'm sorry. You work hard around here. I should have known better. I promise I'll be more discerning."
The waitress accepted his apology, and continued her shift. In the back of her mind, she pondered how the disparaging words of one person can damage a person's reputation, and call their integrity into question. Her coworker asked if she was okay. "No. No I'm not. Why was the manager so ready to chastise me? Why was he so quick to act on what he heard without even considering if the information was true? If that lady--a total stranger-- hadn't defended me, where would I be right now?" Her coworker nodded. "It is a bit disheartening that he would just take the word of that guy, but don't let it get you down. You can only control what you do. Just keep doing a good job."