The Herald Bulletin
---- — Alternatives Inc. is an organization that helps women, children, and men who have lost the safety of home - victims of family violence. It is unfortunate that the need exists in the first place, but thank goodness Alternatives is there for Madison County.
Alternatives cannot eradicate domestic violence without help from the community. There are opportunities to help financially or to donate supplies or used cell phones. When I looked through the list of ‘needed items’ on the Alternatives website, my gut wrenched when I saw the words ‘sippy cups’ and ‘childrens clothes’.
Yes, there are people in Madison County who need help. And some of them are very small people.
So when I was asked to help serve food at a fundraiser for Alternatives (at the Texas Roadhouse “Tips Day”) I said “OK then.” Even as I agreed to do it, I knew I was probably a threat to the whole project. I am not a good candidate for restaurant servership. Something is bound to get dropped, spilled, incinerated, dumped or at best ... forgotten.
New experiences make me nervous. And when I get nervous I swing and miss the ball every time.
I could almost hear the sound of a bat cutting air as I agonized over my stint as a waitress in advance of the event. If my contribution to Alternatives was going to be tips for my service - well, my tips were going to amount to a lot of advice from customers jotted in lipstick on greasy napkins. Things like ... “Don’t give up your day job!” Possibly some bad words, with exclamation marks. Or frowny faces with expressive eyebrows.
But when the big day arrived I showed up for training a little early. I wore my Aqua Systems nametag and shirt with the Aqua Systems logo so it was clear which company I was bringing shame upon. A Roadhouse manager handed me a small notebook, an apron and a pen. A group of trainees followed a man around the restaurant as he briefly explained how things worked.
My friend John, who works at Community Hospital, was there for the event. John is sometimes preoccupied with cleanliness, and can produce Wetnaps from his pockets like a Pez dispenser. After training I confided in him about my fear of serving.
“Well I wouldn’t worry too much,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for several years. The first year they gave me four tables. They reduced it each year. And this year I am a busboy.” He seemed completely unaffected by the setback and appeared to be enjoying himself.
John has his own parking space at the hospital, a good office and an important job. It is a job that is probably complicated at times.
But he had been demoted to busboy at the Texas Roadhouse. I watched the poor guy, a brilliant man reduced to picking peanuts out of the peanut barrel like a monkey on National Geographic.
I was doomed.
When my first table was seated, I decided to take the bull by the horns.
“My name is Theresa and I will be your server today. I am not very good at it.” I lowered my voice to add more intimacy. “So my advice is to go ahead and lower your expectations.”
But I did my best. I was especially good at answering questions.
“Do you have Prime Rib?” one of my patrons inquired.
“Um...is it on the menu?” I asked. I just wondered where she got the Prime Rib idea.
“Yes but I think it says to check for availability.”
I checked for availability and reported back to the customer.
“It’s not been cooking that long, so if you want it now, it will be medium rare. At best.”
“Do you have chocolate milk?” another woman asked.
I asked a real Roadhouse employee about that. “Well we have milk and we have chocolate syrup, so you have to go back in the kitchen and make it yourself,” she said.
Since I could barely find the ice machine, I made a chocolate milk availability decision. I returned to the customer.
“No, we do not have chocolate milk,” I informed her.
The shift passed slowly, and Wetnap John (the brilliant bus boy) cleaned tables. He flicked food into his Rubbermaid tub and did not gag once that I saw.
I survived with no complaints, reasonable tips for the cause - and a whole new appreciation for the job of a restaurant server.
And at the end of the day, it seems that everyone gave their best. Because when there is a real need and an important purpose, it isn’t really so hard to dig a little deeper and stretch out of our comfort zone.
Theresa Timmons’ column appears every first and third Sunday. She is an Elwood resident and can be reached at paperflinger.com.