My husband and I eat out more than we should, but we rarely visit a restaurant more than once or twice a month. I honestly don’t think there’s anything about either one of us that is particularly memorable, as we’re just your average sixty-something couple who enjoys a good restaurant meal. So I’m always a bit surprised when the staff recognizes us, because I’m not exactly sure just what it is that would make us stand out from the dozens, if not hundreds, of other people they serve every month. I mean, it’s not as if we’re bringing along our pet aardvark or something else that would attract undue attention.
Yet time and time again, the wait staff will greet us warmly and sometimes even remember what we like to order. The first time this happened, I was with some former college friends, having our own little reunion five years after graduation. We walked into the college bar we’d frequented as students and the bartender greeted us with, “Welcome back, ladies! Having the usual?” (That did startle me a bit, but I put it down as the result of a misspent youth.)
Sometimes it’s been rather touching, such as the time my husband and I returned to a restaurant we hadn’t eaten in since the pandemic started. My husband got us a table while I made a quick stop in the restroom. When I joined him, our old waitress brought over the menus and greeted us warmly. I was impressed she’d remembered us, but then she looked at me and added, “It’s so good to see you! When your husband walked in alone, we actually got a little teary.” My husband battled cancer during the pandemic, so he weighed about fifty pounds less than he had when the staff last saw him. I guess between him looking so gaunt and my absence, they thought we’d both contracted Covid and only he had survived.
We’ve puzzled about this, and the only thing we can come up with is that maybe we’re just good customers, restaurant-wise. We eat out regularly, we’re always polite and friendly with the wait staff, and we try to tip well. We’re patient when they’re short-staffed, and understanding when things don’t go perfectly. Waiting tables is hard work, so maybe those who do it appreciate, and remember, the customers who treat them well.
And if you think about it, the same is true for almost every area where we interact with other people. We know how important it is to treat our friends and family well, but I believe it’s just as important to treat everyone we come into contact with well, as far as we are able. A bit of patience, a friendly word, or even an encouraging smile seem like such little things….but the truth is, people notice them. And often, that’s also what they remember.