He had the look of a blind man -- dark circles under unfocused eyes, clothes slightly askew. A cloud of pathos seemingly rose from his over-gelled hair . . . spiking underscoring how little he still had at such an early age. He wanted to please. He really did. And that's what made it all so very uncomfortable.
My friend and I were enjoying another one of our we-may-not-have-money-but-we-do-like-the-finer-things adventures at a local community college. Their culinary school has practice runs as the semester concludes and tonight was seafood night. For $15 we received a five course meal complete with palate-cleansing sorbet interludes.
Not too shabby.
Except for the waiter. "Shabby" is exactly the term that comes to mind when reflecting on the young man we learned wasn't quite a student in the program yet. He's taking this course in hopes of getting in and having it count next semester.
Hearing him stutter through that explanation and seeing him fumble with his acknowledged "cheat sheet" of courses, stumble through the placement of plates, cups and saucers, and require more and more assistance as the the night wore on had me wondering if someone wasn't holding out false hope.
We learned that all the students rotate roles from week to week. Tonight's manager of the "restaurant" might be next week's chef or even be bussing tables.
After watching our waiter spill the tea, lose the berry off my friend's sorbet, delay the salad, and have the manager "assist" with the table clearing, I began to cringe at the sight of his impending arrival. He walked with such caution, precariously balancing glasses or plates on the oversized platter that I almost bolted from my chair to help him out. I did take the ever-clattering dishes from his hand on more than one occasion as he approached my place setting with true fear and trembling.
Oh, and lest you think otherwise, I was employing my very best calming voice, words of gratitude, and "there, there" attitude. If someone was inciting his fear, it wasn't our table.
When the absolutely delicious meal of seafood quiche, garlic soup, trout with vegetables, lentil salad and bananas foster concluded, my appetite was definitely sated. But the experience overall left me wanting.
I want people like our poor waiter to have a place in the world. I want ineptitude in one arena to unfold into expertise in another. I want good things to come to sad situations.
I want him to be a great cook!
But, here is where I have my own serving of fear and trembling. I fear that such is not the case. I tremble that inequity is part of the system and that rather than simply "feeling bad" for truly pathetic people, I'm supposed to extend grace . . . love them in their unloveliness.
Here is where I pray for an understanding manager to come to my aid. 'Cause, frankly, here is where I suck at this job.