Am I Good Enough For You?

“What’s that room named for again?” asked one of our best hosts as he headed back to the podium. He is home from college for a month, and he only just started at my restaurant, but he works like a pro twice his age.

“What room?” I asked him, not looking up. I was distracted and only half listening to him because I was plotting dinner reservations.

“You know, the room everyone always asks about and I can’t remember,” he said, sounding anxious. “Come on, what is it named after? They’re waiting and they already think I am an idiot.”

I turned to look at him. He appeared to be slightly frantic. “I think it’s just a random name, nothing special,” I told him. “Just random.”

“Shit,” he mumbled and wandered back to the named-for-nothing room.

A minute later he was back, asking for two new boxes of kiddie crayons. “Their two kids only like to color with blue crayons. They want more than the one blue crayon in each of their packs. Shit, I can’t do anything right for them.”

He grabbed two more packs of crayons and stomped back to the room with the meaningless name.

It wasn’t like this kid to be so angry. In fact, he has become my go-to guy when I need a leader at the podium, because he is charming and quick on his feet and so very sharp in his mind. He’s a pre-med major, and I am in awe of him because my brain is not the kind that does math or science above a fourth-grade level. Need a PhD thesis edited? I can do that in my sleep. Want me to memorize anything related to numbers or the biology of anything? Uh, no.

“Hey, wait,” I stopped him. “I’ll take the crayons to them. What table?”

He paused for a second, then kept going. “I got it,” he said over his shoulder. “Thanks.”

Later, as I double checked section breakdowns, I heard the kid telling another host how awful these guests had been, despite his best efforts.

“Yeah, so when I said the room was just named for its name, nothing special, they got really pissed. ‘You don’t know? You actually cannot tell us what this room is named for? I would say you aren’t quite a good enough host, are you?’” he mimicked the quintessential pain-in-the-ass guest. But I could tell he was still uncharacteristically upset by it.

“You should have told them to f— off,” said the teenager he was telling the story to.

“Yeah, right,” he said.

“Wait, they actually said that to you?” I asked, inserting myself into their conversation. “They actually said you aren’t a good enough host?”

“Yeah, and then they got mad about the crayons.”

“But you brought them the extra ones,” I said, stating the obvious.

“Yeah, but not fast enough, and I still didn’t know enough about the room’s name.”

So now I am looking at this 20-year-old kid who reminds me of a morphed version of Restaurant Gal Son and Daughter, a kid I respect like an adult, a kid I know is an ace, and he’s feeling inadequate, he’s feeling stupid–he thinks he’s not good enough. And I want to tell him he does his parents and me and all of us who know him very proud and to shake it off and….and he walked away from the podium to sweep for menus.

And the moment to tell him this was over.

Moments later, a young mother walked past the podium, her two young sons dancing and prancing all about her. “Were we good, Mom? Were we good today at lunch?” they asked.

“Sure, sure,” she answered them, distracted by having to juggle their wrapped-up leftovers, their coats, and the assorted bags of toys they’d brought in with them.

The two boys high-fived each other. “We were good! We were good!” they shouted in unison, still dancing about the foyer. Their mom didn’t respond, intent instead on getting out the front door.

“Bye,” they waved at me.

“Bye, gentlemen,” I waved back. “And I hear you were really good at lunch.”

The boys grinned at me as they continued dancing out the door. Mom was ten steps ahead of them.

And the moment she could have told them how good they were was over.

The manager who was hired instead of me started today. “I feel so betwixt and between,” she told me.

“You’ll feel at home soon,” I told her, with very mixed feelings in my heart.

“I know,” she said, sighing.

“First week craziness, that’s all,” I reassured her, because that was the right thing to say. To do. “It’ll all be good in a week or two.”

“Thanks, I know,” she smiled.

Sure. It’s all good. We know we’re all good enough, right? The smart kid. The little kids. The new manager. Me, the maitre d’ who tried to be a manager.

Sometimes, though, it’s nice to hear that from someone close to us, from someone who knows we’re good enough.

Before the moment is over.






3 responses to “Am I Good Enough For You?”

  1. briliantdonkey Avatar

    Very nice and thought provoking post. Timely as well. I was working my place short staffed for the last two nights. Both went quite swimmingly. I had meant to tell my two servers last night what a great job they did in handling the rush but thanks to getting sidetracked with paper work and such and thinking ” I will tell them on their way out” totally forgot to do so. Same exact situation happened again tonight. I found myself in the office doing closing paperwork and forced myself to get up and go tell them before they could leave. “thanks” and ‘good job’ and a pat on the back don’t help pay the bills at all, but simple acknowledgment of a job well done, or being a good boyfriend, girlfriend, sister, brother, mom, or whatever never hurts.


  2. Kim Ayres Avatar

    Every day when the kids, my wife and I sit down to dinner in our house, everyone has to say a positive thing about the day. Sometimes we’re full of positive things and sometimes we struggle to find a single thing. However, even if it’s only “I had a nice cup of coffee this morning” then at least one thing has been said.

    It’s also the time to sing praises of anyone who has done well, which is a good way to catch up on those times through the day when we missed the moment comment.

    I don’t know whether such a thing is possible in a restaurant as I guess at the end of the evening everyone is eager to leave for home, but I’ve often thought that no harm would be done if at the end of each work day the staff were to get together briefly and say something positive about their experience or someone else’s behaviour or attitude.

  3. Fat Lazy Guy Avatar

    Very nice post. So often we let those moments slip by. Oh, and I thought I should finally jump in and leave a comment since I’ve been reading your blog for long enough. In fact you’re one of the inspirations for why I’m blogging again. But anyway, peace out.