No one was more surprised than me when I, the clumsy shy girl, landed a waitressing job during college. I overcame the urge to run home crying on the first night, after being yelled at by an irate woman who didn’t appreciate wearing three Cokes. (That tray balancing thing takes practice.) Several months, many patient customers, and few angry ones later, management wanted me to work the day shift during the summer.
“Noooooo!” I begged and pleaded in a panic. Mornings at a breakfast restaurant were crazy busy and I had just stopped soiling my customers with food and beverages. Management would not hear any of my protests. My choice was to show up at 6 AM wearing my “big girl” pantyhose or return to fast food.
I showed up at 6 AM as ordered scheduled. As the weeks passed by, my confidence soared because my customers hardly ever wore their food anymore. One day, a gentleman took a counter seat and ordered a Caesar salad. I smiled because I hoped for a tip, but inwardly, I groaned. I hated Caesar salads because it wasn’t a cook order – I had to make them.
In a rush, I measured the romaine in the bowl, added dressing from the white pourable container in the fridge and mixed until the lettuce was coated. I absently topped with parmesan cheese and croutons, while my mind noted the table that needed coffee refills, another one waiting for their check, and the new couple seated that needed a drink order taken.
I slid the salad in front of the man, confirmed he didn’t need anything else and dashed off to tend to the other tables. It wasn’t long before the man called me over.
Man: “The salad tastes funny. Are you sure you used Caesar dressing?”
Me: “Yeah, why?”
Man: He tasted another bite and grimaced. “Could you have used horseradish?”
Me: Absolutely. “I’m not sure. Let me get you another one.”
As soon as he suggested the possibility, I knew it was likely that I did use horseradish – the Caesar dressing and horseradish were kept in identical pouring containers. As I mixed the new salad, Deb (the head waitress on the day shift) approached.
Deb: “Do you know who that is?”
Deb: “The man at the counter.”
Me: Salad Man was the only one at the counter. “Nope. Never seen him before.”
Deb: “That’s Robbie. He’s one of the owners.”
My breath caught in my throat. Of all people to serve a horseradish salad, it had to be the restaurant owner. Lucky for me, he ended up having a sense of humor.
This experience taught me a few things about writing (and life in general):
- Focus. Devote my full attention to the task at hand, whether it’s developing characters, planning an outline, or putting together a (boring) business document for work.
- Don’t forget the details. Take a final look at an edited story and review character behaviors with a critical eye to find inconsistencies. Proofread text for errors.
- Take responsibility. If something goes horribly wrong in a writing piece, I am fully responsible. The same philosophy works in life; no excuses.
- Approach every task like I’m serving a Caesar salad to my boss. I never know who I’ll meet at a company gathering, who could lead to my next career opportunity, or who may want to publish my writing. Doing my best ensures that I couldn’t have done more.
- Laugh it off. When I make mistakes I laugh about it. Trust me, this works – I’ve used it often. Way too frequently, if you ask me.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from an embarrassing moment?