In this story, I am the rude one!
I manage a family friendly restaurant that is often very hard to predict busy or slow times. This was during an unpredicted busy time and I was slightly understaffed. When that happens, I like to be up-front seating guests, taking drink orders when my servers get behind, etc. At this time I had just delivered some drinks when I noticed a gentleman in a wheelchair waiting by the podium. (This is important to the story!) I asked the usual, “How many tonight?” and he responded, “Two.”
I then say, “We’ve got a table right over here if you’d like to follow me, please.”
He stopped me and told me that unfortunately he couldn’t. He’d have to be pushed. It slowly but surely dawned on me that he was unable to physically move himself (he was a much older gentleman, around 75 or 80) and had been pushed in by someone else not present at the moment.
I was taken aback, because it didn’t even *occur* to me that someone in a wheelchair would not be able to push themselves, so I responded, rather feebly and very apologetic, “I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t realize you didn’t…have wheels…”
I know. What an awkward response! I swear, that is exactly what I said. And yes, it makes NO sense! And yes, I feel like a heel! Thankfully he didn’t take it the many, many ways it could have been misconstrued.
The gentleman, on the other hand, was the epitome of grace. He filled in the oh-so-awkward silence and helped my face to go from beet red to the normal ghost white it is by asking about my Easter, and if I liked working on holidays or not while we waited for his son to come back in.
I actually ended up waiting on them because the servers were too busy at that moment and I didn’t want to make them wait to order, as the server whose section they were in was busy taking an order at another table. In my mind, it was the least I could do for being so rude? Clumsy with words?
I don’t think he held any ill will towards me, but next time I know not to answer with something that makes no sense, or even better, to help the gentleman MYSELF! Why didn’t I think of that then??! Both father and son were, of course, very pleasant and polite during their meal. I hope they come back in, as they were so nice and understanding I’d like to see them again. 0425-11
Lovely story! I keep drumming it into readers that sometimes you have to overlook the stupid comments some people thoughtlessly say and extend graciousness to smooth over the bumps.