Bye bye Valentine’s Day. Good riddance to your way-too-ramped-up symbolism that sends us frantically flailing about in retail hell and foists upon us the yearly notion that no matter how wonderful our relationship with our significant other, all hopes and dreams will be dashed if we fail to go out on this specific date for “a nice romantic dinner.”
Since I work at a more casual restaurant, I figured Valentine’s Day madness would be somewhat mitigated by our lack of white table cloths and anything on the menu featuring an over-priced “surf” this or a “turf” that. Not that we don’t offer steaks and seafood, it’s just that I sell as many burgers and mahi sandwiches as I do ribeyes and shrimp skewers.
For the first two hours of my shift, I was encouraged by evenly paced seatings and even thankful for the random roses brought in by our bar regulars. Maybe Valentine’s Day dinner could be something other than two-hour waits for reserved tables, kitchens crashing and even the best servers woefully and predictably falling short of meeting a guest’s turbo-charged February 14 expectations.
In a way–a very tiny, miniscule way–it was.
Sweetest Table: The elderly couple who happily sat at a so-so table, who laughed at a joke about this being their first date before they mentioned that February marked their 62nd wedding anniversary, and who toasted each other with one small draft beer (him) and a glass of pink champagne (her) and held hands across the table.
Sweetest Sweethearts: The high school couple who was dressed up like it was their prom night, who didn’t try to order booze, who ordered apps and main courses and didn’t complain when the apps took forever and the main courses took a thousand times longer than they should have, and who tipped a little more than 20 percent and said, “Thank you for everything; it was great.”
Sweetest Gratuity: The 20 extra dollars over the 18 percent auto grat I put on a table of 8 men in town on business who ran me like crazy for whatever the guy seated next to them had asked for two minutes ago; who made snide comments throughout their meal about weak drinks, a wobbly table, thin soup, my slow service, my too-fast service; who seemed so unhappy with me and the entire experience that I was sure they’d refuse to pay the 18 percent auto grat, much less add to it. As they left, one man pulled me aside and thanked me for being a good sport with them because he knew they were huge pains, and then he gave me another 10 dollars.
Sweetest Moment: Arriving home with a decent amount of cash in my pocket to find my trying-not-to-come-down-with-the-flu great guy snoozing on the sofa with a sleeping dog on each side of him, the remote still in his hand and ESPN blaring. I had to smile, because I wanted for nothing on this Valentine’s Day 2012.