I’m late with this Christmas story but this memory has been buzzing around my mind more than usual, this year. Probably over a decade ago, we had a gift exchange at the restaurant where I was a server. A hostess drew my name, who I barely knew. I drew someone else. I forget how it happened but a couple of other hostesses found out who had drawn my name and wished me good luck with getting anything. They started talking shit. Apparently this young woman had a reputation for tip stealing off of servers’ tables. That was the first I’d heard of it, and the last, so I suspect they just didn’t like her.
This hostess, I forget her name but can picture her face—I could pick her out of a line up, so to speak, but scratch that because that gives credibility to those tip stealing rumors—saw reading as my interest listed for the exchange and told me she was going to pick me out a book. She asked me what books I like, and I told her I read anything. Christmas came and went. I gave my gift to the person whose name I drew. The exchange turned out to be informal. Somehow or other, the same shit talking hostesses caught wind that I hadn’t gotten anything, and gave me meanly sympathetic kind of told you so looks, which had nothing to do with making me feel better and everything to do with validating their dislike for this other hostess.
Often good memories stick with you as much for how you behaved in a situation as anyone else. I was pretty classy about the whole thing. This was my Coach/Shooter moment ala Hoosiers: “When is the last time anybody gave her a chance?” I stuck up for her because she told me she had to wait till her next paycheck came. I also tried to let her know I wouldn’t judge her for not getting me anything but I also didn’t take away her value by blowing the whole thing off. I was over thinking it; maybe I had been reading something that had me overanalyzing social situations—more than usual, even.
So two weeks past Christmas, she shows up beaming with a book she picked out. Then she asked me every time she saw me how I was liking it. I read it right away, mostly so I could report back to her. It was a thriller. I think the main character had amnesia and had to retrace recent events to find out what happened to him, if that narrows it down at all. I have a nagging suspicion it was a James Patterson book, from before I knew who James Patterson was.
Someone must be thinking I must have had a crush on this young woman, which I didn’t. She was young, as in first job young, and not fitting in well, as I recall. I don’t think any of the other hostesses liked her and she was probably aware of the tip stealing rumors. Truthfully, after being told three or four times she’d get that book to me as soon as she could, I had stopped expecting it. She surprised me. But by maintaining that not judgey but not you don’t matter attitude, I gave her a chance to feel pretty good about coming through. I think, or I just made myself feel pretty good but either way, it’s a nice Christmas Spirit memory.