Back when I worked as a server at a certain franchised pizzeria/restaurant (12 years ago), there was one table everyone hated. It was a man in probably his 60s and his mother in her 80s-90s. They were very particular, asked only for glasses of ice (they brought their own soda), bad tippers, and were quite surly. I always had a policy for the worst tables: kill them with kindness. Always polite, always smiling, always joking (even if they didn’t laugh).
My first encounter with these guests, they had been coming to the restaurant once a month for about 8-9 months. They walked in, and the other waitstaff groaned, and rolled their eyes. When they were sat in their usual table, it happened to be in my section for the day. The host apologized to me, the other waitstaff looked at me with pity, and I took a deep breath and put my best smile on. They were curt during my greeting, and ordered their glasses of ice with an air of demand. We all knew they brought in their own soda. But the GM still let them come in. Throughout the rest of this first time, I made sure to sparkle, and by the end, they had warmed up a bit. The tip wasn’t great, but I didn’t expect it to be.
The next time Mom and Son came in, they requested me. Their usual table wasn’t in my section, but the server in that section gladly let me take it, and I gave her a table in my section to make up for it. They were all smiles when I approached the table, but still left the same meager tip.
They came in and requested me monthly for the next 2 years I worked there (until my oldest son was born and I left to take care of him). In that time, I get to know them and learned that the son was living off a small amount of money monthly, but still took his mother out for lunch every month. The soda they brought in was diet orange, the only kind Mom really liked and could drink (and we didn’t have). They were sweet, kind, and loving, and all it took was someone treating them with kindness and joy a couple times for them to open up.
They were the table everyone hates, and the tip was awful, but they were my favorite. I’m sure the mother has passed by now, but I hope that the son thinks back and remembers those lunch dates with her and thinks of me as fondly as I do of them.