Now I have many types of regulars: men, women, families. And while they’re all different, they all share an easy connection with my coworkers and me. They’re the sort of people you’re happy to see walk through the door. They’re the type you worry about if you don’t see them for a while. It’s just one of those natural progressions.
While I have a dozen or more such regulars, a few cross that fine line that lies between customer and friend. Of my regulars, a select few are the type that I would call in a bind and likewise do anything for. They know about my successes and failures. They will be invited to any future weddings. I care about each and every one of my regular customers, but these really mean something to me on a personal level. With them it goes beyond simply enjoying their company. These are my friends.
One such regular – we’ll call him D – actually doesn’t even live in Montana. D, though he once called Missoula his home, currently resides in Kansas. His heart however lives here and every vacation work allows brings him back to the state he loves. Corresponding his trips with different hunting seasons, D makes it back at least once a year though often more. D just can’t stay away.
D’s last trip occurred this past spring. Work was busy and it appeared to be his only opportunity to travel for pleasure for the year. When he left he was markedly upset, unsure when he’d be able to return. He said it would be a year most likely – at the very least. I took his word for it.
And then, a couple weeks ago, D said he was coming to visit out of the blue. He’d be here in just a few short days for a week of vacation. It was very unexpected, but anticipated.
D’s trip was mainly spent bear hunting, but I still saw him often. I noticed right away that something was wrong, but it’s never polite to bring up such things with a friend you haven’t seen in months. D just didn’t seem as upbeat as the last time he’d come to visit. I was slightly worried, but brushed it off as me being hypersensitive (which I have a tendency to be now and again). Things just went like they always did despite the feeling in my gut.
On his last day, D finally confided in me that he had been diagnosed with cancer. His trip was hastily made after receiving the news. A gift to himself, he said. I was at a loss for words. I was even at a loss for thoughts. No one tells you what to say when a customer confides in you that they have cancer; that part isn’t in any of my Hooters Girl manuals.
So I did the only thing I could think of. I hugged him. Normally, I would never hug a customer at work no matter how familiar I am with them, but at the moment I knew it was the only thing I could offer. It was a small thing, but as I felt D against me I knew how much he needed it. Here was a man afraid and I desperately tried to offer what comfort I could. It all made me feel helpless.
I hope that back in Kansas D knows how much I really care about him. I can’t help but worry and wonder how he’s doing. I’m sure he’s fine, but the worrier in me will continue to think anything but that. Go ahead and call me a girl.
When you start being a waitress, the last thing you think about are the real connections you’ll make with people. While you’re busy memorizing wing sauces and table numbers making lasting friendships is the last thing on your mind. But they’re inevitable and even more than that they’re fulfilling. It makes me love my job even more.
So here’s to you D. I hope Kansas is treating you well. I know you miss the mountains, but they’ll be waiting for you up here. As will that bear that you didn’t get this year. We’ll all be waiting.
Did you vote today?! Vote for Sauce in the Hooters Halloween Contest so she can afford to pay for the classes she just registered for today. Seriously.