Tonight I went to dinner with my friend Laura. Laura is one of those people you feel like you’ve known forever after one conversation, and is one of the nicest people I have ever met. She is seldom seen in a pair of jeans, almost always sports a string of pearls, and will wrap her arms around you in a crisis without even knowing your name. However, don’t let her fool you; for Laura is a rare breed of naughty and nice. Once a debutante, I have witnessed her dish out relationship advice worthy of a fee from Dr. Ruth. Nevertheless, people are naturally drawn to Laura. I see it happen every time I am with her, and tonight she exhibited rare form with our waiter, Brad.
An experienced waiter, Brad was bored with his current responsibilities covering only two tables, one of which was ours. Between his boredom and Laura’s innate interest in people, we found ourselves guessing his age. I said 23, Laura guessed 18. Laura was right. He made a comment under his breath about some of his problems, to which I quipped, “Problems? You’re only 18. How bad could it be?” Laura cited me for a condescending tone, I apologized, and Brad carried on. “Well, let’s see. Two weeks ago my best friend killed himself, another friend tried unsuccessfully, I’ve been sober for about a year after becoming an alcoholic at 15, I dealt drugs in high school, my dad’s a jerk, at 17 I got engaged to my girlfriend because she got pregnant, she told me she had a miscarriage but lied and actually got an abortion, she broke up with me and now I’m still paying for the ring….” On and on his story went and I felt increasingly sheepish about my earlier insensitive comment. I soon learned that this young man had already endured more heartache in his young 18 years than I had encountered in my, ahem, young 34 years.
Before I knew it our entire section of the restaurant was vacant and Brad was sitting at our table while Laura inquired about his well-being. The whole situation was so odd to me! Never on a regular day, under any circumstances, would my waiter be sitting with his feet propped on a chair telling me all his troubles! As we left the restaurant, I expressed my amusement to Laura about the bizarre nature of the last few hours. All I could do was laugh, and all Laura could do was think about poor Brad and his difficult life. There are probably several morals of this story, but the one that sticks out to me is that if you’re ever in a crisis, I hope Laura’s the one you end up standing next to.