Marianne shouldered the wind as she trudged along the street leading to the restaurant where she worked as a waitress. The temperature had dropped to 10 below zero during the night and snow crunched beneath her feet while the wind threatened to wrest from her the scarf she held tight against her face. But she was young and strong, and this was her very first job. She didn’t mind the cold so much when she could anticipate the tips that would come her way. The café was always full to overflowing on days like this when those who worked outdoors stopped by for a hot cup of coffee.
What she made in tips would go into her bank account. She was saving to buy herself a car. It wouldn’t be an old beater like her brother had owned for his very first car but a brand new one, bright red and shiny with real leather upholstery. She could picture it in her mind and it helped to keep her warm as she hurried the last few steps to the door of the café.
Stepping inside, her eyes caught sight of Carla Hite, a member of the city council, who often took breakfast at the café. Carla was sharp of tongue and quick to criticize Marianne when the food didn’t make its way to her table fast enough or something wasn’t done to her liking. And she always sat in Marianne’s service area. She appeared to be the third customer to make her way inside on this frigid morning and Marianne glanced at her watch and saw that she was ten minutes late for work.
She hurried out of her outdoor togs, grabbed her pad and pencil and made her way quickly to Carla’s table.
“Well, it’s about time,” Carla greeted her, with a sneer of her thinly-clasped lips. “I’ve been waiting here for a good 15 minutes now. Where’s the coffee? You know I always order it. You should have had it ready for me.”
Marianne pursed her lips and said she was sorry. She hastened to pour coffee and take her order, then hurried back to the kitchen to talk to Henry, the cook. “What’s the matter? That old battleaxe needling you again?” asked Henry, observing the look of distress on Marianne’s face.
“Oh, she makes me so mad. Sometimes I have all I can do not to take her meal and slam it into her face.”
“Henry chuckled appreciatively. “I know how you feel, Sweetie. She gets under my skin too. But vengeance isn’t the way to handle it. Why don’t you use diplomacy.”
“How do I do that?”
“Well, let me see. You can give her special service maybe. Be extra polite and compliment her hairdo.”
Marianne snorted. “You can’t be serious. Her hair’s a mess, as always.”
“Then think of something else. Does she leave a good tip to make up for her lack of patience?”
“If she did, I wouldn’t mind waiting on her so much. But she leaves me a dollar at most. Sometimes it’s just spare change and, if she’s really cranky, it’s zippo.”
“Too bad, kiddo. But do try compliments and special treatment. I use this method on my mother-in-law and it works like a charm. I open doors for her and tell her she‘s a knockout, just like her daughter.”
Marianne squared her shoulders as she approached Carla’s table once more, this time with a steaming order of eggs and bacon. “I brought you a blueberry muffin this morning, on the house. It’s for being such a good customer. We’d like to see more customers like you, people who know good food and insist on having it.”
Carla stared at Marianne, opened her mouth to say something and then closed it. “May I get you something else?” Marianne said, smiling her best smile.
“No thanks. I really didn’t want a muffin; too much fat for one meal.”
“Would you rather I brought something else then? We really felt we ought to reward you for being such a great customer. Oh, and don’t bother to leave a tip. You’ve given too much already. I can’t thank you enough for adding to my great collection of state quarters. You’re the best customer I have!”
This time Carla’s mouth flew open in surprise. Her face took on a rosy glow and when she left the restaurant there was a crisp new five dollar bill on the table.
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