Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Unexpected Visitor


Imagine you’re a server at a busy restaurant, and it’s one of your busiest nights. You’re running around getting it done, and you happen to notice a couple being escorted to a table near your section. The couple looks familiar so you do a double take and move closer to get a better look. You freeze. Your heart beats like it’s going to jump out of your chest. You can’t move, you’re shaking, and you can’t breathe because you just realized that this couple is your father and his wife, who you haven’t seen in 19 years.  A few of your coworkers see the look on your face, they’re concerned and ask if you’re ok. As you tell them the story of how your dad just walked in, who you haven’t seen in years because of physical and mental abuse, there are so many emotions running through your head. Your eyes are tearing up, you’re stuttering, and you feel like you’re about to pass out. Your coworkers are sympathetic and can’t believe this is actually happening. What are the chances that your father, who you’ve had no communication with, shows up at a restaurant you just started working at, which is nowhere near his house, has no idea that you work there, and just happens to come in on a night you’re working? You would never imagine this happening, you would never be prepared for something like this. Your coworkers suggest you go in the back by the kitchen and take a few minutes to catch your breath, so you do, but as you walk back, you can see your section fill up. Others offer to help but their sections are filling up too, and even though they would still take your tables, you know you need the money. It starts becoming even busier, so now you can’t have those few minutes, you have seconds to compose yourself so you can greet your tables and pretend like none of this is happening. As you walk to your tables you pass your father and can see him out of the corner of your eye. You try to pretend he’s not there but that’s impossible. As the night goes on, you get into your groove and finally feel like you can handle this. You can feel him looking at you as you pass, it bothers you, but it’s easier for you to dismiss it because you’re so busy and you’ve made up your mind to ignore the situation for the time being. Hours pass, and you’re feeling more confident. The anxiety attack you felt coming on earlier is finally gone, he’s still sitting there, but you’ve been good about avoiding eye contact and burying the situation. So you go about your night, and you’re standing at one of your tables talking to your guests, and you feel a tap on your shoulder. Thinking it’s another server trying to get your attention, you turn around only to find your father standing there. All previous thoughts about what you would do if this happened, go out the window. You’re caught completely off guard and you have customers sitting there to witness everything. All the anxiety comes back, you start shaking again, and you decide to act like you didn’t even know he was in the restaurant, so all you can say is “Dad?” He shakes his head yes, and then you look over by the door and see his wife wave at you. You have no idea how to react, you don’t know what to do, you’re stuck, you feel trapped, and you can’t make a scene. Servers are taught to leave their problems at the door so if you’re having a bad day, you don’t bring that to work. Well after 19 years, your problem came bombarding through that door and is now standing in front of your face. You keep your composure and he finally says, “I just wanted to let you know that you look good.” That is all he says. After 19 years of not seeing his own child, that is all he has to say, and then he walks out the door. In this most awkward moment, you feel like you were kicked in the face, and your guests just witnessed everything. You walk back to the table and you have no longer have control over your emotions, tears are streaming down your face, and your guests ask you “What the hell just happened?” There’s no hiding anything at this point so you explain the situation to them and they’re very sympathetic, and tell you to go take a moment. You try to head straight for the kitchen so you can have that moment to regroup, but you have to pass all of your tables along the way. A few of them want to chat as you walk by, but then they see your face and want to know what happened, so you have to explain it again. All you want to do is disappear, but you can’t. You walk into the kitchen, take a few seconds to wipe your tears away, and even though you’re an emotional mess, you head back out to push through the rest of the busy night and wait until your shift is over to completely lose it. All of this, this entire story, happened to me a couple days ago, and I decided to write about it to help me come to terms with it. Writing helps me get through tough situations. I used to bottle up all my emotions which wasn't good for me, so that's why I'm letting my guard down and putting this out there. This is not something I can just let go and pretend it didn’t happen. I know I can’t dwell on it or let it affect my life, but it’s something I have to deal with and I know I will learn from it. I don’t expect my father to contact me, so this might be all said and done, but I can’t know that for sure. All I know is I got through the worst of it, and I think I handled it the best I could. If there is a next time, I won’t feel as weak, and I’ll be more prepared.  I do have to mention that I am very grateful for the girls I work with who I’ve only known for a few weeks. They were able to put themselves in my shoes, give me the emotional support I needed, and offer their help and keep checking on me throughout the night. This is the true meaning of teamwork. I believe that it takes a team to help you get through some of the worst moments of your life, no one should have to go through anything alone.