Ahead of Their Time

Write about something that is beautifully out of place – Prompt 17 of #FreeWriteChallenge

In 2007 I moved to a new city in Michigan. I hung out for a bit, got the lay of the land, and then started looking for jobs. I accepted the first one offered to me, a server position in a fine dining restaurant that hadn’t been open long.

The job was fun, hard work, of course. It was the nicest place in town to eat with the dress code considered business casual, but everyone was welcome as long as the gentlemen removed their hats, and everyone had sleeves (tank tops on women were the exception but we kept it cold in there so they always wore little sweaters and tops).

I served every kind of customer while working there, and I loved it. Even the difficult customers. Sometimes they were the best.

I volunteered to take the Sunday afternoon/evening shifts. We were slow so I could watch football and get paid for it, and then we’d have a brief rush and make a quick 150-200 for a total of 4 hours work, and out the door by 7:00 most of the time. I was able to pick which servers worked with me, and we secretly made bank this way for most of two years.

The town I grew up in was majority white. This town was not. There was also a lot of racism in this town, and a long history of said racism. The city I speak of is constantly on those “Top 5 Dangerous Cities To Live” lists, and when I first moved there it was intimidating.

We had an elderly couple that began coming in early Sunday evenings. They requested me, because they’re sweet, and complicated, and they knew I could handle their order with no problem. The other servers avoided them like the plague. The couple also didn’t have much choice, considering it was me and one other server.

They also requested me other nights, but I wasn’t often there. It makes me sad now, and I’ll share why.

This couple had been together for more than 50 years. They never got married. It wasn’t legal when they wanted to, so they just never did.

He was white, she was black. They had a house together, children, all of it, but they never got married. It was … heartbreaking. They loved each other more than any other couple I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.

He always helped remove her jacket, and held her chair while she sat. He spoke to – and listened to – her with absolute respect.

They’d order a shrimp cocktail as their appetizer. It came with five pieces of shrimp. I always added one so they could split the dish evenly – and I think that’s what made them request me. I loved their special requests because it showed me how couples could be together.

Their entree was always prime rib, 12 ounces, medium, split on two plates, which actually means we put their potato or other side on a plate and they split the meat portion themselves at the table. They didn’t mind, Sarah liked the smaller bits.

Sometimes after the meal they would order an ice cream dessert. I always took my time with this part of it because, if I was lucky, my next relationship goal would happen.

The owner liked to play “smooth jazz” during the day, and we’d switch to light rock or something in the evening, depending on the bar scene. The smooth jazz was actually contemporary songs slowed down and a saxophone added. It was rather unpleasant when the CD was on the fifth go round, but whatever. Sarah and GeraldĀ made it worthwhile.

Gerald would rise from his seat, and gently pull Sarah’s out. He’d hold out a hand, which she would take. He would pull her close, and they would dance together, almost cheek to cheek as Gerald had to bend pretty far down. We had volume and light controls behind the bar and I liked to turn the lights down and the music up for them.

In a town where everyone is predicting race riots, and have been for about 10 years now, it was such a beautiful thing to see two people of opposite races love each other so much, and care so little for other peoples’ opinions.

When I went back to visit that town for the first time after moving to another state, I was informed that Sarah had passed away. Gerald was heartbroken. He was still coming in on Sundays, ordering a martini for her, and their usual meal, including the second plate.

This went on for a little while, and then Gerald simply stopped coming in one day. In my heart I’m sure he’s reconnected with his “lovely Sarah”. I tear up often when I think of them, including right now.

They were, without a doubt, my favorite customers of all time.




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