She stood behind the table with her fists trembling by her sides. The woman continued yelling at her, the last of her half-eaten quesadilla held firmly in her grasp.
The server flinched at every word, struggling to keep her composure. A red haze invaded her sight, anger surging through.
It would be too late by the time she realized what she’d done.
A Day In Her Life
This was supposed to be just another day for twenty-three-year-old Ana Dameron. She’d woken up early that morning, hoping to make enough tips to cover the light bill at home, which had been out for a week.
While most her age worried about what came after college, she agonized over her and her grandma’s next meal.
She had no idea that her life was about to come to a standstill.
Ana had always been a reserved lady. A native of Quincy, Massachusetts, she’d always kept a level head despite life handing her all the bad cards it could find.
But Ana never complained. An orphan, she took her lot and made it work. Now, trying to survive community college while working odd jobs, she only hoped to improve things.
But this encounter would threaten to set her back several steps.
Be Your Best Self
Ana had been through a lot. Although young, she understood the world more than most. Nothing good ever came easy, so she consistently pushed to be the best at everything she did.
Before finding work at the restaurant, she’d been working double shifts at a nightclub just out of town.
Although she usually spoke highly of her time there, few people knew what she did and how feared she was.
A Long Day
Ana had been at the restaurant for a month when the lady walked in. She had this air of importance to her, the lady, strutting with her chin held high and her gaze looking down on everyone.
Although dressed like the everyday Jane, she swooshed her hips and swung her hands unnecessarily, acting like she was on some runway show in the heart of Paris.
A glimpse of her, and Ana knew it would be a long day.
“Good morning. How may I be of service today?” Ana recited the words her manager had asked her to memorize while in training.
The woman stared at her, sizing her up from head to toe before sighing.
She had a piece of gum in her mouth, which she started chewing loudly as she continued staring at Ana. “You may,” she said dismissively and sat. But she didn’t stop there.
The Wrinkled Blouse
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want the service, now, would I?” Her gaze ran up and down Ana again, resting on the server’s collar before she said, “Your blouse is wrinkled.”
A wave of embarrassment burnt through Ana, and she had to inch back a step.
She didn’t have electricity at home and couldn’t iron her uniform. She hoped no one would notice.
“I,” she began, but the woman raised her finger to stop her. “I don’t care. Do you have anything gluten-free here?” she asked.
“Umm, yes,” Ana answered quickly, taken aback by the rude response. The woman’s nose crinkled, and her lips curved into a sneer.
She was still eyeballing Ana’s blouse. Ana should’ve taken that as a sign to ask another server to take her place. She didn’t.
With her look of disgust standing fast, the woman made her order. “Two quesadillas, please,” she commanded, and Ana entered it into her tablet.
But before the server could walk away, the woman added, “Make it gluten and cheese free. Also, make it vegan.”
She listed more things she didn’t want on her quesadillas, some of which didn’t make sense. Ana had to intervene.
A Hefty $12
Ana politely listed everything that went on their quesadillas, but the woman said no to all of them.
Logically, she was asking for a gluten-free lettuce and tomato wrap, which Ana was more than comfortable getting her.
But keying the order into the system as ‘quesadilla’ would cost the woman a hefty $12, even without the ingredients. Hoping to help, she did the unexpected.
A Lettuce Wrap With Tomato
“I can just get you a lettuce wrap with tomato, and it will be $2.25,” she said while looking around. Out of everyone in the restaurant, she understood the value of money.
There was no need to charge the woman $12 for something she could get for $2.25. She wasn’t hoping for a better tip or anything and was genuinely looking to help.
But she didn’t stop there.
Trying To Help
“I’ll even heat it for you,” Ana suggested with a smile. But the woman glared at her. Didn’t she want the help? She insisted on what she’d ordered.
Ana had to explain thrice that what the woman was getting was six times more expensive than what Ana was willing to give her.
And that’s when things started going south.
The woman sighed, then chuckled. There was venom in her laughter, a certain poison lingering in her hazel eyes that made Ana step back.
“You don’t look like a stupid girl,” she seethed. “Are you stupid?” “Ma’am, please be respectful,” Ana wanted to interject.
But she knew how some of these things went. The customer was always right; she might lose her job if she talked back.
Holding her tongue, she listened to the woman talk down on and insult her. She remembered her last job at the nightclub and what she’d done to people who didn’t respect her or her customers.
Before working there, she’d had a burning passion for boxing. She even participated in several flyweight matches in town.
Her knowledge of fighting had come in handy at the nightclub when she needed to protect herself or teach someone a lesson.
What To Do
“You need this job,” she kept repeating internally. The paycheck here could have been better, but it was almost double what the nightclub job paid.
Could she stand here and take these woman’s insults because she needed the money?
Ana was by no means a violent person. But she was never one to take a beating while lying down. Her fingers formed fists, and her jaw ticked as the woman continued talking.
Get The Manager
“I know what I want,” the woman said. “I want my quesadillas this way, and if you can’t understand this, go get the manager.”
That snapped Ana back to reality, and she took another step back. Did she really consider squaring up against a customer?
She shook off the chill that clambered up her spine and told the woman she’d have her food ready in a minute.
She’s Happy With It
Ana did as the woman requested. She had the chef prepare the vegan, non-gluten quesadillas and brought them over. The woman smirked at her, tugging thick blonde locks behind her ears as she stared at the food.
“See,” she said. “I knew you could do it!” Ana’s heart rate spiked at that, and she used everything within her to maintain the fake smile she was shining at the woman.
Little did she know that this was far from over.
Ten Minutes Later
The woman dug into her food, getting lost in it as the second went by. But at the ten-minute mark, she called out to Ana, who came running to her table.
Ana had just handed her the bill and had expected this to happen. “Excuse me,” yelled the woman.
The entire restaurant fell into silence.
The woman slid the bill across the table to Ana, her brows narrowed and eyes alight with questions. “$24 for two quesadillas is completely insane,” she stated.
Although she still had that air of importance about her, she seemed shaken by the price tag.
Ana smiled inwardly, not knowing the woman still had an ace up her sleeve.
It’s Too Expensive
“What?” Ana asked, feigning surprise. She picked up the bill, looking at it before sliding it back to the woman. “$24, that is indeed insane, ma’am. But what can I help you with?”
“What do you mean ‘what can you help me with?’ None of what I ordered amounts to all this money!” the woman said. “Why on earth is it $24 for my two quesadillas?”
She was about to end Ana’s career.
Is It Over
“Because the price on the menu is $12 each,” Ana answered calmly. She’d been waiting for this exact moment to see the regret flash before the woman’s face.
She’d tried to help her, and the woman didn’t listen. The ends of Ana’s lips curved, and she turned to leave.
A perfect ending to a stressful situation, she thought. Or so it seemed.
The screech of a chair being scraped against the floor jarred her ears. She turned to find the woman standing behind her. “My bill can’t be $24,” she declared with her hands on her hips.
But didn’t Ana try to warn her some twenty minutes ago? The server recalled the woman’s mean words, how she’d called her stupid, and asked if she was “using her brain as a hat.”
Instead of defusing the matter, Ana added more fuel to the flames.
That’s The Price
She reached for a menu and opened the quesadilla page. “Here,” she pointed at the prices. “Basic quesadilla with a side of guacamole, $12. You had two, which makes it $24. But I might be mistaken, seeing as I use my brain as a hat.”
The woman flinched at that but said, “I didn’t get any of the included items on the menu.”
“Yes,” Ana agreed. “But you ordered two quesadillas. Therefore that is what you got charged.”
Her Big Move
“Alright,” the woman waved her arms about, throwing her quesadilla’s entrails everywhere.
“Enough of this. Let me speak to your manager.” Looking around, she said, “Can I get the manager here, please?”
She walked to the counter, leaving Ana where she stood. The manager, Mr. Timmerman, quickly showed up. He didn’t want any bad press falling on the restaurant while he was in charge.
Talking To The Manager
The woman talked to him briefly, pointing at Ana several times. Her face had morphed entirely from the scary entitled person she was a second ago to a helpless lady.
Her eyes sparkled with stemmed tears, and her lips quivered as she explained what had happened between her and Ana.
It wasn’t long before Mr. Timmerman waved the server over.
A Respectful Man
Mr. Timmerman started by stating that this was a family establishment, and as such, he valued every customer that walked through the restaurant’s doors.
More than anything, he respected everyone’s preferences as long as they weren’t harmful to others.
Ana realized she was in trouble when he told her the woman’s side of the story.
From Mr. Timmerman’s account, Ana learned that the woman, Mary, claimed that Ana verbally abused her. She also claimed that Ana didn’t tell her that although she didn’t get the fully loaded quesadillas on the menu, she’d have to pay full price.
Ana had to pick her jaw up from the floor. What Mary was saying she didn’t do was precisely what she did.
More than that, she had been on the receiving end of the insults, not Mary. But it didn’t stop there.
More tears beaded Mary’s eyes, and she wiped them with the paper towel Mr. Timmerman offered. “I have been going through a lot lately,” she said. “I didn’t expect this kind of treatment here.”
“Mr. Timmerman,” Ana tried to stand up for herself. But her boss spoke over her. “Don’t, Ana,” he said.
He’d jumped through hoops to get Ana this job since he was friends with her late dad. He turned to the weeping Mary.
Losing Her Job
“We are sorry for what has happened here,” he said. “We’ll get to the bottom of this and ensure proper steps are taken to remedy the situation.”
Ana stood by quietly, her eyes smarting with tears. She was about to lose her job.
How would she be able to help out at home now? Mr. Timmerman asked her to take Mary into the office to discuss the matter properly.
Ana did as told, and she could swear Mary was simpering as they walked to the office.
Inside, Mr. Timmerman sat across from her, taking up a pen and paper. He asked Ana to stand and wait for his final verdict.
But instead of talking, he pulled up his laptop and connected to the restaurant’s camera feed. “The sound quality is perfect,” he told Mary. “So don’t worry. We’ll hear everything she said.”
Mary visibly shriveled into her seat. Noticing Ana was looking at her, the corners of her lips twitching in triumph, she started crying again.
“I haven’t seen my husband in seven months,” she mumbled, wiping her eyes with her thumbs.
“It’s been so lonely and stressful, and I know how much I can hold on.”
Mr. Timmerman closed his laptop, leaning forward to hand her a tissue, and Ana had to bar a groan from escaping her throat. Clearly, Mary knew what she was doing, and without watching the footage, she’d get Ana fired.
“Which part of the military is your husband in?” Mr. Timmerman? He seemed more concerned with the customer being upset than the plight of his employee.
But could Ana blame him?
A Convincing Act
Mary had a way with words and tears, making even Ana think she was innocent. She explained that her husband was a marine.
She’d married him right after high school, and they had been together for almost ten years.
Moreover, they had three terrific kids together in middle school. Ana would have to fight if she wanted to keep her job.
“Would you mind playing the video,” she said as Mary continued talking about her family. “So disrespectful,” Mary burst out, sobbing as she motioned for more tissues.
“I don’t understand why she is so rude to me. Is it my hair? Do you have something against my hair, miss?” “No,” Ana said, holding back a chuckle.
She was going to win this battle.
“I just want to get back to work, that’s all,” Ana said. “I need tips to pay my light bill to iron my blouse.” The smile she’d been fighting so hard to hide finally broke through as Mary scowled.
“Please, Mr. Timmerman,” she started again. “You have to believe me. There’s no need to play a video when I’ve already told you what happened.
You can see my distress. Look at her. She’s smiling! She’s enjoying this! Fire her right now!”
“Mrs., kindly lower your voice,” Mr. Timmerman said. “I can’t simply fire her because of your word alone. There is a process to be followed.
We won’t charge you for your food if she failed to relay all the necessary information while taking your order. It’ll be on the house.
If she was rude to you in any way, then we will punish her accordingly.” He eased back, the emotion in his eyes slowly drying up. “Is that clear?”
Time To Watch
Mary nodded, and Mr. Timmerman opened his laptop. Connecting it to the large TV to his side, he pressed play.
The video started tamely enough. Mary walked in, and Ana greeted her with a smile as she was trained to do.
The conversation between her and Mary seemed strained initially, but she handled everything well. Everything from there progressively went south.
Giving Her Order
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want the service, now, would I?” Mary’s voice came through the speakers as clear as a bell.
Ana flinched in the video but offered the woman a menu, standing perfectly still as Mary read what she wanted.
“That’s enough of that,” Mary said, trying to pause the video. But Mr. Timmerman glared at her, gently pressing her hand away. The video continued playing.
Seeing It Clearly
“You don’t look like a stupid girl,” Mary’s voice continued in the video. She told Ana that she was using her brain as a hat and peppered her with more insults before Ana finally went to bring her food.
By now, Mary wasn’t even watching the video.
She kept her gaze glued on her phone, constantly scrolling between apps she had no business checking at this time of day.
Ana watched her open the calculator app, followed by the radio and Netflix apps. By the end of the video, it was clear that Mary wasn’t leaving the restaurant without paying.
“This doesn’t look good for you, Mrs. Mary,” intoned Mr. Timmerman as he disconnected his laptop. “I’m afraid you’ll have to pay the full $24 we billed you.”
But there was more.
“You also need to tip Ana here, who went out of her way to try and help you. I should be mad at her for trying to cut costs like that, but even I know that happy customers mean a happy business.”
“If that’s what you believe, then you should let me pay the $2 she suggested,” said Mary.
“Everybody goes home happy. I don’t write a bad review for your restaurant or send a few angry moms on your Facebook page.”
“Is that a threat?” Mr. Timmerman smiled. “No,” said Mary, her face devoid of any feeling. “I’m only trying to make the most out of this situation. Maximize the experience, as it were.”
“No, no,” insisted Mr. Timmerman. “That was a threat. Ma’am, I could take you to court for that.
If we suffer any damages regarding our public image, I can produce a recording of this moment, showing you threatening us.” Mary shrunk into her seat.
Mary shot to her feet. “Do you know who I am?” she seethed. “My husband is fighting to keep this country safe! If anything, I should have my meals for free here!”
She slung her bag over her shoulder. “I am a military spouse, sir. And I demand you not charge me this instant.
Aren’t you supposed to have all these discounts for military spouses?”
“We have many discounts for military spouses,” Mr. Timmerman said calmly. “But we are not obligated to offer them to every military spouse that walks through our doors.”
Mr. Timmerman couldn’t deny that service people kept the country safe.
But did that mean their spouses should be rude to everyone they encountered and hope to be treated like royalty?
A Military Spouse
He relayed his thoughts to the livid Mary, and she huffed, digging into her bag for her card. She handed it to Mr. Timmerman, who swiped it against a card machine. But the card declined. Ana had to stifle a chuckle and the urge to shake her head.
Mary clicked and snatched the card back. She offered two more, both of which declined. Only when she provided the last one did it go through. She stormed out of the restaurant short $24. Ana smiled triumphantly, unaware of the war she’d just entered with a military spouse.
Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.