There are a lot of things I really like about waiting tables. I’ve been doing it for a long ass time, now (long past enough time to achieve mastery over it using Malcolm Gladwell’s rubric of 10,000 hours) but by far one of my favorite things is the people I meet and the intense connections that develop so quickly when I give them something yummy to eat. It’s a really intimate thing to do, you know.
Of course I usually come home drained to bits, and grateful to close the door and turn off my phone, but while I’m there, meeting and greeting and taking orders and making people feel comfortable and at home and feeding them, I’m supremely satisfied.
The other day this guy came in with a friend for a late lunch. I’d never seen him before, but he laughed at my jokes right away and met my eyes and was just generally the perfect customer. He was friendly but respectful and totally genuine.
And when he asked me my name I was all set for the usual conversation I have about it, you know, “REALLY? Is that your real name?” blah blah blah… But he strayed from the script. When I told him it was my mother’s nickname from the time she brought me home from the hospital, he quipped, “oh! That’s just like me! My name’s Shithead!” omg I laughed so hard. It was the way he said it, of course, all cheerful and hopeful, as if it was the best name a mother could give you. It’s still making me laugh.
Anyway, we had fun together and at the end of his meal he left me $53 on a $47 check. Which was just crazy dear and cool of him. He wasn’t weird about it, either, not flirty or salacious or patronizing or anything untoward. Just totally solid, sweet, and like it was a fun thing for him to do, to surprise a stranger he’d taken a shine to with a burst of generosity. And then he drove off in his white Porsche, and whither he went I’ve got no idea.
It’s unlikely I’ll ever see him again, as he lives in Denver, but being a true blue Capricorn I don’t always react super quickly to compliments or surprises or sweet things people do. He was so cool about it that I’m pretty sure that suited him, I don’t think he wanted me to make a big deal about it, but even so, I’m not sure he had any idea what our little exchange meant to me, and I wish he did.
So I’m writing about it here, and I’m telling you what I did with his $53 because I have no way of telling him. I woke up early yesterday morning – too early – and for some reason decided to skip breakfast, get dressed and head over to the Korean supermarket a few miles away from me. I needed a new body scrubbing glove, and they’re two dollars cheaper at any Korean market than anywhere else.
I wandered the aisles for a couple hours, wondering why I’ve been living in Koreatown for three plus years and it’s taken me till now to find this place. There was so much to see! Like Super Rice Stick and jelly candies or horseradish mayonnaise or candied persimmons – Holy crap, you guys, CANDIED PERSIMMONS, seriously. And oh! The pickled radishes and fishes and peppers and carrots and things. Bracken and ferns for soups (I think?). I’ve never wanted a Korean friend more than I did wandering around the aisles. Someone explain things to me.
Except there’s such rich freedom in the not knowing, in the mystery of it all. In the experience of being outside a culture, of being a foreigner. I’ve been talking a lot about the 12th house over the past week or so, but I missed something. A classic 12th house experience is feeling like an outsider, an alien. There is something about traveling and actually being a foreigner that is frankly a bit of a relief. When you are literally a foreigner there’s nothing wrong with you for feeling outside a culture, it is how you should feel.
It’s easier to be yourself when no one around you knows what that should look like either.
So I wandered the aisles for a couple hours and thought about my travels and the people I’ve met and how lucky I’ve been. I collected sesame oil, seasoned rice vinegar, black natto bean sprouts, LA made organic miso and a ton of ginger. I made faces at a little girl in a shopping cart and talked to the guy stocking the strawberries, who of course was latino, this is LA, after all.
And when I finally wandered my way to the checkout my total came up to $53 and some change. Because of course it did.
So thank you, Nathan from Denver, thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me a great field trip and the reminder to pay attention to the people around me, to connect, to be present, and to be generous. Thank you for being Jupiter in Cancer opposing Venus in Capricorn transiting my 6th house of daily routine and servitude and for reminding me what a true joy work actually is, thank you for giving me the money to go have a 12th house playdate with myself and remember that we are all foreigners in a foreign land bound only by our ability to connect.
Thank you for the connection.