30 Cupcakes

Last night I worked the late late shift, meaning I don’t get out until past 3am. At around 1am I always start to lose my patience. Everyone is demanding. Many are drunk. It can be hard to keep our spirits up. Last night right around that same time, an average looking woman sporting a baseball cap and jeans comes in and sits at the counter. She’s chatting up the staff, looking around the restaurant a lot. I make a mental note that she seems a bit weird, like a lot of lonely people who come in to chat with wait staff are. But I keep going about my business. Toward the end of her meal I notice her counting every single person in the restaurant. She silently mouths “One, two, three” while keeping track with her pointer finger. Just another odd ball I think. I wish I could go home already. This night is never going to end. Mid-way through taking an order, my co-worker stands in the middle of the restaurant and says “Excuse me everybody. Can I have your attention for a moment?” She points to the woman at the counter and has a warm smile on her face. “This amazing woman has purchased a cupcake for everyone in this restaurant. She is fucking awesome and I wanted everyone to know that.” My co-worker begins to clap, and the restaurant erupts in applause. I’m applauding too. The woman’s kindness melts away my annoyance, my fatigue, my frustration at working these awful hours. It is such a bright spot in a night that has otherwise been a disaster. I begin putting cupcakes on plates, 30 total, asking each customer to come up and pick one. They look like little kids at a birthday party trying to scope out the best slice of cake. I look for the woman who purchased all these cupcakes for complete strangers, only to discover she has already left. My co-worker comes up to me as I’m looking for extra plates. There are tears in her eyes. “That woman wanted to buy everyone cupcakes because she is dying of cancer.” I stop for a moment, take a breath. The problem with waitressing is that you never know who you’re waiting on. It is so easy to misjudge people. The teenagers who I think are going to leave me a nickel end up tipping ten dollars. The man who looks untrustworthy gives me a smile at the end of the night that lets me know he is okay. The woman who won’t stop talking at the counter, making a careful tally of every customer in the restaurant. She wants to buy everyone a cupcake before she goes. So here is to this woman, to her life, to her small act of kindness in the form of 30 cupcakes. She gave me a night at work I will never forget. IMG_2798