All in the smile

Almost everyday, people will comment on one of my more unusual qualities--that I smile all the time. Aside from those few brief moments in a dental chair or during a pap smear, I try to keep a smile on my face. Not a big toothy grin, mind you--just a pleasant expression of happiness.

I find that smiling makes me feel happier. It calms me. And, to be honest, there are very few things that get under my skin in such a way as to affect my disposition.

There are lots of reasons for my smiling nature. Most of the reasons can be traced to less than sunny origins. As a girl, I purposefully smiled to please my parents and to reflect a good-girl persona. Later, I learned that smiling hid many a flaw and hurt feelings. The fact is that people really don't pay close attention to someone who seems perfectly happy. So long as I smile and say, "I'm fine." People don't question me no matter what is going on my life. Basically, my smile is a wall and defense mechanism. And, it has protected me from both close scrutiny and negative attention.

Smiling is also great way to foster good relationships with my customers at the pub. A smiling, friendly waitress contributes to a positive dining experience and generates business. But, it has also generated interest in something else--me. Single, male customers have often misinterpreted my friendliness as a sign of something more.

I am not always aware of the impact of my friendly nature. It's not as if customers are overt or outright in their interest in me. And, by the time, I do realize that my customer has become interested, it's often after weeks, sometimes months.

Take for instance, John, a regular to a weekly pub quiz on Tuesday nights. Every week for the last several months, I have served John and his fellow quiz team members. And, after months of waitressing at John's table, I've come to expect several things. I expect that John will order an entree and afterwards will provide commentary on poor portion size. He will drink at least four Jack Daniels and Sprites over the course of the 2 hour quiz. Sometimes, like every table that I serve, I will feed John and his team the answers to some for the trivia questions. And,as I expect, John's team never wins a round.

However, two weeks ago John did something that I didn't expect. He called the pub looking for my number and after the hostess refused him, John left his number for me. Then the following Wednesday evening, John called the pub, got me on the phone, and asked me out for Thursday night.

"Uh, I'm sorry. I already have plans for Thursday." I responded.
"That's ok," John replied. "I had a rare Thursday night off and thought I'd ask."

What I didn't tell John in our brief phone conversation was that my plans for that night included Max, my boyfriend of just over 70 days. In all my months of waitressing, John had never asked whether I was dating. And, stunned by his sudden invitation, I neglected to use the phone call as an opportunity to tell John that I had a boyfriend. For some reason, I felt it kinder to mention it when I saw him in person.

After we hung up, I went over my few interactions with John outside of the pub quiz. Months and months ago after pub quiz ended, John stayed one time with the other waitresses and me for a drink after work. He and I chatted about the restaurant business. As it turns out, John bartends part-time bar and owns his own catering company. I'd like to own a cafe of my own some day. One time without my prompting, John brought me a bottle of his special-recipe barbeque sauce, which he markets at retail outfits. On other occasion, John talked of his ex-wife and two children. And because I wasn't dating anyone at the time, I talked about my busy but happily independent life after divorce. John also donated to St. Baldrick's. He showed up for my head-shaving. Then, once I was bald, John joined me and a couple other waitresses for a much needed post-shaving drink.

This was the extent of our interactions. I thought us friendly and casual, but never would I have suspected John saw it an anything more. Was I being naive?

I find these customer interactions awkward. Restaurants provide a somewhat forced social occasion for the people who work in the business. Being friendly and taking interest are part of the job description for both waitresses and bartenders. We cater and entertain our customers in appropriate ways. I wasn't actively pursuing a new friendship with John. I was being nice to a friendly man, my regular customer.

Still I feel guilty. I wonder how to approach John the next time I serve him? And, any advice on avoiding this situation in the future?


JustJunebug said...

ah well....during my brief 8 months as a bartender, i found the following to be true.

men think that women bartenders (and quite possibly waitresses in bars) are easy. they are wispy and free. they are not what you would bring home to mom. and so on. at least thats my take on it.

i could be wrong. wouldnt be the first time.

as far as your questions...1) tell him you have a boyfriend (even if you didnt) and 2) tell them you have a boyfriend (even if you dont) or be a bitch. but then again that seemed to just make them flirt more...

good luck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

3rdtimesacharm( 3T ) said...

I think JustJunebug has it right. Just tell him you have a boyfriend that you are committed to. I don't think you shuld feel guilty Diane. If a man interprets your friendliness for something other than friendliness that isn't your fault. And I wouldn't make a big deal out of it. I'd just let it slip in some future conversation something about your boyfriend. Not necessarily bringing up his invitation unless he does. It spares his pride, and will keep a good regular customer. Just my two cents, for what it's worth. ;-)


Jaws said...

I have to admit I have a hard time with these things so I try and find ways to work in hints.

I would just treat him as you always have. Then with the questions.. I would answere the next question starting with a .. "Well my Boyfriend always says blah blah. So thats how I will answere too."

I am horrible at this stuff though.

zerodoll said...

random boyfriend references work charms.