S. W. Vaughn here, slipping out of character for a post to bring you a message that I believe needs to be heard.
In the front pages of nearly every novel, there is a dedication. Most of them are short and to-the-point; many are somewhat cryptic, particularly the ones that simply read "For [name]." I’ve often wondered what I’ll write in my own dedication, because there are so many people I’m grateful to for various reasons, it would be impossible to single out just one.
Last week, I decided on my first dedication, and I’d like to share the story with you.
I work nights at McDonalds. Yes, it’s true – writing does not pay the bills – but that’s another story. On Friday night, our busiest of the week, I was working the front counter. A man walked in right around 9 p.m. and asked if there was a limit on the number of double cheeseburgers he could buy. We told him there wasn’t, and he ordered 20 of them, along with two other sandwiches.
Normally, we would balk and mutter under our breaths (and call the customer names after he left) at such a big order, so late at night. By 9 p.m. we’re already looking toward closing the store – breaking things down, washing dishes, and generally hoping the customer flow will die down so we can try to get home some time before midnight. For some reason that night, though, we were galvanized by the challenge. Twenty double cheeseburgers! What fun! We joked with the customer, shifted into high production mode, and had his order ready in five minutes.
It took three bags. The manager and I packed everything in regular bags, and then salad bags (plastic with handles) to make it easier for the customer to carry. The manager headed for the back of the store to get stock, and I presented the order – but the customer didn’t leave. Instead, he pulled out more money, and I thought he’d decided to order something else.
He asked how many people were working that night. It took me and the other front person a few tries to come up with the right number – five crew, one manager – because that’s not a typical customer question. The customer proceeded to count out five twenties and a ten, and told me to give twenty dollars to each crewperson, and ten to the manager.
I stammered a lot, and finally managed to spit out a thank you. The customer smiled, and said, “I’ve been where you are, and I know what it’s like. I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate what you do.”
By the time I recovered enough to pass out the money, the customer had left the store. Our two grill people and the drive-thru person were just as stunned, and craned to get a glimpse of the man who’d just tipped us all about as much money as we’d make in wages that night, for a single order that cost him a grand total of $26. But it was too late – in true Good Samaritan style, the man had decided that the simple knowledge of what he’d done was enough for him.
One by one, after we got over the shock and amazement, the stories began to come out. One of the guys had been trying to figure out how he was going to be able to put gas in his car. One girl had been taking on extra hours because she’d only been scheduled a few days that week, but hadn’t had much luck because all the other crew needed their hours too. As for myself, I’d had an unforeseen expense that left me so broke, I didn’t think I’d be able to buy any more kerosene (which we currently use to heat the house) until the following Friday. The man’s gift had been incredibly timely – almost as if he’d known which time and which crew needed him most.
If you’d gone to our McDonalds after 9 p.m. that Friday night, you would have received the best fast food service you’d ever seen in your life. We’d been infected with the joy of knowing that there is good in people, and small miracles still exist in the world. That night, we didn’t hate our jobs. We weren’t just following procedures and going through the motions, marking our time because we needed the paychecks. We were feeding people who didn't have time to cook, and some of them appreciated it.
Here’s how my dedication is going to read:
To the man who walked into a McDonalds at 9:03 p.m. on a Friday night, ordered 20 double cheeseburgers and two Crispy Classic sandwiches (with no tomato), and tipped five crew people $20 apiece because you’d been where we are – from one of the crew, who appreciates your gift far more than you’ll ever know.
One day, I want to be like you.