When an overworked manager received a complaint from a customer about a fellow patron’s child who was being too loud, he headed to the table to talk to the mom. He hoped he could convince her to quiet her kid, but instead, it became a night he’ll never forget when the flustered mom had a different idea.
Tony Posnanski had been a restaurant manager for fifteen years on the night he received a complaint about a woman and child who were sitting at table 9 in his restaurant. He was very busy that evening, trying to make sure everything ran smoothly.
“I was running around helping the kitchen cook food,” he admitted. In the midst of trying to do a million things, he was asked to talk to a table close to the mom and her little girl. The table had a complaint about the child. She was being very loud.
As Tony talked to the unhappy customers, he heard yelling coming from the table they were upset about. In order to address the guest’s complaint, Tony began to walk toward the mom’s table, and he could tell the mother already knew what he was going to ask since she had seen the table he just spoke with pointing at her and her daughter.
The mom decided she would get the first word. So, as soon as Tony approached, she looked at him and blurted out, “Do you know what it is like to have a child with Autism?” She wasn’t being rude when she asked the question. According to Tony, she was “quite sincere,” and he realized her daughter couldn’t have been more than five years old.
“She was beautiful and looked scared that I was at the table. She looked like she thought she was in trouble,” he recalled. That’s when reality smacked Tony in the face. “In fifteen years I do not have a lot of memorable moments as a restaurant manager,” he admitted.
“However, I do remember everything about the day my son was born. How I cried when I heard him cry. How I stood there and told him I would do anything for him and be the best father possible,” Tony said. “I remember the day I married my wife. How I cried and promised to be the best husband possible. I remember the day my daughter was born. I did not cry that day. I was just so relieved because I lost a child two years earlier.”
Tony knew he was supposed to politely tell the woman to please keep her daughter quiet or offer to move her to another area. But, just like the flustered mom, he had a much different idea this time. Tony told her that he hoped her meal was awesome, he high fived her daughter, and then, he told the woman that their meal was on him that night.
“It was only sixteen dollars. It meant more to me than that. I do not think the other guests I spoke to were happy about it. At that moment it did not matter to me,” Tony explained. He doesn’t know how the mom reacted because he immediately headed back to the kitchen to cook, thankful for what the mother said to him, even though he did not answer it then. She gave him a great restaurant memory, “One that I needed for the last fifteen years,” he said.
“The truth is I do not know what it is like to have a child with Autism,” he later admitted, but added, “I know what it is like to be a father… I know what it is like to want to spend more time with his children.” And, obviously, he knows how to have empathy for another human being, who’s clearly facing their own struggles.
Because the woman asked the question right away, Tony knew she had been through this before and he did not want to be like other managers and tell this exhausted woman the same thing she always heard. As he bestowed a gift of understanding on the mom, he was the one who received a valuable lesson: “Sometimes doing the right thing does not make everyone happy; just the people who need it the most.”