When I was in college I worked in a restaurant in the Blanchardstown Centre. Kays Kitchen. I worked the cash register part-time for two and a half years. They were good peoples, the majority. One or two dickheads but you're going to get that anywhere, aren't you? (Apart from in my current job. I love them all apparently.)
Kays was good to me. The owner, Bernie, a friend of a friend of my mam's, took me in and gave me shelter and free chicken nuggets. ALL I could eat!
The staff was generally made up of people from the area, decent skins who couldn't understand why I was taking two buses from Glasnevin to sit on my ass, taking abuse from customers and firing out 5p coins like they were going out of fashion. I told them, like I just told you, I was just in it for the nuggets. And the occasional cottage cheese and pineapple tartlet.
Anyway, I got thinking on two separate incidents tonight. Two acts of kindness that stuck with me.
The first was on a busy Saturday afternoon. The chicken kievs were selling like hot cakes, the hot cakes were selling like hot cakes, I was sweating like hot cakes. Hot cakes fucking everywhere!
A woman and her young child approached. They were getting a dinner and a dessert each for a combined total of thirteen Irish pounds and fifty pence. The woman realised, to her dismay, that she didn't have any cash on her.
I was in a bind. I would have loved to tell her to eat up and come back later with the money, but the day manager was standing over me and I had to hold firm. No money, no food.
The next person in the queue spoke up.
"Excuse me... hello... excuse me... I'd like to offer to pay for this lady's food."
The woman who had forgotten her purse graciously accepted the offer of kindness, and shuffled off. I didn't charge the next lady for her coke, unbeknownst to Hawkeye counting her takings nearby. She'd saved someone from embarrassment in front of her child, and I was happy to have witnessed it.
The second story is a dinger.
An old tramp lady - let's call her 'Louise' - used to come in from time to time. Bernie took a shine to her, and told the day manager that whenever she appeared she was to eat for free.
Louise would never take the piss. She'd just go for a scone and a cup of tea. The girls on the floor would make a fuss of her. I'd carry her tray over.
One evening in particular she was sitting down, eating and sipping. It was a quiet evening as I recall. I served a girl at the register who stood out as a fine, fine thing to me. I flirted a little bit, again with the free ketchup, before she took her seat next to Louise.
I took no more notice of them until the girl came over to me, somewhat cagily.
"Sorry, look, I bought a slice of cake from you. I'm not going to eat it now but I'd like that old lady beside me to have it. It hasn't been touched.
"The thing is, I don't want to seem like I'm taking pity on her."
Having fallen in love ever so slightly, I told her I'd get one of the girls to clear her table, and then bring the cake back out as a gift from the sweet counter.
The girl walked out and I was pissed off I never got the courage up to ask her how her French orals went in secondary school. Oh, and Louise loved the cake.