Unused Story Files Stories – Serving Dinner to a Biker Gang
In my last post, I mentioned having several stories in my Story File that I’d never used in a speech or presentation. I pondered on my blog if there were any points that could be made with these stories.
I mention my personal stories because I’m a firm believer in using personal stories for two reasons in particular. (1) If you tell a personal story, it will be new and fresh to your audience. You know they won’t have just read the same story on the internet before hearing your presentation. (2) Telling a personal story helps build rapport with an audience. As you tell them something that happened to you, they get to know you better and they appreciate you as the speaker opening up. So I advise my clients to find and include personal stories in their presentations.
And of course since I want to practice what I preach, I have my Story File that I refer back to as a way of incorporating stories when I need to make a point or add interest to a presentation. But I haven’t used certain stories in my presentations before because I didn’t think they made a point that would be relevant to my audiences. So I’m planning on using maybe one or two more blog post with you smart folks out there in the world in hopes that you might find the moral that I’m missing in these stories.
Here is the next of my orphaned stories in need of a point. As you read it, think if there are any larger life lessons that might be learned from this story.
And so, I present to you…
Serving Dinner to a Biker Gang
Believe it or not, there is at least one motorcycle gang in Iowa. Not a group of motorcycle enthusiasts like the group my husband Rich and I rode with this weekend (that’s Rich in the foreground of the above picture). But real live, committing illegal-activity type of motorcycle gang, like in the TV show Sons of Anarchy but not made up. In Iowa, the motorcycle gang I know of is called the Sons of Silence.
Attending my junior and senior year of high school in Iowa, I’d heard classmates talking about the Sons of Silence. It sounded pretty scary. But it wasn’t until after I’d graduated from high school and started waitressing at the Truck Stop Café that I had my first personal encounter with members of the Sons of Silence motorcycle gang.
I was 18 and it was my first summer waitressing. The only other waiter I remember working that day was the 20-year-old son of the owner. I don’t remember his name but let’s call him Chris. Chris was tall. I’m guessing 6’ 2” or better. And skinny like guys that age often are. He struck me as being socially awkward but otherwise a nice enough guy. He was working the tables in the back of the restaurant and I was working the front of the restaurant.
The back section was actually the better section to work. The front of the restaurant is where the special table reserved for truckers was located. Only unlike you might assume given it’s name, hardly any truckers ever came and used the reserved truckers table. The rest of the seats in that section were at one of two diner-style counters and then there were a couple of booths with room for 4 people. In the back section were four tables that would sit 6 or more each. Plus a couple of smaller tables for 4. In other words, all the big parties, where the bigger tips came from, sat in the back.
Now my assumption was that Chris, being the son of the owner, got the better section of the restaurant. I don’t know if that’s how things were decided. But I was new and I was OK taking the “easier” section even if it meant smaller tips.
On this fateful afternoon around three, after the lunch crowd was long gone and well before the dinner group would come in, a line of motorcycles drove by the plate glass windows at the front of the restaurant and parked along the east side of the building. It was members of the Sons of Silence gang. There were eight men and two women that entered wearing grungy levis and the tell-tale denim jackets with the Sons of Silence logo emblazoned across their backs. They strolled into the restaurant and headed to the big tables in the back. They swarmed over two of the 6 seat tables which were side by side and spilled over onto one of the 4 seat tables. Even though there were 16 chairs for 10 people, their presences filled the back section.
Chris came over to me, eyes wide. “Do you see that? Do you see that?”
The gang members were boisterously joking with one another and jockeying about for seats.
There was a strange look on Chris’ face. Here was this giant almost a foot taller than me, but I was getting this real, wimpy, sand-in-the-face-at-the-beach type of vibe. So I asked, “Do you want me to take your tables?”
Evidently I’d correctly interpreted whatever I’d seen on Chris’ face because he gladly turned over the waiting duties to me for our new visitors.
Over the next hour or so I got them menus, silverware, and water. I got their drinks, I placed and delivered their orders. I cleared empty plates. I got refills on drinks. The normal things that I did with any customer. My mother taught me to treat all people with respect and so I did. I determined that I’d treat them like any other customer. I was polite. I smiled. I occasionally cracked jokes with some of the members that seemed to have a sense of humor (though that did garner some nasty looks from one of the women in the group). I did my job like I was supposed to.
And nothing bad happened. They ate their meals. They paid their bills. And they left the restaurant. They were like most other customers – except they left no tip. It’s not the first time I’d given good service and received no tip. But I was satisfied because I’d survived to tell the tale of serving dinner to a biker gang.
After they left, Chris came over to me and stammered something like, “I… ah… I…ah I hope you know, I wasn’t scared.” I think I said something like, “Oh, yeah, no, sure.” but I remember thinking, “Ah… yeah, ya were, ya big chicken.” I felt like a tough cookie — little 5 foot 3 inch Kelly wasn’t afraid to serve the people that terrified a guy two years older and nearly a foot taller. (Is it any wonder I went on to join the military?!)
That’s the story. Much taller, slightly older guy – chicken. Tough short chick – served a biker gang. Short chick got no tip.
What life lessons, if any, can you take from this story? How might the life lesson be applied in another context? Any thoughts? Please add them to the comments section!