Tom (as I shall call him) was adored by our waitress staff. When I say adored, I mean hugs and kisses every time he walked through the door, and he walked through our door every single night. He tipped 30% - 40% every time and often invited the waitresses to sit down with him after their shift so he could buy them a drink. He always sat at the same table, ordered the same cocktail, and was never alone. Half the time his company was a friend his age (early 60's), and the rest of the time it was two or three young women.
To this day I cannot put my finger on what it was about Tom that made me uneasy from the moment I shook his hand. I did not trust him. He'd been dining at this restaurant and bar since I was in elementary school and knew more of the regulars than I did. Well respected and extremely successful in his field, he was liked by everyone. No wife, no kids, but lots and lots of friends.
I had been on the job for one week and had short conversations with him each evening. This particular Saturday night he stayed later than usual. All the customers had left, the music was turned off, and the busboys and I were patiently waiting for Tom's conversation with his buddy to end. I decided to make a quick restroom stop before heading home.
The door that led to the restrooms was narrow, and the waiting area in front of the single stall bathrooms was the size of a closet. When I came out of the lady's room, Tom was there waiting for me. I remember taking a step backwards and feeling even more uncomfortable to be halfway in the bathroom.
"Hey, would you mind giving me a ride home?" he asked.
I learned in the previous days that he lived a few blocks away and that the girls often gave him a lift home. Never in a million years would I ever EVER give some customer a ride home, I said to myself. EVER. I was floored that he was even asking me.
"Oh, I'm so sorry but I really gotta run." I tried to inch myself towards the door to the restaurant but Tom wasn't budging out of the way.
He persisted. "I'm just a few blocks up the street and my friend just took off. It would really help me out."
I don't know what I was thinking or why I said yes, but next thing I knew I was driving Tom up the block in my little two-door sports car. He hadn't stopped talking since the second we left the bathroom and I couldn't stop screaming "you stupid idiot" to myself in my head. To this day I'm still ashamed of not having the courage to say he could find his way home on his own two feet just fine.
When we pulled up in front of his condo and he was still talking away about God knows what. It was midnight. I had tuned out everything he was saying, only able to focus on getting home in one piece. Literally.
Then the car was silent.
"It's been really nice talking with you, Jordan."
"Yeah, sure. See you at the bar." I was short, and serious, and borderline rude. But it didn't not get him any closer to opening his door.
"Actually, there is a coffee shop just up the street that's open until 2:30. Want to go get a cup and talk some more?"
I looked at him like he was out of his mind. "My husband is waiting for me and I need to get home, Tom."
He immediately looked down at my hand, as if to confirm wether I was telling the truth. The expression on his face when he saw my wedding band? Shock. Embarrassment. Exposure. And unforgettable.
"Oh...oh...of course. Thanks for the ride."
He jumped out, waved goodbye, and never asked for a ride from me again.
From then on, anyone who told me he was just a sweet, generous older man who wanted nothing more than a friendship from all the gorgeous single waitresses who drank with him and drove him home, I knew differently.