Morris County Challenger Little League - New Jersey Sports for Children With Disabilities
A | A | A login
Sponsor Us

Your dollars are all tax deductable and keep our league going - Thanks!

UTI Relief Tea


Something for Stevie
Jan 15 2008
Dan Anderson

I try not to be biased, but I had my doubts about hiring Stevie.
His placement counselor assured me that he would be a good,
reliable busboy. But I had never had a mentally handicapped
employee and wasn't sure I wanted one. I wasn't sure how my
customers would react to Stevie. He was short, a little dumpy,
with the smooth facial features and thick-tongued speech of
down syndrome. I wasn't worried about most of my trucker
customers, because truckers don't generally care who buses tables
as long as the meatloaf platter is good and the pies are homemade.
The four-wheeler drivers were the ones who concerned me; the
mouthy college kids traveling to school; the yuppie snobs who
secretly polish their silverware with their napkins for fear of
catching some dreaded "truckstop germ"; the pairs of white-shirted
business men on expense accounts who think every truckstop waitress
wants to be flirted with. I knew those people would be uncomfortable
around Stevie, so I closely watched him for the first few weeks.
I shouldn't have worried. After the first week, Stevie had my staff
wrapped around his stubby little finger, and within a month my trucker
regulars had adopted him as their official truckstop mascot. After that
I really didn't care what the rest of the customers thought of him. He was
like a 21-year-old in blue jeans and Nikes, eager to laugh and eager to
please, but fierce in his attention to his duties. Every salt and pepper
shaker was exactly in its place, not a bread crumb or coffee spill was
visible when Stevie got done with the table. Our only problem was
convincing him to wait to clean a table until after the customers were
finished. He would hover over them then he would scurry to the empty
table and carefully bus the dishes and glasses onto the cart and
meticulously wipe the table up with a practiced flourish of his rag.
If he thought a customer was watching, his brow would pucker with
added concentration. He took pride in doing his job exactly right, and
you had to love how hard he tried to please each and every person he met.
Over time, we learned that he lived with his mother, a widow who was
disabled after repeated surgeries for cancer. They lived on their Social
Security benefits in public housing two miles from the truckstop.
Their social worker, who stopped to check on him every so often,
admitted they had fallen between the cracks. Money was tight, and
what I paid him was the probably the difference between them being
able to live together and Stevie being sent to a group home.
That's why the restaurant was a gloomy place that morning last August,
the first morning in three years that Stevie missed work. He was at the
Mayo Clinic in Rochester getting a new valve or something put in his heart.
His social worker said that people with Down syndrome often had heart
problems at a early age, so this wasn't unexpected, and there was a good
chance he would come through the surgery in good shape and be back at
work in a few months. A ripple of excitement ran through the staff later
that morning when word came that he was out of surgery, in recovery and
doing fine. Frannie, my head waitress, let out a war hoop and did a little
dance the aisle when she heard the good news. Belle Ringer, one of our
regular trucker customers, stared at the sight of the 50-year-old grandmother
of four doing a victory shimmy beside his table. Frannie blushed, smoothed
her apron and shot Belle Ringer a withering look. He grinned. "OK, Frannie,
what was that all about?" he asked. "We just got word that Stevie is out of
surgery and going to be okay!" "I was wondering where he was. I had a new
joke to tell him. What was the surgery about?" Frannie quickly told Belle Ringer
and the other two drivers sitting at his booth about Stevie's surgery, then sighed.
"Yeah, I'm glad he is going to be okay," she said, " but I don't know how he
and his mom are going to handle all the bills. From what I hear, they're barely
getting by as it is. Belle Ringer nodded thoughtfully, and Frannie hurried off
to wait on the rest of her tables. Since I hadn't had time to round up a busboy
to replace Stevie, and really didn't want to replace him, the girls were busing
their own tables that day until we decided what to do. After the morning rush,
Frannie walked into my office. She had a couple of paper napkins in her hand
and a funny look on her face. "What's up?" I asked. "I didn't get that table
where Belle Ringer and his friends were sitting cleared off after they left, and
Pony Pete and Tony Tipper were sitting there when I got back to clean it off,
" she said, " This was folded and tucked under a coffee cup." She handed
the napkin to me, and three $20 bills fell onto my desk when I opened it.
On the outside, in big, bold letters, was printed "Something For Stevie".
"Pony Pete asked me what that was all about," she said, "so I told him about
Stevie and his mom and everything, and Pete looked at Tony and Tony looked
at Pete, and they ended up giving me this." She handed me another paper
napkin that had "Something For Stevie" scrawled on it's outside. Two $50 bills
were tucked within its folds. Frannie looked at me with wet, shiny eyes, shook
her head and said simply "Truckers." That was three months ago. Today is
Thanksgiving, the first day Stevie is supposed to be back to work. His
placement worker said he's been counting the days until the doctor said he
could work, and it didn't matter at all that it was a holiday. He called 10 times
in the past week, making sure we knew he was coming, fearful that we had
forgotten him or that his job was in jeopardy. I arranged to have his mother
bring him to work, met them in the parking lot and invited them both to
celebrate his day back. Stevie was thinner and paler, but couldn't stop
grinning as he pushed through the doors and headed for the back room where
his apron and busing cart were waiting. "Hold up there, Stevie, not so fast, "
I said. I took him and his mother by their arms. "Work can wait for a minute.
To celebrate you coming back, breakfast for you and your mother is on me."
I led them toward a large corner booth at the rear of the room. I could feel and
hear the rest of the staff following behind as we marched through the dining room.
Glancing over my shoulder, I saw booth after booth of grinning truckers empty
and join the possession. We stopped in front of the big table. Its surface was
covered with coffee cups; saucers and dinner plates, all sitting slightly crooked
on dozens of folded paper napkins. "First thing you have to do, Stevie, is clean
up this mess," I said. I tried to sound stern. Stevie looked at me, and then at his
mother, then pulled out one of the napkins. It had "Something for Stevie printed
on the outside. As he picked it up, two $10 bills fell onto the table. Stevie stared
at the money, then at all the napkins peeking from beneath the tableware, each
with his name printed or scrawled on it. I turned to his mother. "There's more
than $10,000 in cash and checks on that table, all from truckers and trucking
companies that heard about your problems. Happy Thanksgiving."
Well, it got real noisy about that time, with everybody hollering and shouting,
and there were a few tears, as well... But you know what's funny?
While everybody else was busy shaking hands and hugging each other,
Stevie, with a big, big smile on his face, was busy clearing all the cups
and dishes from the table... Best worker I ever hired... and.

Bookmark this Article