From Redditor u/BlaisePascal1123
Setting: Miami Beach, FL. late 2009. Seafood Bar and Grill (like a Key West version of a sports bar).
I had this 40 something, sweet as pie, creative and smart regular who would come in with his elderly mother every Sunday and ask to be seated with me. We'll call him Jimmy. He was certainly on the spectrum, but a genius in his own right. He was a very talented painter (I'm sure he still is).
Every Sunday, Jimmy would be sitting at my table greeting me with a honest to goodness smile. Between managing tasks for them and other tables, I'd have incredible conversations with Jimmy about the universe and physics. About mathematics and art. I was very happy to have met such a great customer. I could tell he thoroughly enjoyed the company of a server who, one, didn't find him strange and off putting, and two, who could keep up with his favorite topics of conversation. I had just started studying mathematics in college at about this time, and I'm also on the spectrum (but was undiagnosed at the time). I very much looked forward to seeing them each week.
After about a year of this he one day excitedly announced that his sister from NY was coming into town and that he's told her all about me and he can't wait to introduce us. He's convinced I'll love her (and I didn't doubt him).
So, next week comes around and now there are three sitting at my table! I can see this thin, elegant yet earthy woman with GORGEOUS wild curly hair. Jimmy introduces her as Patty.
She's oozing with charisma, and she definitely had a NY attitude--short, to the point, no bs-- but she was, you could instantly tell, very caring. Also intimidatingly smart... not like the dreamy, colorful, wooey science stuff Jimmy and I liked (getting wide eyed and excited to be able to speculate the implications of the double slit experiment)(though I'm sure she knew all about that stuff too), but like... Savvy.
Jimmy had been keeping up with my progress in school since around the time I had started. This was between semesters, and he knew that I picked 4 exciting classes for the following semester. More than I had ever put on my plate before. He had asked me about how I felt now that the semester was coming up.
I was fresh 19, no financial aide, no student loans, living on my own, working two serving jobs to pay rent and tuition. I was poor af. Sure, I picked those classes... But, really I was just hoping against hope that I could come up with the $1200 I needed to pay for them. The deadline was fast approaching and I had, just days before this conversation with Jimmy, Patty and their mom, made the decision to drop one, if not two, of the classes so that I could afford the semester.
Smiling and embarrassed, I told him that I'd be dropping a couple of the classes. He gave a frown and an 'aww' and I had to scamper off to go do server stuff.
Between the refills and the food drop offs and the cleanups, we all just continue chit chatting. Patty casually asked how much my 4 class semester was going to run me. I told her, not thinking anything if it. The conversation naturally moved on.
I run off again to serve other tables and I come back to their table towards the end of the meal. Gabbing continues when Patty extends her hand out to me... with a piece of paper. Instinctually, I grab it and... It's a check...
I try and give it back, tears in my eyes, she's not smiling-- but I can tell she's perfectly happy-- and adamantly refuses to take it back. NY no BS in full swing. I can tell she's serious. And I just sloppily thank her and run into the kitchen because all of a sudden my knees are Jell-O. I plop on the floor on my butt and sobb. Other staff are running towards me concerned and I can barely tell them that it's not anything bad, that in fact it's incredible, through the crying. Eventually, I gather myself and I gave her a bit better of a thank you, and said goodbye.
I paid for and took all four classes. Passed all of them with a perfect A. I bought a graphing calculator and a laptop too. I'm not a mathematician yet, but I'm working on it. And I'm not rich yet, but the moment I can afford to make this kind of impact on someone else, I will.
Thanks, Patty... <3