When I was nineteen, I was a college bus boy at The Magic Pan Restaurant in the higher-end Woodland Hills Promenade.
They did quite a lunch business, and we were always in a rush. At the end of every shift, my most important responsibility was to melt down the ice in the large built-in metal chest we used to fill the water glasses. The risk, of course, was that during the rush of serving, a piece of broken glass might be scooped up into a glass of ice.
The Magic Pan had a main dining room and the Garden Room separated by the bar and foyer, and each had their own built-in metal ice chest. I was working the main dining room one Friday afternoon and, having received permission to leave early, was looking forward to the concert I had tickets for that night. I asked Dave, the busboy from the Garden Room, if he would melt down my ice when he left. "Sure," he said. So off I went, without a care in the world.
That changed quickly when I returned for my Saturday shift, and the usually friendly bartender Kenny looked at me like I was a dead man walking. Keith, the assistant manager, gave me the same look. They said Zora, the manager, wanted to see me and walked me off, as if to the gallows, or in this case her office.
I quickly surmised that Dave, the ratfink other busboy, had not melted my ice! Zora was known to be tough, and I thought for sure I was going to be fired or at least chewed out.
We walked into her office and stood waiting, as she finished signing a report. Zora looked up at me, and I still remember those cool blue eyes. As she was about to speak, I asked, "May I say something?" Startled, she said, "Yes."
I said, "Before you say anything, I'd just like to say that I know why you called me in here. I am sorry for what happened, it's entirely my fault, and it will never happen again."
Zora looked at me for a moment in silence and said, "Okay." It's funny, Zora spoke only two words in that brief meeting, but that was enough for me. I walked out and went back to work and never heard another word about it.
It wasn't like I had some big plan to say what I said. I had no plan, as it all happened so quickly. But looking back on it, clearly, I had said the right thing. I took responsibility for my actions, apologized and didn't try to blame anyone else. And making a firm commitment that I would never do it again, which I kept, not only built their confidence in me, but saved my job too.