|Photo: Alex Proimos|
“You got a great spot today,” the male employee said to her. He looked to be 24 or 25. “Right up front.”
She spoke in such a hushed tone that I couldn’t hear anything she said.
Once she got outside, the employee stayed with her, helping her into her car that was parked at a 45-degree angle. I slid into my van, which was parked close by. I couldn’t help but watch.
They chatted for a couple of minutes and then he placed one of his hands on her shoulder as they said goodbye. It made me want to go shake his hand, or go tell his manager about this tender act of mercy. But I got the feeling that this was a common occurrence. Apparently she is a regular. And why wouldn’t she be with service like that?
My mind raced to fill in the gaps of her story.
Is she a widow whose only regular contact with people is at Village Inn? Is she stressed out, thinking about the day she will no longer be able to drive to the restaurant, church or the grocery store? Who will be there for her when that day comes? Are her days of independent living coming to an end, causing her to savor Saturdays like this one in which she can still drive to her favorite restaurant to enjoy her favorite meal that always ends with a nice chat with the employee who goes the extra mile with her?
Two nights later, I was in a different Village Inn with my mom. When we walked in, a woman was seated in the lobby with a walker in front of her. She was waiting for a ride.
“Your cab is here,” said a female employee who has worked at the restaurant for 10 years.
The woman began the laborious process of gathering her things.
“Take your time,” the employee said. “I’ll go tell the driver that you are on your way.”
She came back in and the rustling behind me said she was helping the woman gather her things.
Two beautiful acts of mercy in two restaurants in the same chain across town from one another. Who says chain restaurants can’t have a homey, personal touch?