Is kindness on the menu?

I like to have breakfast out.
I indulge myself every few weeks with this special kind of treat and though I am quite capable of frying up eggs and bacon at home, it is more about the outing than the food, of being with friends and sharing stories and laughter and sometimes sharing worries and pain.
Since my recent move, my friends and I gather in a small village halfway between us in a little diner.
The diner is clean, the food is good and not too expensive, a suitable destination for our meet-up, except for one small detail: the waitress. She is efficient, the wait is brief, her service succinct.
She may have been a sprinter in a past life or her last job may have involved herding cattle, I can’t be sure.
Her training may have been provided by Elections Canada or the Ministry of Motor Vehicles, where she was advised, like Dragnet’s Joe Friday to provide “just the facts, Ma’am, just the facts”, though in full disclosure Jack Webb supposedly never uttered those instructions, but still.
The only waitressing experience I have is serving fowl dinners at my church or breakfasts at the Lion’s Club, but I really enjoyed those experiences. I have been witness to the eating-out public treating servers badly and I know it is not an easy job.
When I was little my dad would sometimes take me to the Rainy Lake Hotel for supper where I would invariably have fish with Lyonnaise potatoes in a little saucer on the side.
I was not a fan of the humble potato, but I did so love the potatoes at the Rainy Lake Hotel.
Those outings were precious in my mind, my dad and I together in our own conversation and I felt like a grown-up when my feet didn’t even reach the floor from my chair.
What struck me then and I remember now is the friendliness of the waitresses in that dining room, specifically Mrs. Pihulak. “Lil,” my father called her.
I was shy, but she spoke directly to me when asking what I would have, knowing full well I never veered from the fish.
She taught me the importance of being friendly to strangers and friends alike, to add that personal touch that made it an adventure.
She was friendly to everyone, with the kind of smile and energy that said you are one of us. She did what few people seem to strive for.
She made life better for those dining out. She couldn’t erase the worries or stress, but she certainly put it on the back burner as a pause, a respite.
I would state with certainty that Mrs. Pihulak made the world a nicer place for everyone she encountered in her dining rooms, no matter where that dining room was.
The waitress at the diner hurries, hurries when there is no real need.
I’m sure she does a good job and her employer is happy to have her, but it would be so nice if I didn’t feel like I must gulp my food.
Trust me, I need no encouragement in that regard.
If she were to pause and smile it would make such a difference. Mrs. Pihulak could have taught her a thing or two, could have taught us all.
wendistewart@live.ca

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