image courtesy

image courtesy

I was spreading ink above the light green lines on my yellow legal pad of paper in a quaint restaurant in our community when I heard, “I’m so sorry to bother you, but I have a huge favor to ask you,” she said warmly, lowering her head between her shoulders slightly with an awkward and genuine smile.

It was out of the norm for the manager of my favorite writing restaurant to be asking me questions outside the normal, “How was your meal today?”, type of ones. I’m a regular and with enough time, in this case, a couple of years, folks get to know each other in their community.

Most of the employees at the friendly neighborhood restaurant I know by name and vice versa. We know things about each other; marital status, kids, and occupation type of information.

“I know you’re a contractor and I was hoping you could take a look at a problem we’re having in our kitchen?” she asked.

“Sure,” I answered, set my favorite pen down and followed her into the guts of the french style eatery. Things always look different from the inside out, not nearly as orderly as you’d think. The computerized meal ticket screen that tells the chefs what to cook, right smack next to the searing heat lamps, was mounted too high for the vertically challenged chefs to reach and respond.

The mounting bracket had three massive screws in the clamp part of the bracket and someone had almost completely stripped the soft chrome screws. I stood on the chair that the person before me who had failed stood to assess the problem in the sweltering kitchen… This at the place where I go when I get the rare down time to get some writing done…

“You gotta screwdriver?” I asked the manager.

“Sure!” she said enthusiastically and disappeared. She reappeared a long few minutes later and handed me a tiny phillips head screwdriver.

“That’s why the screws are stripped,” I told her, “Do you have a regular slotted screwdriver?” I asked.

“Sure!” she answered and vanished again.

“She put you to work, huh?” some of the employees asked chuckling.

“I’m workin’ off my meal,” I told them.

The manager showed back up with what looked like a toy screwdriver, “That’s not big enough – It needs to be a wide and thicker head… let me check my truck,” I told her with little hope of having the proper tools that I try not to carry anymore…

I fished out a dusty slotted screwdriver that was about half the size I needed out of my driver’s side door compartment. By the time I wrestled the damaged screws loose enough with my undersized screwdriver to slide the monitor down, the heat lamps had me cooking like a Thanksgiving turkey. The manager graciously handed me a towel to dry myself off with.

“Thank you so much!” the manager said as I was leaving the kitchen, “Your next meal is on us!” she added.

Community isn’t always convenient. I suppose if I kept to myself and was short and grouchy with the folks I see often they’d never bother me by asking for help. But that’s not what we’re called to or designed for, not to mention the gratification that comes from helping others, even if in small ways, we’d be missing out on.

When I got back to my table I spotted my pen sitting on the floor underneath the not perfectly level table. I picked it up and noticed the delicate tip smashed sideways…

I’m not sayin’ community is always convenient…