[I also posted this over at the ashram. Shameless!]
Last Friday John, Miranda and I joined our mailman for lunch at the nearby Buffalo Wild Wings. He was being transferred to another route, and since we've become something of friends over the last seven years, we treated him to a going-away burger and fries. It was yummy; Miranda even had a few finger-licks of the Medium wing sauce. She's a trooper.
This restaurant has become important to John. It was just about 4 years ago, when John was still new to our home, that he decided one night to go out and watch the Kentucky basketball game. This surprised Billy and me, as he was not in the habit of frequenting large, noisy places. But go he did, and he kept going back. For the first year, he sat on a stool next to the register, watching sports and accepting the occasional gift of free fries and Sprite. When he started getting an income, he moved to a table near the bar and increased his orders to "wings and wedges" and the occasional cheesecake (or two). He's watched more NBA, NCAA, MLB, and other stuff than I can imagine. He loves going there; it's his place.
The best thing about the story is twofold. First, the staff has always extended the most gracious of welcomes to John. They never (as far as I know) questioned his nightly seat by the bar, never said "order or get out of here." They seemed to sense his need for a space of his own, a place to come and relax (and get away from his nagging housemate -- I'm just saying). He's become one of the regulars, and that's due entirely to their hospitality.
Second -- and this struck me during our good-bye lunch last week, although I've noticed it before -- the people there really like John. They are glad to see him come in, and seem to offer an extra level of friendliness. During our brief lunch, they (mostly the pretty coed waitresses) called him "hon", "buddy", "sweetie", and simply his name, John. They know what he orders, where he likes to sit, what he likes to watch. He is known to them, and they like him. And when I asked the manager and staff about possibly hosting a surprise party for John's 40th birthday this March, they all said, virtually without exception, "For John, we'll make it happen."
I'm not especially surprised. John is friendly and easy to like. But not everyone goes out of their way to make people feel welcome, and the fact that they do makes me happy. John's dealt with some serious stuff in his life; he deserves a place where he knows they'll be happy to see him. And don't we all? So here's to you, Buffalo Wild Wings, for showing us how to turn strangers into friends.