Where was I?
JD and Katie sat on one bench while Elena and I sulked on the other. From inside the courtyard of the restaurant the sounds of tables being moved around and the tinkle of glassware and cutlery being placed reached our ears.
None of us were talking to each other.
Finally the door to the outdoor patio was rolled back and a big burly guy looked at us and said, “Do you have reservations?”
Of course we didn’t.
“No problem!” he said. “Just give us a moment.”
Not long after one of the waiters popped out and said, “Hello! Welcome and come right in!” His smile stretched from ear to ear and he appeared not to notice that he was working with the Family McCrabby.
He showed us to our table and gave us some water. He asked if we had ever eaten there before and when we said no he smiled even bigger. He took one look at Elena’s sulky face and cocked an eyebrow my way.
“She’s not so sure about Indian food.” I said lamely.
“No problem! I’m going to make sure she loves it by the time you leave!”
There was a table set for twenty right by us. Obviously a party of some sort was going to show up any minute. Somehow that only made me feel grouchier. It probably just meant that we’d get little attention and our food would take forever.
Our waiter took the bull by the horn. He asked a few questions about what we liked and didn’t and then he made some suggestions. By then, he was starting to win us over and we just put ourselves in his hands. He brought JD and I a refreshing beverage, the girls a soda and then proceeded to bring us some of the best Indian food I’ve ever had. There was some bites of chicken alongside a salad that had us all dueling with our forks to get the last bite. He made things just spicy enough to make things interesting without making us hurt. The butter chicken was delicious and the chana masala a wonder. We ate every bite, scraping the last of the food off the plates with the tender naan. Elena was smiling, JD and I were speaking again and Katie was no longer fearful of being collateral damage.
He brought creamy rice pudding and mango ice cream for dessert and we again fought over the last drops of each.
By this time, the table to our right was beginning to fill up. We identified the birthday boy and by the time we were ready to leave, they looked like they would be such fun that Katie walked over to them and said “Happy Birthday!” and I asked what we had to do to get invited to such a fun party.
We left smiling and happy. We got into the next show and laughed a lot. And on the way back to the subway we walked back by the restaurant where the party was still in full swing and our waiter was standing outside taking a little break. He broke into another smile and we told him again how much we had enjoyed the meal and how he had made a lover of Indian food out of Elena. We waved goodbye and walked away.
What I wish I had let him know is what he did in our lives by his kindness. That he changed the course of what was on track to be a very bad day and made it into one that we will always remember.
The day that a waiter with an infectious smile made all the difference.