My two favorite words in the English language are “Free” and “Food.” When put together, these two words are even better!
Sometimes a customer will show me their kindness and gratitude by giving me a cash tip. Sometimes they will ask me to stop for coffee and offer to buy one for me as well, which is very nice of them. Sometimes they ask me to stop for a meal and invite me join them. That’s the best scenario of all.
I have three separate true stories that were especially pleasant and memorable for me in their own special way.
Grandma’s Birthday Party
It was a Saturday afternoon and I was scheduled to pick up a woman and drive her to a restaurant in South Jersey. This was a “wait and return” ride, where I was supposed to wait in my car outside of the restaurant and then drive her back home.
As soon as she got into my car, she started chatting away, telling me all about herself and her family. I told her my life story, which took about 7 minutes and 23 seconds.
By the end of the ride to the restaurant, she had decided to adopt me as her third grandson. I was flattered.
She told me she had just turned 90, and this special event was a dinner and birthday party in her honor.
When we got to the restaurant, I handed her my card and told her I would wait right outside the restaurant for the two or three hours for her to enjoy dinner and cake with her family and many admirers.
She told me quite firmly, “You will do nothing of the sort! You’re not going to sit out here in the cold while I’m inside the restaurant enjoying time with my family. You’re going to join us for the party!”
After doing a Ralph Kramden imitation (“Humina, Humina, Humina”), I gratefully accepted. Dinner was great and the birthday party was fun. She even tried to set me up with one of her granddaughters!
The Visiting Professor
I picked up this kind gentleman at Newark Airport, whose destination was Princeton University, where he is a Visiting Professor. He explained to me that, although he was born and raised in New Jersey, he lives in Chicago.
As we got onto the New Jersey Turnpike heading South for Exit 9, he asked me, “Do you know what I could really go for right now?”
I told him I didn’t know.
“A sack of cheeseburger sliders from White Castle!” he said.
He told me that he would treat if we passed one on our way to Princeton University. I was on board with this plan. We found it just off Route 1 South and had a fantastic, artery-clogging lunch. That was a great time!
The Very Kind Couple
I had the pleasure of driving a kind husband and wife into Manhattan for a medical procedure in mid-January. I picked them up at 5:30am and brought them back home to New Jersey at 4:00pm for a wait & return.
I did not wait in my car while they were in the hospital, but went inside with them to make sure they were comfortable. They kindly paid for parking so I could join them during this stressful time.
As we left Manhattan and crossed the George Washington Bridge, this kind couple said they wanted to thank me by including me in their plans for a late lunch. We went to the Chit Chat diner restaurant in West Orange. What a great place! I had the Bison Burger, which was awesome!
After this memorable meal, I drove them home. As I helped them to the front door of their house, the kind woman gave me a beautiful card and inside it was a $100 bill.
The moral of this story is always be grateful for the little things in life, like time spent with kind people… and enjoy a free meal now and again, if the opportunity arises!