The scene was exhilarating, maddening, memorable. Dinnertime in the city. A wall of windows reflected the setting sun over Atlanta’s lazy Chattahoochee River. The silverware sparkled. The music was sweet. My whole family was finally together in one place, all of us, together again! We gathered to celebrate my beautiful little sister’s graduation from college. We were all so proud, beaming with sheer joy, laughing and pouring the wine and drinking in the moment’s wonder.
I, however, was sorely distracted.
My baby son was squirming in my arms, pulling on my fancy dress, and yelping incomprehensible phrases. It was past his bedtime, and he was tired and hungry. I did my best to contain him while we were seated at our white-clothed table, but to no avail. What’s a mom to do?
As the waiter approached the table, I was so distracted by Everett eating the crayons and throwing the appetizer that I didn’t take a moment to look at the menu. However, instead of rolling his eyes and (not so subtly) judging me for bringing a baby into this hoity-toity joint, our kind waiter just smiled and said, “Ma’am, please take your time.”
Whew. Take my time? Don’t mind if I do. I almost asked him if I could take my time in the form of a 20-minute break at the bar while he played patty cake with my baby. Don’t worry, I only thought it.
The meal came out and it was spectacular. The chef made Everett something special since there was no children’s menu, and he ate and ate and ate. Like the rest of us. This restaurant wasn’t an Atlanta landmark for no reason. Each morsel, taste, spoonful, and decadent bite was rich with flavor. Even my little boy had calmed into a food stupor for a few moments, so I actually had a chance to enjoy my half-glass of wine and laugh with my sisters.
It was a moment of perfection. The wait staff was so discreet that I hardly noticed when they whisked away a plate, refilled a beverage, and let me keep our mess of baby food and teething toys and sippy cups in my quadrant of the table. We toasted to my sister’s future over and over again. The glowing eyes of my loved ones encircled my periphery, and I felt like the luckiest lady in the world.
When Everett got fussy, the host suggested that a walk through the garden might calm the baby down. He escorted me through the French doors that led to a riverbank path. The outdoor space was peaceful and green and he was enamored by the simple beauties. The tall tomato plants amused him, the fat bell peppers made him laugh and the cranes skimming the top of the water had a hypnotizing effect. As the sun took its final plunge into the river, I knew that this place was the right choice to celebrate such a special occasion, due to both the excellent cuisine and the fact that I didn’t feel like a complete nuisance to the wait staff. In fact, I felt so cared for, when I would normally be feeling frantic and out of control.
I am so grateful that a restaurant as esteemed as this would train its staff to treat all guests with such an incredible amount of attention and care. This place didn’t need my business, but they made me feel like a priority in an environment that was a challenge for my large family with multiple children along for the ride.
This encounter makes me think about how I treat others, especially those who have different situations than mine. Sometimes I don’t take enough time to consider how I can be of service. I tend to drive impatiently, tap my foot while I wait in line, eat in a hurry and talk on my phone while I’m doing ten things at once. But if I took just a bit of extra time to emulate our kind waiter by making those around me feel like they could take their time in my presence, well, how much better would people feel? A lot, probably. A whole lot better.
Thank you, Canoe. Your distinct excellence inspires me to approach others with the same sensitivity and respect that you showed me. And thank you for making me feel cared for by approaching family dining as just that – a special memory for the entire family.
Want to meet purveyors who are making a difference with their customers? Check out BonAppetit.com’s “Out of the Kitchen”, an ongoing exploration of the relationships that build and sustain the food industry. See how hyper-local food markets operate and how their focus on quality and service keep customers coming back for more.
Many thanks to Epicurious for sponsoring this post.