I had been wanting to check out this soon-to-be-opened Asian restaurant for a while. It looked small and simple and when I finally saw the OPEN neon sign flashing, I made my way there immediately.
As we walked in and eventually sat down un-escorted, I had the thought that it may have been wiser to wait a week for the new owners to turn on the neon sign. There were unfinished patches on the walls as well as a notable absence of staff in the dining room. After about 15 minutes, a couple who had came in when we did decided to walk out.
We waited another ten minutes and then I ducked my head inside a curtain to let someone know we were there. In the small kitchen, a man and a woman were rushing around and as the woman followed me back to my seat, she explained that they did not yet have sushi, that this would happen next week, and that the waitress had not shown up on her first day at work.
Her accent was hard for me to understand but I recognized and remembered that mix of excitement about opening day being finally here, about the dream - and also dread at not being up to the task (I had never noticed that Dream and Dread are just one letter apart…)
After a good while, our food arrived and it was good. Not my favorite style of cooking - I guess my cells tend to recognize and sway more happily to Mediterranean flavors than Oriental ones - but it definitely was good.
Then, this happened:
The gentleman whom I had seen earlier in the kitchen, came to our table and noticed that I had not yet finished my bowl nor had I added the sauce that came with the dish. Also, I had apparently not mixed the ingredients properly. In a thick accent, he asked me if he could do … something. I nodded, ready for adventure. He then proceeded to grab my chopsticks, add a bunch of sauce on top of what was left in my bowl and toss everything in a well rehearsed manner. He then jutted his chin at me in an invitation to try. It tasted very good. I told him so and he then explained to me what he had done and let me know that next time I ordered - there he picked up my chopsticks again to lift a bit of rice from the bottom of my dish - I could ask for the rice to be crunchier. That it was even more delicious that way, he said. I took note. That was fun. In three minutes, I had gotten a new dish, learned how to order next time and felt as though I had been treated to the private knowings of another culture, one of my favorite experiences ever. I thanked him deeply.
Before we left, the woman came to visit us also, as she brought the check. It was hard for me to understand her words but as she took my hand and held it in hers, I could understand … her Essence. I could understand that she was stressed and wanted to make sure we had liked our experience and would come back. I assured her we would. She held my hand all the way to the door and waived us goodbye warmly.
As we stepped into the cold air, I remembered this Maya Angelou quote: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
In this little not quite finished restaurant, I had felt welcome and connected and for this, I was grateful.