“Tap… tap… tap.” I looked up to see a masked woman with a pen and a notebook ready to take an order. I lowered my window. “Hi,” I said. “Hello. Can I take your order?” she asked. “Oh, you’re open! Great!”
It may have been just 2-3 minutes earlier that I had parked in front of the slightly hidden Middle Eastern restaurant. The tiny restaurant looked deserted. There didn’t seem to be any customers and taped to the outside of the glass door was a small paper sign, “Temporarily Closed Due to Roof Damage...” Slightly disappointed that the restaurant was closed, I took a moment to look down at my phone. I hadn’t noticed the waitperson come out and up to my window. After taking my order, she went on to explain that the hail storm damaged the roof of the restaurant, but the kitchen was not impacted.
“You can come around to the drive through in about 10 minutes,” she ended. They have a drive through? I hadn’t noticed that before. My husband and I usually walk into the restaurant. Every time we went in, the owner came out to greet us, chat with us a bit, and then thank us for coming in. Always with a smile. We enjoyed the fresh food and because I’m not a big crowd person, I especially appreciated the small dining area. The owner’s friendly greeting was a part of the warm experience.
After the ten minute wait, I drove around to the drive through window for the first time. The same person who took my order opened the small window as far as it could open to greet me again. She then pulled out a bottle of rubbing alcohol, poured it like water into one hand then the other. She rubbed her hands together, making sure the alcohol coated her hands up to her wrists. After that, she picked up the credit card machine and poured a hefty amount of alcohol on that too.
I sat there witness to it all. Her meticulous and overt display of actions was mesmerizing. I watched frozen and didn’t say a word. Maybe it was shock. Maybe it was saddening. It was like watching some strange performance art, but it wasn’t.
“It’s all clean… the pen, too,” she assured me. Then she handed over the credit card machine. I reached out and took it carefully, inserted my card, and paid for the food. I handed it back to her. “I’ll be back in just a minute,” she said as she stepped away from the small window.
The window opened only moments after it closed. I looked up and the first thing I noticed was his smile. It was the owner’s big smile. He pulled himself through the small window and leaned out as if he were about to wave out to a waiting crowd from the window of a parade float. His smile was infectious. Pure joy is a good way to describe the expression on his face.
“Hello! It is good to see you again! How are you?” He asked. “Oh… hello! I’m fine, thank you,” I responded and returned a smile. “How are you?” I asked. “Good, good… good, everything is good, thank you,” he responded. His friendly smile and greeting was a part of every meal served before the pandemic, but today was slightly different. His greeting shined a bit brighter this time.
I drove home thinking about his greeting, the washing of the hands in rubbing alcohol, and the drive through window I didn’t know existed. Everything seemed slightly different. It seems our lives have slightly, but permanently shifted. All of our lives now seem altered by the catastrophic changes that continue around us.
The more I think about this small experience, the more it brings me hope. It is the hope that the good within each of us lives the ability to pull ourselves through a small window from a place that seems closed up, damaged, and shut down. It is possible to greet each other with just enough joy and kindness to move forward.