There's a coffee shop in town, one of the first, that I used to go to all the time. I felt like I was a regular. Apparently I didn't go quite often enough to warrant regular status in the barrista's minds, because everytime I went in there, I was still faceless, nameless. They didn't even know my regular drink. It was kind of off-putting, but after a while I just chalked it up to the fact that they were not proficient in warm customer service and they had no desire to brush up on the finer points.
I had an experience with genuine customer service last night that truely warmed my heart. I've been in sort of a funk for the last week or so and this was exactly the kind of thing I needed.
I went to my favorite restaurant, Marie Catrib's, one I've been going to since they opened. Marie, the owner, and her son know me by name. I have a fondness and such gratitude for them and the food they create. I took at seat at the counter. My server, a guy named Mike greeted me with a smile and some water. As he hands me the menu, he remembers something about me that made my night.
"We've got just one serving of tomato fennel soup, I know it's your favorite. Do you want me to get it for you?"
It was such a simple thing. It meant a lot and completely characterizes the way Marie's operates. I got to have my favorite soup! And through a simple gesture, they guaranteed (again, as they have continually over the last five years) my return.
I also had a small chat with a girl that sat down a chair away from me at the counter. We talked about soups, studying and our common name. This visit to my favorite restaurant not only fed my hunger for food, it also fed my human longing to be known, to be recognized as someone who matters simply for being me. When so much of our personal interaction these days is via some electronic form of communication, I know I can be left feeling like I know all these people, but so rarely interact with them on an in-person basis. It feels lonely sometimes.
This is one local establishment where I can go when I feel adrift in a sea of technology and am in need of some true humanity and a wholesome meal. I feel grateful for this space and the people who make it feel like home. I hope everyone is lucky enough to have somewhere like this, a place that even if they don't, you still feel like everybody knows your name. (Cue the Cheers theme...)