It’s Thursday afternoon and I’m late for work. I’m running late because, consciously and unconsciously, I don’t want to work at Café Machiavelli today. The money’s been sucking, we’re understaffed, and I’m just sick of restaurants in general.
Of course I forget to eat today. That’s ridiculous because I have a ton of Easter leftovers in my fridge. I was so busy writing that I didn’t want to get up from my desk and interrupt the flow of ideas for something as trivial as “nourishment.” I’m a dope sometimes.
As I near the restaurant I hear my insides growling. I’ll never survive waiting tables on an empty stomach. I should really get something to eat before I pass out. Of course I didn’t leave the house with any money either. I reach into my pocket and find two singles and a couple of quarters. That’s enough for a slice of plain pizza. I walk into the pizza parlor next to the restaurant and order one.
“To go?” the teenage girl manning the counter, asks.
“Yeah,” I say. “Don’t even bother heating it up. I’m in a rush.”
The girl slips a greasy, unappetizing looking slice of pizza into a paper bag and hands it to me. “That’ll be two dollars.”
I hand the girl my two singles and drop the quarters into the tip jar.
“Thanks,” the girl says.
“Take it easy,” I reply.
I walk into the restaurant. I’m fifteen minutes late but no one says anything. I change into my uniform, do all my prep work, and get the specials from the manager. After I scribble down the offerings for the night, I grab my cold pizza and head into the kitchen.
“Hey Jose,” I call out to one of the line cooks. “Could you heat up my pizza in the oven?”
“Sure bro,” Jose replies.
“You didn’t eat lunch?” he asks.
“That’s no good,” Jose says, shaking his head. “You need to eat.”
“It’s one of those days I guess.”
“Come back in a few minutes,” Jose says.
I head back into the dining room. A table’s been sat in my section. Hoping they don’t hear my hungry stomach barking, I cocktail them, tell them the specials, and get their orders. After I input what they want into POS system, I walk into the kitchen to check on my pizza’s progress.
“My pizza ready Jose?” I ask.
“Yeah,” Jose says, putting a plate in the pickup window. “Here ya go.”
I stare at my pizza and choke up. Jose’s placed some grilled chicken and roasted potatoes on top my slice. A little salad and a helping of rice and beans also grace the plate. My two dollar stomach stuffer has transformed into a true meal.
“Thanks man,” I say, touched by Jose’s kindness. “I’m really hungry.”
“Eat up,” he says. “Enjoy.”
Using a dish rack as seat and the bread warmer as an impromptu table, I sit down and dig into one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time. Oh sure, I’ve dined in some expensive places during the past few weeks, but when you experience hunger sated by human kindness, well, that beats all the three star Michelin Chefs in the world combined.