Wednesday, July 06, 2016

July 6, 2016--Midcoast: Rona

The day after the 4th we got a late start and didn't get to the Bristol Diner until about 9:30. On the way over, we speculated about how busy it might be. Probably packed," I said. "What with people still visiting and some departing, I'll bet we'll have to wait for seats at the counter. Forget a booth."

"Maybe one of our friends will be there and we'll be able to squeeze in with them. But I predict," Rona said, Rona who hates to predict anything--even the outcome of the Kentucky Derby, said, "My guess is it won't be that busy. It's past the breakfast hour."

"During holidays breakfast hour can be any time, including 2:00 in the afternoon."

"That's true," Rona acknowledged.

It turned out to be packed and we had to wait 10 minutes for a booth. It would have been much longer because the new waitress was overwhelmed and to help move things along, including making space for us, Rona cleared the table and toweled it off.

We sat for at least another 10 minutes before the waitress could get us a couple of cups of coffee. And then 10 minutes more before she got around to taking our order. Also in an attempt to move things along we both ordered the same thing--Deb's terrific budget burrito. We took a pass on asking for anything exotic, like what Rona on the way over said she was in the mood for. If Deb had made potato pancakes, then Rona was interested in one with a poached egg on top. If not, sautéed spinach and mushrooms over a toasted English muffin. Rona has taken to ordering these so often that they're coming to be known as a Rona.

Deb was cooking. She is well-known for being able to juggle at least half a dozen orders simultaneously but this morning she too seemed backed up.

"Is everything OK?" Rona asked Deb.

"She's new," Deb said empathetically, "and is having trouble entering orders into the computer. The one that then sends the order to me so I know what to cook. That's what's slowing things down. Plus, we've had a very busy morning and probably could have used another girl. To help with the customers and to wash dishes. Look at that stack?"

Rona did and got right up off her seat and made her way to the sink. For the next two hours she cleared tables and washed dishes.

I sat alone with my burrito but happy to do so because with Rona's dishwashing and expediting everyone was getting their orders more or less on time and the vibe in the diner went from slight annoyance to a more-familiar happy buzz.

During those two hours something else happened--

We knew a few people who were there having breakfast and one or two noticed I was alone--which in itself is unusual--and that Rona seemed to be working for Deb. Yet more unusual.

At first, by this they were discombobulated but quickly figured out that Rona had not taken a dishwasher job--though doing so is one of her on-going fantasies--but rather had simply pitched in to help.

Then, as more and more customers poured in, some now having to line up to wait for a place at the counter or a booth, a number of people who were just two in a four-seater booth, shifted themselves to the counter and a few began to help buss tables. One or two running stacks of dirty dishes back to Rona at the sink in the kitchen.

It was as if the entire place, likely inspired by Rona's example, took responsibility to help Deb and her new hire get through the morning and make it easier for people to place orders and get seated without having to wait longer than absolutely necessary.

After her "shift," by 11:00 when breakfast was no long served and just before the lunch rush, Rona, all sweated up but exhilarated, emerged from the kitchen and said, "I think I'm done. Let's go to town to get the paper."

"That was terrific," I said, feeling good about Rona, "And I'm sure . . ."

Deb had also come out from the kitchen and finished my thought, "I can't tell you how much I appreciated that. We were at the tipping point. Actually past it, and you pulled us back."

"Thanks," Rona said, "To tell you the truth I've always wanted to do that. I really enjoyed it. And look what everyone else did--shifting to the counter to make room for larger groups, bussing tables, generally helping to clean up. That's what I love about this town. How people pitch in."

"I don't take it for granted," Deb said. "I really don't."

"One more thing," Rona said.

"Anything," Deb said and she meant it.

"What time do you want me tomorrow?"

"It's your lucky day," Deb said smiling, "We're closed on Wednesday. Enjoy your day off."


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