Have you ever considered your talents? How very odd and unique and wonderful a compilation they really are?
For example, I was born to racquets. I know, odd huh? My grandma used to tell me, EVERY time I saw her, about when I was four and I’d bring her a badminton racquet and a birdie. I’d make her throw it to me and when I’d miss hitting it I’d tell her “you missed grandma!”. I know, darling huh?
In high school I played on the tennis team. I loved it. Number one seed my senior year. I know, I know. Darn impressive.
But every day after school when the weather permitted we’d be out there bashing the ball. I love the rhythm of warm up, kah-whap…. kah-whop…. start that racquet down low, accelerate the head quickly, catch that ball on the rise and end with the racquet high over my head… watch with satisfaction as it clears the net by six feet and the topspin starts to take effect bringing the ball down right into the middle of no-man’s land… kah-whop… my opponent hits it back… brings a smile to my face. That is fun.
You know, as fun as that is, it’s never really translated into a practical use in my life. I can’t tell you that I’m a master framer on a construction site because I’m so good at swinging a hammer too… nope, never could get the hang of hitting that nail with the head of a hammer… It’s just racquets and balls – I just seem to have been born with the ability to really punish an opponent with a racquet and a ball…
However you don’t have to be around Lori for very long to see that the talent she was born with has become her life. Lori loves people. Wait, that doesn’t quite do it. Lori. LOVES. People. Hmmm, needs a bigger font.
I’m sitting in the Wayside Cafe waiting for a friend. You know when you’re driving down the freeway and you see a giant sign off of the exit that says “EAT”? Yeah, it’s one of those places.
Ok, seriously folks. How many times can you eat at a national chain before your mouth just gets so bored that it wants to die. Sure you know that sandwich is going to be EXACTLY like the sandwich you had back home and it’s going to be delicious… but seriously… how fun is that?
When I travel, when I want to meet the real people that make a place special, I go to the place one of the local people owns. Not only do I make amazing friends in these places, but I eat amazing food! My mouth is NEVER bored.
So I know you drive past an exit and see the “EAT” sign in the distance and snigger and turn the other direction to eat at the Wendy’s that’s also part of a gas station. I’m telling you, as your trusted blogger friend, you’re missing out. Oh sure, there’s probably a great person working at Wendy’s with a great story… but the food! This digression is about your mouth and it’s happiness.
Ok, sometimes the food isn’t that great. But LIVE a little! The whole point of travel is to do something different, to enjoy the journey. Eat at places owned by the local people, and talk to them while you’re there. It always makes the journey better.
Lori brings me a lovely beverage to enjoy while I wait. I’m cool, I’m relaxed, I have my favorite beverage, I’m set. What I witness is… hmmm, kind of at a loss for words here…
Have you gone to a symphony where the featured artist does things with a violin that goes right to your heart? Leaves you with tears in your eyes?
Have you watched an amazing athlete rise from the foul line, flying over the traffic of the key, to hammer a dunk home?
Have you looked at a painting and felt that you understood exactly what the artist was feeling when she created it?
Watching Lori is kind of like that.
You think I’ve overstated, but I haven’t.
Lori is an artist.
First there’s the way she moves. It’s effortless. Refilling drinks, wiping a spill, gliding through the door with five plates balanced and a customers check in one of her hands…
But on top of that, on top of the physical motion that reveals decades of experience, there’s her caring.
She knows the older couple sitting by the window are on their way back to Oregon – she knows their kid lives there and she knows his name. She hands them the check and tells them to travel safely. I believe she means it because she hands them a little treat for the road, something in a box that they must have said they loved.
She glides over to the next table, a coffee pot has appeared in her hand, as she refills the two men’s cups she talks to the four year old girl that is with them. She compliments the girl on her hair, and finds that one of the men did it for her this morning. She is genuinely touched by this and as she glides away from the table there is a little girl who loves her dad more for making her hair pretty, and there’s a man who is slightly blushing as he feels pride for caring for his daughter…
And it’s repeated over and over. Every table she knows just what needs to be said to make the people glad they are here, glad they are alive! I know, it sounds fabulous and over the top, but I’m telling you it was like watching an master performance of skill and grace and absolute caring.
A man walks in and kind of stands there, grinning and bashful. Lori sees him and glides over and gives him a huge hug. She wipes tears from her eyes and exclaims “what has it been? Ten years? More?”. The man mumbles that it’s been eleven, and Lori welcomes him home. She knows his name, she knows where he likes to sit, she remembers how he likes his coffee. It’s been ELEVEN years since he was in last!! I’m witnessing amazingness on a level I haven’t seen.
My friend comes, we eat and talk and I enjoy her company, but I keep my eye on Lori. It never stops. She is a graceful whirlwind of charm and service and food. She glides by my table and drops a check – she winks at me and says “don’t touch that yet!”. She’s back in seconds with a stamp and a stamp pad. She stamps the back of my check and says “I used to wish people happy birthday, but why just limit it to one day?” She lifts the stamp and I have to smile.
I’m lucky I stopped by the Wayside. I’m lucky to have met Lori. I talked with her, I know her story. She’s been a waitress at Wayside for 27 years, she left for a while to run a convenience store, but the owners begged her to come back. Made her a partner. Yep, they know she’s cool too.
To me, her actions speak for themselves. Lori is an amazing person.
For what it’s worth – I’d go back just for the food, in fact I did! Wayside Cafe off of the Rupert Exit under the EAT sign. If you get a chance, go meet Lori. You’ll be glad you did.