Restaurant owners are a compassionate lot. We tend to take in strangers and offer them work when they are needy, food when they are hungry, and a few bucks for walk-around change when they need it.
When a group of people come together, prepare and deliver the substance of daily life, day after day, they become a family. No matter what their backgrounds or future plans hold for a short period of time they grow, together. For that one moment in time, that eight, ten or twelve hour shift they are all part of a team of players, that with any luck, will walk and work with the same rhythm throughout the day.
I always become more generous during the holidays. It probably has to do with Italian guilt or the fact that I have been dealt a damn good hand – all things considered- over the years and know I am luckier than most.
A month after telling a ridiculous story about my culinary experience – I had none, and the owner new it – in order to get my first waiter’s job in New York City John Cobb told me to cross Second Ave. and ask the nice homeless guy on living on the vent to come over and start washing dishes.
I would learn later that Tiberius- once steward on The Orient Express- followed the infamous Cobb around
Each November for four years, Tibo would return, tanned, weathered, a bit messy, and completely broke but ready to join the workforce once again.
I adopted that culinary compassion over the years and always gave the down trodden a helping hand, when I could. Often, though I was shocked at the response to an outreached hand.
Years back, I was without a “dish” one day and needed someone to fill in at the
“I make $15.00 an hour on this corner. Cash. Why would I want to work for you?”
I proceeded to
Yesterday I was getting back into the spirit of giving. As I meandered to my office, through the
I turned my car around, pulled into the driveway next to wear the man was scavenging through the garbage, pulled back onto
I took the twenty dollar bill I had in my hand and offered it to the scavenger.
“What’s that?’ he asked.
“It’s twenty dollars”, I replied.
“Throw it on the ground.”
“Pardon me”, I said.
“Throw it on the ground. I don’t come up to cars.”
I was astonished. Granted, I was in my 1986 Suzuki Samurai – hardly a vehicle that attracts a crowd, but I enjoy the ride. I was amazed at the reaction. I shook my head, slipped the car into first and slowly drove away. As I looked in my mirror, I noticed the gatherer came up empty.
So did I.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving.