Lost and Found

No reunion elicits a greater sigh of relief than that of Man and Lost Credit Card. Whether left behind at a local diner the night before or stuffed away in a pocket of a coffee-stained pair of pants, its fortunate recovery stills the rapidly beating heart, clears a furrowed brow, and restores sleep. The reassured owner’s heart-rate now normalized, the worrisome occurrence can now unfurl to reveal its caveat: to remain as vigilant in minding the placement of one’s debit card as one would be in regards to his children’s whereabouts.

An occurrence of similar significance is the fated re-acquaintance of a former, regular customer with a server who has since moved on, such as that which took place last week. The still sleepy noon hour at the eleven-table pizzeria at which I work indicated that most were still on task in their boxy cubicles, doing the business of our country. For that reason, I was rolling polished silverware into pearly white napkins, preparing for the moment their computers were put to sleep and each took his or her thirty-minute lunch break. A few moments passed, when the revolving entrance door spun behind me, simply, like a slow exhalation. Understanding that the sight of a turned backside lacks the warm welcome of a friendly face, I spun, too. Then, I smiled. Anita Alvarez, Cook County State’s Attorney and a friendly face I knew from my days at a velvet-boothed supper club in Chicago’s Theater District, walked into the foyer with another state’s attorney, an equally congenial acquaintance I had made there, too. Our faces brightened when we recognized each other and introductions were made.

They followed me to a seating area on the south side of the rustic dining. Pulling their wooden seats back and unrolling polished utensils from their linen sheaves, they began inquiring about how I had been doing and where I had been employed since our displaced acquaintanceship. My response traced the circuitous route I had followed before my March, 2012, starting date, detailing my experience at another popular restaurant and the valuable lessons it taught me. Next, the conversation’s flavor altered to recall our last meeting, when Ms. Alvarez and a few staff members- my friend at the table included- spotted me in the crowd while passing by on a parade float over the summer. Recalling it, I smiled, remembering the warm feeling it provided in spite of the hot summer day. Last, once we had reflected on that particular moment and the ensuing sentimental note I mailed to her office, we turned our attention to the task at hand once again, lunch. Our tie re-established, we were prepared to walk our well-worn paths as Server and Regular.

I would periodically return to the table over the course of their hour-long lunch, perhaps to fill a drained iced tea or to drag an empty, steel pizza pie plate away from view. It was all very comfortable and familiar, like sitting beside a friend and reading quietly.

Soon, all had been cleared away and the tab requested.  I acquiesced dutifully, returning with the black binder that obscured the check. Soon, a recognizable hand extended outward with the same binder, only, it contained the bill’s content this time. Then, I watched them sliding their chairs back once again, grabbing their lightweight jackets as they did, a comforting sense of déjà-vu levitating above the table.

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