“Oh really? What do you write?”, Mic asked me, in that quiet rolling-thunder of a voice he has.
We’re sitting rolling silverware as we wait for the day to start. It’s my third week at the new job, and one of the biggest contrasts is that I’m no longer the oldest server on staff. Heck, I’ve been demoted to third. I have the feeling Mic is the new champion, with his cool lock of white hair (he loves that I call me, him, and Allen, nine years my senior, the Silver Squad).
We’ve been making small talk for a while, and he tells me he’s thankful he doesn’t worry about money anymore, that he takes “what the Universe sends me”. I tell him I wish I could be like that, that it’s one of the reasons I want to go back to working nights (more money), and also that I contribute to a news site as a journalist, and that I want to continue writing.
“Short stories, mostly”, I answer, sheepishly, not even bothering to add the “I hope to publish a book this year” part that I’ve been saying for the past three years.
“Oh nice. I’m a playwright myself”, he says. “I had a piece of mine open in Broadway once”.
And immediately, Mic is 47% more interesting. And I am once again struck by the contrast of the people I am encountering in this job. The general manager used to be a theater actor as well, and is a trained tap dancer, whose heroes are Sammy Davis, Jr., and Gregory Hines (and he once told me got to dance in front of Hines himself). One of the hostesses quit because she’s going back to art school, and showed me some of her amazing drawings. And now Mic just tells me he’s a playwright. And got to narrate a short film that got played in theaters (you can watch it here). And when he was a young theater actor he auditioned in front of… Neil Simon?!
“I was doing my part, and all of a sudden I hear him start talking”, Mic told me. “So I assume that’s it, I didn’t get it. So I say thank you very much, and I start getting off the stage. But Neil says ‘Hey kid, where are you going?’ And he tells me to keep going. Then there was this silence, and again I go thank you very much, and he goes, ‘What is it with this kid? Where are you going?’ He did see something, and he called me back five times, even gave me some direction. I didn’t end up getting the part, but can you imagine the honor?”
Can I imagine touching the hem of Jesus’ robe and then walking away? Hmm, can’t say I have, brother.
Mic lives with his wife of several years in a mobile home which is going through a bathroom renovation. (This is the type of home you can lift into a flatbed and move somewhere else.) From what he describes, it’s a simple life, and he seems pretty content. You would never guess he auditioned and nearly got to work with one of theater’s greatest playwrights. I didn’t ask him how he wounded up as a server again –shouldn’t it be the other way around, as in, you’re a server wanting to be a playwright, a la Jonathan Larsen?– but I didn’t need to. The stories are all different, but one thing remains: sometimes life throws you a curve ball and you catch it as best you can. And it throws different curves to different people.
Late that same day, another server, Kierra, told me this weird, wonderful thing that had happened to her. Her family was in line at Walmart to pay for a 40-inch TV that she had got for her young son. They had saved for a while to get it, and it had been on sale for a couple of hundred dollars. A woman behind them, in nurse scrubs, noticed it and asked if it had been on sale. Yes it had been, they said. “Would you mind if I go in front of you?”, she asked then. They thought it was weird, bit she had only one item, so they let her. And they were absolutely floored when the lady told the cashier, “I would like to pay for their purchases, please”.
Of course Kierra’s family couldn’t believe it, and tried to say it was OK, no need, but she insisted. “I’ve just had a miracle happen to me at the hospital, and I intend to spread the joy”, she said. I get goosebumps thinking about it. Kierra told me she’s trying to locate her so they could at least send her flowers, but I’m sure the lady doesn’t need them.
I find these stories so encouraging. They make me think that good surrounds me even when lousy things happen. It’s just a reminder that good and bad are constantly present, and night always turns into day. Yes, I’m going through some very hard times right now, but I know they will end. And I have learned valuable lessons in this hard period, and I have traced a clear objective. It just tells me that I have to get up and start doing the things that make me feel good, that will lead me towards good, and not feel sorry for myself.
Thanks Mic and Kierra for inspiring me to write this. And to keep on writing.