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Friday, December 28, 2012

A Real-Life Hobbit

My mother and our friend frequent a particular Denny’s.  They travel there to see a waitress they have befriended.  She looks after them well, and they only go there when she’s working.  They exchange Christmas cards and gifts with her, and one year, when we were spending Christmas with them, we attended a Christmas Eve service at her church.  I’m not sure that my wife and I ever hoped to forge such a strong relationship with the staff at our local Denny’s, but we found one waiter we always looked forward to seeing.  I can only wonder at what might have developed, had the manager chosen to value us as well, instead of making us feel unwanted.

My mother had told me that they would be collecting The Hobbit cards for me at Denny’s, and the first night of their visit, she handed me an envelope.  I opened it to find a thick stack of cards.  I hurriedly dug out my own cards, and went through her stack.  Although she had many that were the same as mine, in some cases multiple examples, I ended up with three new cards.  This meant that I had nine out of the ten regular cards.  As I had never hoped to receive one of the two Limited Edition cards, I only needed one more to complete my set.  If I didn’t get it, I figured nine out of ten was pretty good.  More importantly, I had Bilbo Baggins, who along with Gandalf, are the two characters from the novel that mean the most to me.

The dwarves Balin and Fili,
and my first hobbit friend, Bilbo Baggins,
have graced my humble home. 

Of course, the cards are really just something fun to collect.  So, although we thought of dining at a Denny’s while in Florida, we opted for restaurants we couldn’t visit as easily back home.  But on Christmas Eve, when my mother offered to take us out to lunch at Denny’s, I didn’t complain.  I figured they would most likely be out of packs, as the movie had been out in theaters for a while.  Still, I held out hope of getting that final card.

We selected another Denny’s within easy driving distance.  Our waiter laughed and joked with us as he took our order.  My mother and friend asked about the cards, and explained that I had nearly completed my set.  Although he didn’t seem to think they had any left, he promised to look.  We ordered three meals off The Hobbit menu, and midway through our lunch, he came by and solemnly placed a pack of cards before me.  “I scrounged up a final pack for you,” he told me.  I thanked him, grateful that he had searched on my behalf.  Then he reached into a pocket and withdrew another packet.  “Don’t tell anyone, but I took these from my own collection.”  My eyes widened: I hadn’t asked him to do that!  Staring down at me so somberly, he dug into his pocket one final time…and withdrew a third pack of cards.  “Ha ha, there you are my friend,” he announced.  Bursting into laughter, he bent down, clutching his fists, and did a little dance.  “I’m looking forward to seeing what cards you get,” he told me, when his merriment subsided.  I started to open one pack.  He laid a hand on my shoulder.  “No, wait, enjoy your meal first,” he told me.

After we finished eating, I opened the packs, and he leaned close to watch.  The first pack, and then the second, contained only cards I already possessed.  Then, on the third, I got a Limited Edition Frodo card.  I lifted both hands into the air in celebration, and he cheered with me, laughing, clutching his hands into fists, and doing his little dance again.  When we rose to leave, my mother asked him if he would be there in a couple weeks.  He asked, “What happens then, another prediction from Nostradamus that the world will end?” and laughed again.  “No, my son’s having his birthday,” my mother replied.  “Come in, and I’ll give you a really nice breakfast,” he told me.  “And I’ll keep an eye out for those two last cards you need.”

Getting that Limited Edition card certainly took me by surprise.  The food at Denny’s tasted great, and thanks to his attentive service and jovial attitude, dining there with my mother and our friend proved a pleasant and memorable experience.  Is it too much to hope that we might forge a relationship with this particular restaurant, and become friends with this kind and considerate waiter?  He might not burst into song while he serves us, or juggle plates and cups with skill and panache, but he seems like someone I’d like to know better.  Perhaps, even befriend.

Dragon Dave

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