New York City always triggers my restaurant Spidey-senses, and a jaunt this past weekend was no exception. After all, NYC is a place where career servers make more money than a rookie on Wall Street and typically have a better work/play lifestyle balance. Still, both are challenged with providing excellent customer service and strive for their share of the bottom line. Both aim to establish on-going relationships, and both can see their careers fall apart in an instant. There’s no turning back from the push of a wrong button when up against the opening bell or from losing balance of a precariously stacked tray.

Although I detest restaurant reviews, my personal gauge (And really, aren’t they all personal gauges?) of a successful dining experience flits back and forth between quality food, attentive but not over-solicitous service, and suitable atmosphere. Subsets are things like perceived value for the dollar, creativity in preparation, noise level, and a few finer points that can enhance or destroy a meal. Then, there’s the sub-subsets which include cloth napkins for in-house dining whenever possible and hair pulled back or up for all employees. If your bartender’s stunning curls are flowing freely, just imagine what’s fashionable in the kitchen.

But it wasn’t fine dining or even a persnickety subset that set me off in the Big Apple. Instead, it was a generosity of time and spirit that I’m going to start incorporating into my personal gauge-o-meters. It was seen in the actions of a counter woman who saw me glancing at the clock while waiting for a takeout order. She also saw me shuffling my stuff from one arm to another and opting not to take a seat. I was, as she guessed correctly, pushing my luck catching the train home.

Of course, I know better than to tempt the Travel Gods, but there was no way I was leaving New York without an obnoxiously overstuffed corned beef sandwich on marble rye with a little Plochman’s yellow mustard on the side. As it was, I was forsaking Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda out of practicality. It didn’t matter how much the sandwich cost or how much faster my arteries would harden, I was investing in a taste of my childhood that’s still as delicious today.

“Sit down, honey. Your fidgeting won’t make them any faster on that sandwich,” the counter woman said. “And how are you going to carry it anyway? You’re loaded to the gills.”

I blurted out that I took a chance, and I shouldn’t have because I was going to miss my train, and that corned beef tastes better in New York than anywhere else, and I was still so many blocks from the train station. She looked amused, which normally would have bugged me, but shook her head and walked back into the kitchen.

It wasn’t more than a minute later that she came out with a shopping bag much too big for one to-go clamshell box. She walked around the counter and handed it to me, waiting to make sure I could navigate my belongings and grab the bag, too. Still smiling, she ignored everyone else and asked if I was good. She told me to have a nice trip home and to slow down a little. That there’s always another train.

Who even thought slowing down was a thing in New York City?

Once settled on the train, I opened the bag to find napkins, utensils, extra pickles, a little sticker of a sandwich, and a piece of ricotta cheesecake. And, right next to the gifted cheesecake was a can of Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda. Wow.

The only way I know how to pay this forward is to tell people there’s always going to be another train. So, thanks for reading, enjoy your meal, and reach out anytime.

Supported by The Flaherty Group

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