Friday, October 09, 2009
The Last Word on Customer Service...then back to the show
Had a beautiful "drive day" with three of the other ladies in the company a couple of days ago. Departing Pueblo, CO (quite a cool little stop, actually..awesome coffee shop and local Irish pub with amazing food and beer and - the Sangre di Cristo Arts Center. Yes, that's right..the Blood of Christ Arts...)
I digress. New paragraph. We weren't traveling via interstate that day so we couldn't utilize that amazing traveling book known as The Next Exit Handbook - more useful than a pocket on a shirt! But it only lists restaurants and such off interstate exits. So we decided that, as we were cutting through the northeast corner of New Mexico, we'd take our chances on the last town on the way out of the state, because it was in bold letters so was probably decent size, and try to find some delicious New Mexican style food.
Enter: Clayton, New Mexico. At first it struck us as many unfamiliar small towns seem too. It was drab, a little run down, "not much there." I saw a restaurant I liked the name of: The Rabbit Ear Cafe..." But it was shut down. We drove on, considering both the Grill & Steakhouse (ready to let the one vegetarian in the car fend for herself) ..or the questionable Burrito Wagon parked in front of the local bank.. but we drove on! Confident in our choice of town, and craving Spanish rice and red & green sauce.
Then I saw...A new, brightly painted sign, peach colored walls and the name that read: The Rabbit Ear Cafe. It wasn't closed, just relocated to newer, bigger, prettier building! We saw cowboys out front with working, saddled horses in their trailers, families and old couples. It was packed - probably a good choice.
And it was. Not only was the food delicious, there was local art on the walls (some by the Crafts hour at the local penitentiary, some by more legit artists - beautiful works of metal), but the people were awesome. Enter Erma, our 5'5", stocky, middle aged waitress with no-nonsense, wiry brown and gray hair, a big smile and a fading yellow t-shirt with two suckers on it that read, "Sugar Daddy. Who's Your Daddy?"
As we were settling the tab at our table, an older couple entered to sit down at a table near us. I noticed them because they were a handsome couple, distinguished, and sweet. The man pulled out the lady's chair before he sat. A few minutes later he stood up and came to our table. He introduced himself as the pastor of the local Baptist church, asked about our travels and complimented Ramona (our Calpurnia) on her hat. ("Oh, that's Your van outside!") It was a beautiful, brief moment of human contact. I love those exchanges. He saw a few strangers and took some time to give of his kindness and energy. If I was in the South I would say it was, all in all, a very Christian thing to do.
Erma then directed us to the local coffee shop, a perfectly square little brick building on the other edge of town (half a mile away). I thought it had closed because of the hours posted and the door not opening when I tried the knob... But a woman came running out to catch us. Delicious coffee, more kind words. I remember the couple. She may have been of Native American descent, with nut-brown skin and black, black hair. The man struck me the same way, dark tan, dark eyes. I hope they had children together. They had the little place stuffed with beautiful, rough wood furniture, polished to varying dark stains. It was all made of reclaimed barn wood and I probably would've bought a table set if I had any place to put it.
Sometimes random stops aren't so lucky and fun and poignant. Sometimes it's easier to find the local Subway, grab a sandwich and run. It's really a gamble, and a bad day can make a grumpy van-full of people (with good stories later), but not a good experience in their hearts.
So we made a good choice to stop in Clayton, a little town with one amazing restaurant, one firecracker waitress, a kind and handsome pastor and his wife, and a beautiful couple at the coffee shop full of art and furniture.
And then we drove on.