Sunday, January 10, 2010

Small Kindnesses

I'm kind of irrationally devoted to this city. Sometimes I think I'm such a huge fan of Louisville because I never intended to leave New Orleans. Sure, I had a choice. I could have stayed, but my options there were limited and lousy. And Louisville chose me. I didn't choose this place. My current meatspace employer tracked me down and literally booked my plane ticket up here without asking me first. The guy who hired me said, "Don't judge it before you see it." And he was damn right.

So sometimes I think my crazy love of this city is because it found me. And it was just the right place to go during a terrible time in my life, when I felt exiled and rootless and pessimistic.

So when people talk trash about Louisville, sometimes I bite their heads off. Sorry guys.

Everyone's entitled to their own opinion. But there are simply some empirical facts about Louisville that make this a great place to live. One of those is that we (I now count myself among you) are a city of really nice people.

I've been hibernating all weekend. Roommate is out of town, there's snow on the ground, and it's gawdawful cold (one of the few things I loathe about this city). So when I was forced to leave the house to go to Walgreen's to buy a lint brush, I was none too happy about it and decided to "reward" myself with a trip to Starbucks. (I know, I should be patronizing our locals, but folks keep giving me Starbucks gift cards, and I live on the cheap).

I stocked up on stuff at Walgreen's and went over to the Starbucks on Baxter. Roommate and I spend a good deal of time there, and we know someone who used to work there. It's pretty clear that it can be a challenging place to work for a number of reasons. High traffic, some incredibly wacky patrons-- especially in the winter-- etc.

Anyway, it was slow, so I went right up to the barrista (is there a male form of that?-- barristo?), and said-- as I always do, "How are you?" He responded, asked me how I was, and I don't remember what I said. Maybe "cold" or maybe just "fine." Then I ordered a venti Peppermint Mocha and started digging in my wallet for my gift card.

And the barrista/o said, "You know what? Because you were civil, because you're a nice person, you get a free drink."

I argued for a moment, but he waved me off. I asked him if he'd been having a particularly bad day, and he said, "No. It's just nice to have civil customers." An off-duty barrista chimed in that she agreed-- it wasn't a particularly bad day, but nice customers are always appreciated. The barristo made my drink, wished me a good evening, and sent me on my way.

And he sent me on my way feeling like eleventy million bucks. Even though I don't think I really did anything all that nice. Even though I was no more "civil" than I ever am. Even though this free Peppermint Mocha that I just finished was probably undeserved in the grand scheme of things. He made me feel terrific, a feeling that hasn't worn off in the two-plus hours since it happened.

Thank you, Starbucks Man, for the free drink. Thank you much more for making me feel awesome. And thank you double that for being an example of the kind of nice people we have in this city.

I love this place.

4 comments:

dherblay said...

"Barrister."

The English don't appreciate it, though.

And how are you?

(Must I choose an identity? I'm not that fond of using my old LJ account, but it's the only OpenID I have.)

dherblay said...

I mean, not that I mind using my ACTUAL identity, which I somehow left out of the last comment.
-- Andrew

SpaceCase said...

I grew up in the taciturn Northeast, and moved to Louisville after a six year stint in Chicago. I'm still getting used to how nice and friendly people are in Louisville, just for the sake of being nice. We love it here, too. Great story!

M said...

Is it really "barrister," Andrew? Learn something new every day! I'm great. How the heck are you? Hope all is well and that you're staying warm in this Midwestern coldsnap.

I too grew up in the NE, but I moved here from New Orleans. In New Orleans, people are either nicer than you can possibly imagine (even nicer than here) or mean like skinned-cats. There's no middle ground. I used to say that walking down the street in NOLA was like having a continuous conversation with yourself. Everyone you passed had something to say to you. "How you doing?" "Love this weather." "How 'bout dem Saints?" And sometimes, "What you f**king looking at?"