They say it takes twenty-one days for something to become a habit and, at day eighteen of my commitment to interview strangers every day for a year; the project was starting to grow ingrained in all that I did. People were starting to ask me why I was doing it. At the time I had two general answers:
First, “I was loving meeting people and was learning a tremendous amount about others and myself,” and secondly, “I was just a bit crazy.”
Being the Taurus I am, I was committed, telling everyone I spoke with about the project and handing out hundreds of cards. I was all-in, prepared to see the whole thing to the end. Yet, it was already taking a toll on my family time, work, and every aspect of my daily living. Forty pounds of camera bag was with me wherever I went, and my mind, at many a time, was distracted and daydreaming as I looked at the people around me. But, there was a miraculous upside, something that I was only starting to understand—the full impact one person could have upon another with even the smallest gesture, word, or engagement. The core motive to the purpose of Sidewalk Ghosts and all that goes with it.
There’s a place not too far from my house that brings nostalgic dining back to life: Henri’s Diner, home to Nicke, the friendliest waitress in the area, and stranger-turned-friend of September 27, 2011.
I met her quite by chance during what was a very off-camber evening. You know the kind: call home, friend, or whoever, to coordinate the day’s end. That day it was my wife. I was in the final miles of a 7pm commute home. Phone in-hand, I called with that general question all husbands, spouses, or significant others often ask, “What’s for dinner?”—a brave request on that particular evening that proved to be the wrong conversation opener. Probably would have been much better to start with, “How was your day?” What can I say, other than, at that moment, “I was from Mars.”
Now please do not jump to the wrong conclusion. I have a lovely companion: very talented, loving, patient, and kind—a delight in my life. But the mix of that day’s stress and distraction, blended with my un-thoughtful question, “What’s for dinner?” left me feeling like Jim Carey in the bathroom scene of the movie Liar, Liar—you may know the bathroom scene that I’m talking about.
Bottom line, I put myself in the position of being on my own for the evening meal. My fallback? Meet my daughter at Henri’s where she was having dinner with a friend. I walked in, and as always, it was like walking into a room full of friendly conversation. Below, a bullet point rundown of how the evening went:
• Daughter was sitting with friend and her father (by the way, he managed Henri’s).
• It was a little slow, yet all the tables were chatting with each other.
• Nicke knew everyone.
• I ordered my favorite Tri-Tip dinner plate.
• Sat back and observed Nicke at work. It was a magical thing watching her interact with the room. All smiles and first names. Where in life do you go to eat these days where the waitress knows you by name, and asks about your family. I instantly loved this girl.
• Could not pass up inviting her to 365.
• Without a flinch, she said “OK.”
• Asked her to sit with us for a moment so we could have an informal interview.
• She said, “I’d rather stand.”
• I decided it was not personal that she did not want to sit across from me. I don’t think I’m scary (although I’m sure there are still a few who may beg to differ—read 365 Day 4 / Fish Out Of Water Saved By Francis the Key Guy).
• Took photo and chatted at counter for a bit.
• Paid bill, went home.
It was now 10:33pm. Entering the door to my home I found my wife, “How was your day? I asked.
Talk tomorrow my good friends,
Readers, if you are returning, so nice to be with you again. If you are new, looking forward to getting to know you.
To all: please comment, like, and forward. Every engagement goes a long way toward connecting us; as together, we grow a movement that betters the way we view and treat one another.