Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Moment in Hospitality

In London, I arrived at Borough Market for free time during a recent school trip. I was tired, grumpy, and cold, and wanted a place to sit down and order coffee and have some good food. As a friend and I wandered around looking for something that could fit the bill, we came to a pub. Of course, like every other place, the front doors were open, bringing the chill inside. But there was a restaurant upstairs and we figured this would be a warm place to sit and stay for a while. It was five till noon, and a man behind the bar told us the restaurant wouldn't open for another five to ten minutes. My instant thought was to move on and keep looking. I suppose it was the American in me, expecting to be delivered exactly what I want all the time, and wanting to find something else if I’m not getting it.

Seeing the dissatisfaction on my face, I’m guessing, an old man at the bar said to me, “Have a pint, stay a while.”

It was this that spoke to me perhaps more than anything else on the trip. No, he hadn’t gone above and beyond in delivering hospitality to me – moreso, it was a transfer of an idea; a culture; a lifestyle; in one simple sentence. He had helped me find my way when I was lost on a deeper level than giving me a map to my hotel. As I let his words settle in, I realized how right he was – why would I go somewhere else when this (albeit chilly) pub was just right, and playing Elvis no less – and all I had to do was wait a few minutes for the kitchen to open?

And so my dear friend Paul and I took a seat at the bar, and I forewent my cup of coffee to order a pint of cider instead. We sat for over an hour, eating bangers and mash, drinking beer and cider, and singing to Elvis. I’ll never forget that simple line.

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