Friday night for my wife Gimalle and I is date night and usually the early part of the evening is spent enjoying a meal in one of the many local restaurants close by our condo building.
Last night was no exception and we had a pleasant evening in a newly opened Korean restaurant just a few blocks from where we live.
What made our visit there interesting was the memory of our previous visit to that location.
The last time we had been in that place it had been a different restaurant under a different owner and our experience had been less than pleasant.
On a bitterly cold evening last winter, with temperatures hovering close to the -30 mark, we had bundled up and walked a few blocks in search of a pleasant meal.
Neither of us had been in that restaurant before and decided to try it for the first time. Shortly after we placed our order a homeless lady walked through the door in search of a place to find warmth. She sat down at an unoccupied table, away from other customers, and busied herself with rubbing her hands together.
She had been seated for a minute or two when the owner, from across the room, bellowed at her to get out of his restaurant.
She ignored him and continued to sit, shivering in her seat. On his instruction a young waitress approached the lady and encouraged her to leave.
Before she had a chance to respond the owner strode across the floor, grabbed her by the arm and forcibly pushed her out the door all the while berating her for coming in to his restaurant.
When he came back inside he was greeted by applause from a table occupied by six young folks who loudly praised him while laughing at the poor, hapless soul he had forced out into the bitter cold evening.
Gimalle and I were disgusted by his behaviour and, at her suggestion, I went outside to where this lady was standing shivering and invited her to come back inside and sit at our table.
Reluctantly she followed me back and I was greeted by jeers from the same young folks. The waitress came over to our table to tellus that the owner instructed her to inform us that she would not be served and that our food would not be delivered until she left.
Our table guest asked for a glass of water and the owner repeated his order for her to leave. We asked how best we could help her and she gave us the name of an agency with an outreach service and asked if we would call and request a ride to their shelter.
I made the call and some 20 minutes later a volunteer from this organization came into this restaurant and escorted the lady to her car and to a shelter for the evening.
We informed our server we would we too would be leaving and were immediately presented with a bill for the meal we had ordered but not received.
That was the last time we were in that location.
Naturally we never went back and took it upon ourselves to share our story with as many of our neighbours as possible.
Some two months later the restaurant closed down and I couldn’t help but wonder if, in some small way, by asking our friends and neighbours not to frequent that place, we had contributed to its demise.
I cannot understand how anyone can force a person outside when the temperature is hovering around -30, and not care.
It takes a rare kind of cold, callous, heartless individual to not allow a desperate person a short respite from freezing temperatures it takes and even more pathetic individual to find humour in the suffering of others.
I don’t believe that those poor folks who live on the streets in our city spent their youth growing up and fantasizing about the day when they could live in the streets, in abject poverty, where every day is a battle for survival and with the risk of freezing to death in the winter being very real.
Something has gone very wrong in each of their lives and they need our support, not our scorn.
That homeless, shivering lady was no less deserving of dignity and respect than the wealthiest and most successful among us and Gimalle and I walked home that evening saddened by what we had witnessed.
Our visits to that location last night brought back memories of the previous evening but our experience was so different. The new owner came and spoke with us and welcomed us to his restaurant; the staff were friendly and professional and the food was excellent.
It reminded me of an old saying; A place is just a place, it’s the people who make the difference.
And the perpetual optimist in me believes that the world has far more people like the ones we met last night than @$$#*!^$ like we encountered the time before.
Till we read again.