Working at the pool hall rocked. I really enjoyed this waitressing gig. In the five months I worked there, I never once encountered an angry, rude, or impatient customer, even if waiting time was involved. I was the only waitress for the nine-table diner, and if we were full, there was waiting. But everyone understood, and it was never a problem.
But this story isn't about me, it's about the customers, the great people who inhabit this wee rural stick-a-fork-in-it town of 800, who don't even know how special they are. Specifically, I want to tell you about Mike. His kids are grown, and he often comes to the pool hall to hang out with the other folks who have nothing better to do than to drink cheap cheap coffee. Mike has sparkling dark blue eyes, and a deep baritone voice that sounds like Johnny Cash singing straight into your heart. Mike is in a wheelchair. He was once an able-bodied man, but one day when he was out cutting wood, he felled a tree on the spot where his dog was standing. He tried to save his dog, and now he has no use of his legs. He has a fine spirit, though, and his useless legs never stopped him from doing anything, including getting into the pool hall.
The pool hall is on the main street in town, maintaining its vigor among falling down buildings and empty shells of what used to be the life of this town. The railroad stopped going through town decades ago, and the highway went around it about the same time, and it has taken a long time for this town's pulse to become strong again.
The pool hall has only one step up from the sidewalk, but for anyone in a wheelchair, that might as well be a ladder. Mike was not deterred. The call came in from Tiny, who despite his name, is actually a tiny little guy. Mike needs some assistance (not help). Eyes glanced from coffee cups to others crowded around the table: two other guys in motorized wheelchairs who used the back door (with no step), an emphysemic elderly woman, and Wayne, who was tethered to an oxygen tank. I realized I was probably the best option for getting Mike through the door, but I wasn't sure I could, as Mike is a big guy. He's not obese by any means, but dude was a tall big man back in the day, and he is still big. I hesitated too long, though, and Wayne rose from the table.
"Help me, Tiny," Wayne said. They went out the door. A minute later, Mike popped through the door (I held it, the least I could do), lifted through by Wayne, followed shortly by Tiny, who carried Wayne's large oxygen tank for him. Indeed, there's nothing that can't be done if you set your mind to it. Nothing that can't be done with help--assistance if you will. To these good old boys, it was nothing, but to me who had spent some time in the Big City, it was nothing short of a miracle. This is what community looked like at some point in the past, and I was more determined than ever to discover it again.