Saying thank you for being looked after

Coffee tastes especially good when someone makes sure you get the kind you like

Coffee tastes especially good when someone makes sure you get the kind you like

I love my neighborhood Starbucks. There is something very nice about knowing the names of the baristas whose shifts coincide with your stop-by time. Having them call you by name, too, makes the visits doubly nice.

The manager, Jason, recognized me from the times I used to stop by the Preston Forest location after dropping my son at school. His memory is much better than mine; he brings up names of his former co-workers, but none ring a bell. Still, it’s nice to have that connection, that bit of shared history.

I don’t get by my Starbucks nearly as much as I’d like. My stops tend to be after a swim, which is also after yoga on Saturdays and after running and church on Sundays. I am a boring order. I look steadfastly up at the menu above the bakery items, noting the seasonal drinks as well as the tried and true.

When it’s my turn, if Jason or Susan (whose visor-wearing prowess I alternately admire and envy) is working, they’ll say, “Tall bold today, Leslie, or grande bold?”

What size, yes, my big decision.

I went in on Friday and the store was pretty busy. Jason was doing managerial things and Susan wasn’t there. But when Jason saw me, he said to the young man who was working: “Grande bold for Leslie. No room.” (As in no room for cream)

The barista (baristo?) dutifully filled the cup. As he popped a green mermaid stick into the hole on top so coffee wouldn’t slosh onto my lap as I drove home, Jason suddenly turned from what he was doing, looked at the label on the coffee urn and then at me.

“Wait!” he called. “That’s Italian Roast! You don’t like Italian Roast. I don’t like Italian Roast!”

He was right. I love dark, bold coffee…but not Italian Roast.

He told the young man, “Make her an Americano.”

I handed Jason my Starbucks card. He took it and said, “I’m only charging you for a tall bold.”

So there you have it. Something seemingly small, but also pretty big in my book. Yes, I am a big girl, one perfectly capable of looking out for myself. But sometimes…sometimes…it’s nice to know someone has my back. Or at least my taste buds.

And for the times when that happens…The Grateful Runner says thank you.

Saying thank you for existing

My bike! Doesn't it look pretty?

My bike! Doesn’t it look pretty?

About two weeks ago — almost on a whim because I had all but forgotten I had one — I took my bike to Richardson Bike Mart for a tune-up. Three days later, they called to tell me it had needed a new chain and new tire, and it was ready to go.

Great! I thought. Then I promptly forgot all about it. But on Friday, after my evening plans fell through, I suddenly remembered my ready-to-go bike. So I put the back seats down on my little Fit, scooched my gym bag and yoga mat over to the side to make room for my bike, and drove over.

Not surprisingly (if you know me), I didn’t have the receipt. No problem, said Jack, the amazingly helpful person who asked if I needed assistance (and, to his credit, if he ever rued doing so, never let on).

So he asked my name. I said it was either under Barker or Garcia; I wasn’t sure which. He checked both, and then checked them again.

“Hmmm,” he said.

After a few more minutes, I offered to go to my car to see if the receipt was there somewhere. “If you don’t mind,” Jack said, “that would be great.”

Of course it was nowhere to be found. So back I went. He asked for my phone number, then if I had bought the bike there. I couldn’t remember. Probably, I said; I can’t imagine where else I would have bought it.

He looked. “Well, I see you bought a bike in May of 2012 and returned it.”

Oh yes, I said. My son decided he didn’t want a bike for a high-school graduation present. Jack kept looking, finding the 18-year-old bike I bought before my failed triathlon six or seven years ago. But he found no record of my mountain bike, which I only remembered was a Schwinn and blue. (It WAS a blue Schwinn, right?)

He said, “I hate to ask this, but are you sure you brought it to this location?”

“Oh, I’m sure,” I said. “I live about two miles away.”

I was started to question (which I do periodically but never quite on this level) my sanity. What if never brought it in? What if I’d never even owned that bike? What if I HAD brought it in and picked it up, but didn’t remember doing so?

So I asked, “If — and I don’t think I did this — but if I picked it up and forgot I did, would you have a record of it?”
Yes, he told me. Even if I hadn’t paid for any repair, he’d still have a record.

“Let’s look for it together,” he said.

Oh my gosh, I felt like I was in the back of Santa’s workshop. Bikes of all colors and prices and ages were everywhere, neatly lined up, ready to be picked up by people who didn’t lose their receipts.

By this time, I could hardly even remember what it looked like. But I dutifully followed Jack, and after stopping at what seemed to be every blue bike, we were empty-handed.

Finally, from somewhere he produced a yellow piece of paper that was supposed to match another yellow piece of paper on a bike. He wheeled out a blue Schwinn — but it was much nicer than mine, and newer.

I truly began to think that if I went home at that point, someone else would be living in my house. Mail in the mailbox wouldn’t have my name on it. If I rang the doorbell, the residents would say they had lived there for 20 years and had never heard of anyone with my name.

If I called my sisters or brothers or my mom, they’d swear I had the wrong number; that there had never been more than four Barker kids.

I was George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life and I think Jack knew I was about to cry.

“Let’s check the Leslies,” he said. “Sometimes people file the work orders backwards.”

He read the names out loud, shaking his head at one. I can’t remember what it was; something like “Wa-boon-ay.”

“That’s kind of odd,” he said.

He read a few more, then next thing I knew, he handed me the work order with the name, address and phone number I had filled out.

I was Leslie Wa-boon-ay! I don’t think I’ve smiled that big in — well, at least a few days. I don’t think I’d stopped short of hugging a total stranger (who by now felt like a comrade, a confidant of sorts) in — well, years.

Jack wheeled my bike — MY BIKE!! — out to the car, after first replacing the handlebar covers because he said they felt sticky. He hoisted it into my Fit, apologized, thanked me for my patience.

I apologized, thanked him for HIS patience, and flung my arm around his shoulders.

“Thank you,” I said again.

So for people like Jack who take the time to make things right…for patience…for being reminded that yes, we really DO exist…The Grateful Runner says thank you.
















Saying thank you for that blue, blue sky

I'm still looking for the blue of the morning sky

I’m still looking for the blue of the morning sky

This morning, and yesterday too, were days that if you’ve ever contemplated running, you should start. Then, in miles to come when when the sun is unmerciful or the wind biting and brutal, you can take a deep breath and remember the day you began, and why you’ll never stop.

The past few months have had more than their share of frigid days and I’ve gotten used to putting on winter garb on my runs. So now, even though the predawn temperature is dozens of degrees higher than it has been in awhile, I still hesitate deciding what to wear. These mornings, I’ve opted for capris over tights; long sleeves without a jacket; gloves I wish I’d left at home.

The breeze has been blessedly minimal, which is a treat in itself. But it’s the predawn, still-sprinkled-with-stars sky that makes me gasp. I utterĀ  “thank you” in a voice — I can’t help myself — louder than a whisper.

I have never ever seen a sky that shade of blue. After I’ve finished running and in the hours after, I’ve looked around the house, around the yard, around grocery-store shelves, trying to find that blue.

But it’s unlike any shade I’ve ever seen in a garden or as part of a rainbow or in box of Crayolas. If I ran my fingers through every paint strip at Home Depot, or even Benjamin Moore, I doubt I’d find it.

I could dream my most vivid and magical and colorful of dreams; I could fill them with fairy-tale hues that defy description, yet none would match the morning ceiling under which I am so very lucky to run.

Maybe I’ll look for that shade all my life. Maybe I’ll stand at the edge of the ocean, watching for wave that will echo it. Or there I am atop a mountain, reaching for a sky with blueness so very close to that one certain color.

Or maybe that spellbinding shade comes around only in early April, in a certain wondrous, predawn, quarter-hour window of time.

Truth to tell, maybe that’s what I hope happens.

So for colors of nature which even the most comprehensive palette can’t duplicate…for a sky that lures you outside on your most reluctant days because you’ve been promised something spectacular…for the blue blue blueness of that sky…The Grateful Runner says thank you.


Saying thank you for timing


I have such high hopes for my Sunday runs; specifically, at what hour I’ll actually begin. In my dreams, I start early and make it back home in plenty of time to at least stand a chance of arriving to church before my sister Susan does. Which for us, admittedly, isn’t when the announcements are read. It’s somewhere after the-Lord-be-with-you-and-also-with-you‘ing ends and the sermon begins.

What has been known to happen though, is that on some days I am poised to finish my run to accomplish that. Then I think, “Well, I’m making such good time, I bet I can get another half-mile (or mile) in.” So I end up being late, slipping into the chapel as the first words of the sermon are spoken.

Today, I started my run almost 15 minutes earlier than usual. I thought, “This is it! I’m going to make it!” So I happily ran, listening to my This American Life podcast and then NPR Sunday. About two miles from home, the rain started.

This is good, I thought. I’m not far from the house. I’ve run almost as far as I’d planned. The rain is not torrential. Water dripped steadily from the sky for a bit, and then the rain became more steady. I kept going (what else could i do?!), thankful I was close to the end of my run and that these were only showers: No thunder. No lightning.

Not until I was five blocks from home did a sudden bright flash fill the sky and split a cloud. A few houses later, a jolt of thunder jostled me out of my zone. I was almost home, almost home.

I shucked my shoes outside the door and went inside just as the sky dropped. I confess I didn’t go to church, which is a bit ironic considering one of the few times I could have been on time, the lousy weather probably would have made me late anyway.

So for starting my run earlier than usual, for storms that held off until I was safely at home, for timing that may be fate or luck or divine intervention, The Grateful Runner says thank you.