The old man’s comment put me in a much better mood, but I still wanted to get out of work as soon as I could. I quickly punched in his order, hoping to end my shift early. As I went over with his beer, I saw that he was having a conversation with my manager. I approached the table, and my manger turned to me and said, “As per Derrick’s request, you get a five-minute break. Apparently you’ve had a shitty day.” He winked at me and walked away.
“I really do appreciate the effort, Derrick—that’s your name right?” I asked, adding, “But I really am trying to get out of here early, so I think I’ll skip the break. Here’s your beer.” Before I could get away, he said, “Derrick is correct.” I stopped and looked at him carefully. There was something strangely amusing about this man, and I’m not really sure how he did it, but the next thing I knew, I was sitting across from him spilling the beans about my horrible day.
I don’t remember too many details about the conversation, but I do remember laughing a lot. I also remember having a really strange feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was oddly attracted to this much, much older man. Five minutes later, he informed me that my break was over and that it was a pleasure to meet me.
Apparently I was wrong about him—this man had absolutely no interest in me. When I brought over his order of wings, he asked for a take-out box and wished me well. I’ll never forget his words: “I’ll bet you a million bucks that your night is about to change.” The smile on his face was mysterious but alluring. I couldn’t help but offer him one last smile. “I hope you’re right, sir,” I said as I walked away.
I was getting ready to end my shift when my manager came over and handed me the tab I had left with the older man. My manager looked at me smiling and said, “You’ve got to see this! You must have done something right.” I opened the tab and saw a handwritten note reading: “Reckless driving never did benefit a soul. Thanks for the smile. Derrick Freidman. And if you ask yourself why, it’s because I can.” I flipped through the receipts and saw my tip: $100 cash. My jaw dropped in disbelief. I knew I couldn’t possibly accept this money, but deep down inside, it felt too good not to.
I left the restaurant and saw Mr. Freidman standing outside—I knew he was waiting for me. His smile—not to mention the hundred dollar bill in my pocket—had made my day. I formally introduced myself, and then offered him my phone number. That one meeting was the start of what would become my emotional, three-year journey with an older man.