Published: 5/30/2020 6:20:11 AM
If ever conscience prevented me from redeeming a coupon before the era of COVID-19, I don’t remember the occasion.
“Where are those notes?” I muttered to myself as I shuffled through a stack of paper on my desk (a paperless office is an ideal I shall never achieve). As I feverishly searched, a folded piece of paper caught my eye. It wasn’t what I sought, but hey, sometimes we find dollar bills in our pants pockets when we reach in there to retrieve used tissues before throwing the pants in the washer. Don’t those moments bring glee? A whole dollar you didn’t know you had?
“Yes!” I exclaimed, pumping my fist as I unfolded the sheet of paper. A $20 voucher for Uno’s! Uno’s gave me the voucher about a month ago when they sold me a dinner on their website that wasn’t actually available. I’d totally forgotten about it.
“A free lunch!” I crowed to myself. It was only 9 a.m., but already I was fantasizing about the cheddar burger I would savor. For free!
I arrived at the restaurant four hours later, the voucher in my pocket, ready to claim my prize.
I walked inside, duly masked, and instantly became overcome with sadness. Not long ago, this restaurant was a flurry of activity at lunchtime. Harried servers, maintaining smiles through their stress, bustled food and drinks amidst the din of a hundred conversations, above which someone’s hearty laughter would occasionally soar.
But today, of course, the restaurant was empty and silent. Chairs where those diners sat leaned against the walls, stacked in piles, as restaurants sometimes stack them at closing time. Ordinarily those chairs retake their rightful places alongside tables when morning comes, awaiting the noontime arrival of hungry diners. But now, none of us knows when morning will dawn.
A masked gentleman strode through the deserted restaurant toward me, carrying a bag with my burger.
“That’ll be $12.52, sir,” he said. I paid the bill and left a tip. My voucher has no expiration date. Someday, I hope to visit Uno’s at lunchtime to be greeted by a cheerful hostess who will tell me that the wait should only be 10 minutes. I’ll use my voucher then.
(Benjamin T. King is a Concord resident and a partner in the Concord law firm Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C.)