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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Once in a Blue Moon (01/06/11)

TITLE: Special Comments
By Kellie Henningsen


Sally scanned the printout one last time and then looked at her son. “You ready, Bud?”

“Sure Mom.” Charlie flipped his DS shut. “Are you?”

Opening the car door to show her readiness, she declared, “Let’s do this!”

The two made their way to the front door of the local Denny’s restaurant. Sally noted the entrance way. Slightly slushy rug thanks to the snowy walkway. Door glass smeared in spots but not unsightly. A couple bulbs blown in the chandelier. She bit her lip and wondered how she would remember everything.

The sign at the hostess stand said they should wait to be seated so Sally assessed a few more areas. Patrons filled only a third of the tables as it was a bit early for lunch yet a little late for breakfast. However, she arrived during the time her instructions stated.

“Two?” A waitress reached for menus and silverware bundles.

“Uh, yes.” Sally waited.

“Would you like a window table or one of the booths?”

Enjoying her new role as a mystery shopper, Sally took a moment to think and then decided a window table would be lovely.

As she and Charlie sat down, she checked her watch and began a mental five minute countdown. Three minutes later, a waitress, who identified herself as Rose, came to the table and poured them some water.

“Are you ready to order or would you like a few minutes?” Rose asked while fumbling for her pen.

Sally informed her a couple minutes would be great and returned her gaze to the menu. Once Rose stepped away, Sally checked her watch and started the next countdown. As she did so, her attention was diverted to a mom and son being seated next to them.

Rose returned at just over three minutes. Sally ordered the french toast with a side of bacon, a small orange juice, and a regular coffee. Right on cue, Rose asked if she wanted cream or sugar for the coffee.

“And what can I get for this handsome young man?” Rose asked with a wink. Charlie ordered the chocolate chip pancakes, sausage, and hot cocoa.

Rose took the menus and left the table without looking towards the second mother / son duo waiting for service.

Sally noted the time and then scanned the room. The floor under the table next to her looked fine but the one behind seemed like a baby and an omelet had had a little spat.

The son at the next table showed his irritation and Sally wondered why they hadn’t received attention yet. After Rose brought their drinks, she approached the other table with a more subdued demeanor.

She took the mom’s order and then grunted, “Anything for him?” Sally’s heart flipped like one of the pancakes in the kitchen.

Still on task, she went through the motions of the meal noting in her head the timing of things, the temperature of the food, how often Rose came by, and so on. But while she noted all these things in regards to their service, she also noted how different things were for the other mom and son. They had few visits from Rose and when she did stop by, she avoided the son and made little conversation with the mom; always leaving the table in a rush.

Having had enough, Sally got up from her seat and approached the mom. She learned her name was Faith and her son was John.

“And how are you today, John?” Sally turned her attention to the young man. There was no response – but a big grin crept across his face.

She noted the ground up food in a specially designed cup on the table. “Are you enjoying your breakfast out with Mom?”

After a few moments, Sally returned to her seat. Charlie finished stuffing himself while she enjoyed her last sips of coffee. A few minutes later, Rose brought the check and the two stood to leave.

When Sally and Charlie passed by Faith’s table, Faith reached out to them. “People normally feel uncomfortable around special needs children,” Faith used her napkin to dab her eyes. “My son can’t speak but he is aware of his surroundings. Thank you for treating him like anyone else today. You have been a blessing!”

Sally hugged Faith and then made her way to the cash register. Later when she filled out her survey, she took special advantage of the comments section at the bottom.

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This article has been read 542 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sarah Heywood01/13/11
As a mother of a sp. needs son, I really appreciated this story. When somebody goes out of their way to be kind to my boy, it makes my day - just as you portrayed in your story.

Great writing!
Anita van der Elst01/13/11
Oooh! I've just been thinking about becoming a mystery shopper. Thanks for giving me a peek at how it works. Glad to know there's a place for special comments too!
Carol Penhorwood 01/14/11
I was personally blessed by the kindness of the MC. I wish more people were aware of the need for kindness. This fit the topic beautifully and meaningfully, in my humble opinion. Well done.
Connie Dixon01/15/11
You had me going from beginning to end. There's a lot to learn from your story, but grace and compassion really stand out. What a great lesson for all of us.
Barbara Lynn Culler01/15/11
I had a feeling that there was something "different" about the mother/son, but not sure what. Great story and so true.

I work with special needs kids and adults and know how they can be so misjudged.

Thanks for the eye opening account.
Carol Slider 01/15/11
I've done some mystery shopping at restaurants, so I could definitely relate to this. Good job building suspense until the question is finally answered: why is Rose not paying more attention to the next table? I, too, would definitely add some comments at the end of my evaluation! Well done!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 01/15/11
I love this story. Your details are wonderful. I was drawn right in and imagined all Kinds of reasons thewaitress might be ignoring the other boy. Your details painted a perfect picture of almost every Denny's I have been in. This is a great story and a wonderful message.
Mariane Holbrook 01/15/11
What a tenderly-written story! I was completely taken in once I started reading! Very good job!!
Verna Cole Mitchell 01/16/11
Your story really made me think about how the world treats people with special needs and, more specifically, how I should. Thank you for putting this challenge in an interesting story.
Kate Oliver Webb 01/17/11
This is very well done, thought-provoking and wonderfully descriptive. Just an all-around, top notch piece of writing.
Julie Arduini01/20/11
This was so engaging. You really were so creative with the story, giving it more depth than I thought possible with a word count restraint. I really enjoyed this. Thank you for leaving a comment on my entry. I appreciate the time you took.