#89 The To-Go Cone
Mr. Finny owned the diner in town for over 40 years. His clients included the mayor, the city council, and pretty much anyone who worked within a square half-mile of his centrally located establishment. He was known to serve tasty food at competitive prices, and while newer, fancier, and more specialized restaurants opened around him, he watched as each one sadly closed while he soldiered on. He couldn’t wish them ill though – it wasn’t his way. At age 80, he simply enjoyed what he did too much to retire, but knew that some day he’d pass on just as the other restaurants had.
Finny had a reputation for hospitality, and his signature special trademark was the To-Go Cone. After a hearty meal, many of his patrons would be in a rush to get back to work, and Finny insisted that they take a small ice cream cone to-go, free of charge. His To-Go cones were legendary, appearing in many a person’s hand as they returned to work. The mayor had been seen holding one at his desk, and the district judge had one in his hand as he returned to court on a regular basis.
One day Mr. Finny began closing up his shop as the last patron, Joan, was preparing to leave. It was late, and she was tired. She found it odd that after she paid the bill, Finny wasn’t at the door with is usual to-go cone in hand for her. But she figured he was just trying to get out of there quickly, and for all she knew, the ice cream machine had already been shut down for the night. Reluctantly she exited the diner without her cone, without saying goodbye.
About a half-block down the street, her conscience got the best of her. She remembered Mr. Finny warmly as he handed her that cone during her childhood, her teen years (even when the diner wasn’t cool to be seen at), and as an adult. She turned around so that she could at least say goodnight to the man she’d known for so long. Even if she didn’t get her cone, it was worth it.
She entered the diner, surprised that her table hadn’t been cleaned. She felt funny, coming back in so soon, but she had a good pretext – to get her cone! She called out to Mr. Finny, but got no answer. Breaking the proclamation of the “Employees Only” sign, she walked into the kitchen and found Mr. Finny. He lay on the floor, sprawled out. A broken ice cream cone lay on the floor beside him, bearing Joan’s favorite flavor. She called 911, and waited while she watched him take shallow breaths.
The next day she visited him in the hospital. Despite being a man of advanced years, his collapse had simply been exhaustion from the long day. He’d broken a bone though, and if she hadn’t returned, the results of the fall might have been far worse. He agreed to have others help him close down at the end of the day, even if it meant keeping his teenage wait staff there a few hours later on school nights, and Joan smiled as he apologized for not giving her the cone before she left.