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Unpunished

© Ronniechua | Dreamstime.com

Ten of us arrive, unannounced, at the restaurant on the terrace, hoping for an outside table.

The staff seats us quickly, then waters, breads, menus, wines, serves, desserts, and espressos us in style. The service is seamless, though during the meal I notice one of our waitresses hurrying by, looking harried. But we gab and laugh and catch up in the sun on the terrace, enjoying the company, the food, and the splendid New England day.

Eventually the waitress brings the check, with amends. “I’m so sorry about the delay. Thanks for your understanding.” Have I missed something? My grilled free-range chicken cobb salad with Maytag Blue Cheese was timely and tasty. We settle the check, chuckling over the usual division of opinion among those who want to split it evenly, those who want to pay only for what they ate plus tax and tip, and those who rushed out early and left an odd, incalculable amount to cover their share. As we waddle slowly out, I hear the same waitress call glumly, “Sorry again about the delay.”

As I pass, I tell her, “Just so you know, we didn’t notice a delay and we had a great time. Thanks.” She perks up and smiles. When we hit the street, one of my companions catches my eye, saying, “That was a kind thing to do.”

Yes, but it’s true. I don’t know what she is stressing over, but she should know that we had a good time. And yes, I suppose it is awfully nice of me to tell her. Surely, the milk of human kindness gurgles with gusto in my veins.

Next day, I am still in a good mood, thi...