The Observer, Feb. 4 

A friend of The Observer who works at the Log Cabin Democrat in Conway noted on her blog last week one of those rare and unexpected acts of kindness that happen when, and where, you least expect it. This one unfolded in the drive-through lane at Zaxby's chicken restaurant on Dave Ward Drive.

A woman pulled up to the drive-through window to grab her order and pay for her tab, and asked to pay for the car behind her as well. The worker at the window asked if she knew the people who would now be getting a free dinner and she said she did not. She just wanted to do something nice for a fellow fried-chicken lover.

Once the lady pulled away, the next customer was told her ticket had been taken care of. Not wanting to shirk the responsibility of paying for her own food, this customer decided to pay for the car behind her as well.

According to Robert Wilcox, one of the restaurant's managers, this happened five or six times, until there was just one car left in line. When she was told her meal would be on the house, she promised to pay it forward somehow, in honor of those in line before her, who had paid it backward.

Last Sunday, after the great
semi-thaw that burned off the sheen of ice that had kept us stranded at The Observatory for two days straight, we ventured out into the sunlight. Looking for some grub, we went out to West Little Rock to sample the fare at a barbecue joint that recently opened in those parts. When we got there, we realized that while the rest of the world was coming out of the deep freeze, the sidewalk in front of this place surely had not. From the edge of the parking lot to the point shielded by the storefront overhang was the world's longest, skinniest skating rink; eight feet of 2-inch-thick ice. Spouse, who once shattered her ankle, and who has been determined since then not to have a repeat performance, almost turned back. Jonesing for smoked meat products, however, we held her hand and coaxed her over the ice floe. As we watched, an elderly gent ? on a walker, no less ? and his caretaker slipped warily across to the door. The Observer gritted his teeth every moment that the old feller might fall.

Once The Observer, Spouse and Junior were inside and had ordered, we excused our self and headed down the strip mall to the Oriental market just down the way. Among the monosodium glutamate and kung pao seasoning, we found what we were looking for: a big bag of sea salt ? $2.50 for a 3-pound bag. After having the clerk saw off the corner of the bag with his pocket knife, we walked back to the restaurant and liberally salted a 4-foot strip of the mini-glacier directly in front of the 'cue joint's door. By the time we finished our barbecue sammiches, the salted strip had gone to crumbling slush.

Was that so hard?

Our Yankee friend called and asked our advice. What do you do when a waiter or waitress or nurse who is 20 years younger than you calls you “dear.” She says she's getting that all the time. This is a bad, bad trend.

Slap 'em, we said. Except for the nurse. Nurses call everyone “dear.”

Or ask them to cut up your meat.

More weather-inspired musings:

The Observer's spouse sees the world through snow-colored glasses. He lives for snow. He stares up into the sky every time the temperature drops below 40 and a cloud musters. He watches the Make-A-Wish weather channel and tells his family that snow is right around the corner and we're going to be socked in.

He'll settle for sleet with a dusting of snow on top, however, so imagine his joy last week. He might as well have been riding in that laundry basket with the gleeful mother and child we saw coming down Cedar Street. A plus for him is that he can miss the morning paper and not feel at sea.

What was excellent about last week's bad weather (if you were warm and not on the highway) was that it was just a little bit unexpected. There were warnings, but they were vague. It was like it was in the old days, before radar and sophisticated weather predicting. Then, snow wasn't just pretty and unusual, it was a surprise. It might start at mid-day and the schools would turn us loose (though they never closed when streets were dry as they do today). We'd tromp through it in our saddle oxfords, stopping at the Island X for a cheese dip on the way home. No one twittered us a warning. There was no weather channel. These were very happy days for our spouse indeed.


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