Ed (very long) note: I feel like a lifetime has passed since I wrote the following post, since so darn much has happened since last week. But I need to share this with you. It’s about dinner with Jeni and her brother, Alex and the kids following the dedication of the Wii Cart on Friday night. Three magical things happened that night — the first you’ve already read about, of course, but there were two more. and the first of those started with nothing but a phone call.
We live two hours apart. There was no way that we weren’t going to take advantage of our time together and have dinner after the ribbon cutting. But that was going to be easier said than done. We’d be a group of ten. On a Friday night. At prime dinner hour. Walking into a restaurant on Hospital Row and hoping for the best just wasn’t a viable option with this crew.
I called a Pizzeria Uno that I knew was just outside the city. It would be easy off and back on the Mass Pike for Jeni and the kids. It would be a little less crazy to find and park at. The bar scene would likely be a little more subdued. It seemed like the best option.
The conversation went something like this …
“Pizzeria Uno, Rebecca speaking.”
“Hi, Rebecca, I’d like to make a reservation for ten people for tonight at 6:45 please.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, but we don’t take reservations. But we do have a call-ahead program, so just give us a call when you’re on your way and if there’s a waiting list, we’ll put your name on the list for you.”
She was friendly as could be, but after the night we were about to have, putting our name on the list wasn’t going to help.
“Oh, I, um .. okay … um .., here’s the thing, we’ve got two autistic kids in the group and waiting might be really difficult. Is there any way that I can give you a credit card and we could leave a deposit or something to secure the table?”
“Oh. Can you give me just a moment?”
I anticipated a wait. We all know what ‘just a moment’ can mean. But approximately thirty seconds later she came back on the line.
“Hi, there. Okay, so we don’t take deposits on tables, but I’ve set aside a table for you for ten people at 6:45. I put it in the upper section of the restaurant, so it will be quieter than in the main dining area, but it does still have a few other tables around it, is that okay?”
Me, stuttering …
“I ..um .. I … oh my gosh, of course, thank you.”
“Do you need gluten-free menus for the kids?”
Me, still stuttering …
“I .. um .. my little one doesn’t and I … Well, I don’t think .. well, no. I don’t think so. Oh my gosh, thank you.”
A reservation in a place that doesn’t take them. A quiet table, away from the chaos of the dining room. A gluten-free menu. Small things that are not small to families like ours. Rebecca’s voice snapped me out of my revery.
“I’m so sorry I didn’t have an immediate answer for you; I just had to check our availability because we have an event tonight and I just had to be sure that we could make this work.”
The dam broke and the words tumbled out, spilling on top of one another before I could stop them …
“Oh my gosh, are you kidding me? I am so incredibly grateful that you’re doing this. It means so much more than you think it does and .. and … well, I just have to tell you, the reason that we are customers in the first place is because you guys are so incredibly generous donating all the food every year to the Boston Autism Walk and so, years ago, after our very first walk when we saw how supportive y’all had been, we wanted to thank you so we took our team to you guys for lunch as a way to thank THEM and well, we’ve been doing it ever since and now it’s tradition and well, then the kids fell in love with your Make Your Own Pizzas and all week, since we told the little one that we’d be coming to Uno’s tonight she’s been walking around pretending to be Max from Max and Ruby saying “Uno’s. Unos’. Uno’s,” and well, I just want you to know how much I appreciate you doing this for us.”
I’m not sure which one of us choked up first.
But the circular gratitude and the not small at all small things was more than I could bear.
When we hung up the phone, I did the only thing that I could think to do.
And wouldn’t you know it? They wrote back. Because that’s what companies who care do.
Our children – our families – face challenges every day. Eating dinner out is among them. It’s not an easy thing to do, on a lot of levels.
But when someone gets it – and makes accommodations that show that they really, really get it, it means something. It means far more than identifying a puzzle piece or the color blue with autism. It means recognizing autistic people, viewing them as guests, and going the extra mile to make those guests feel welcome.
And to families like mine, that’s not just something; it’s everything.
Thank you Rebecca and Uno’s management. We’ll be back to make our own pizzas again very, very soon.
Ed other note: I have absolutely no connection to Uno’s, nor do I receive any kind of direct nor indirect compensation from them. I simply highlight companies who do right by our families, and they are clearly among them.