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Prom and waffles weren’t the only exciting things in Nashville! We had one morning before our meeting started to see the sites of Music City. It was about 15 degrees and a wicked wind was blowing, so Steve, Dr. Coles and I decided we didn’t want to see anthing but the inside of a restaurant to have some lunch. Now here’s another of my quirks- when traveling, I won’t eat at a restaurant that we have at home. Period. I eat at local joints, so tripadvisor is my friend. I type in my location and the type of food I want, and presto, I have ten restaurants to choose from.
Well, tripadvisor led me to Sam’s Sushi Bar. It was a frigid 2 1/2 block walk from the car, and we were like popcicles when we got inside. We looked around, trying to figure out just what we had walked into. It was a tiny place with 3 tables and some chairs squeezed in. The menus were taped to the wall, and there wasn’t much to choose from. They did have soup on the menu, and nothing sounded better at that moment that a hot bowl of miso soup. There was a Japanese man behind the counter, and no one else in sight, so we walked up and asked about the soup. Mistake #1. We were curtly informed that there was no soup. I asked again – no soup, no noodle soup either? Mistake #2. Sam told me his customers didn’t need soup. His sushi rolls were so big, you got full without soup. He told us to leave and go to Ichiban – another restaurant a couple of blocks further away. He said they had soup, and that he didn’t have a heater so we probably wanted to go there anyway. Did he really just tell us to leave?!?
We probably would have left, with our tail between our legs, but it was so COLD!! We didn’t want to walk anywhere else, so we stayed – Dr. Coles told Sam he had talked us into it!! We started to tell him what we wanted and he cut us off and told us to sit down and write it down. Mistake #3. We did as we were told and wrote down our order – a two roll combo for each of us (without soup…) and a drink. Sam told us his credit card machine was broken and he didn’t have change, so he would take $20 cash for all of it. At this point we were nearly splitting a gut trying not to laugh. And the fun didn’t stop there.
We quickly learned we were very fortunate to have arrived when no one else was in the restaurant. As we waited for this sushi-that-was-so-big-you-didn’t-need-soup, we watched other customers come in. They sat down, grabbed a drink out of the cooler and made a point of not looking at Sam. When Sam got done with the order he was working on, he would motion the customer forward to get the sushi, then he would look at the next person that had come in. Once you were graced with that look, you could place your order. As we looked around we saw a sign that said “Sit down and wait for order.” We kind of missed that one I guess! The other sign said “Average waiting time 15-30 minutes”. There was no messing around with this guy – we were getting it. Our food came, and let me just say, WOW! The sushi rolls were so big you literally could not fit it all in your mouth in one bite, and delicious. I was stuffed half way through my combo, and I hadn’t had a a drop of soup!
So other than a good story, why in the world did I share this? As we were leaving, we noticed two more signs on the door that we should have noticed coming in. (Check out the pictures!) The first sign said “Good Customers Only” and the second said “This is Slow Food Place, not Fast Food.” This is a guy who knows who he is. He isn’t letting the world tell him who he should be. People want soup, he fills them up so they don’t need it. People want a big selection, that’s what other restaurants are for. Sam is in control of his restaurant and his life. He never gets overwhelmed with orders. He doesn’t have to pay anyone to wait on his customers. He tells them upfront what to expect, and he consistently delivers exactly that. If people are making demands that he doesn’t want to meet, he asks them to leave. What a simple system.
I’ve been thinking about Sam for two weeks now. Do you ever feel your life is like a sailing ship that gets tossed about by every wind? Family issues come up and you’re pushed east, work is stressing you out and you’re pushed south, you can’t seem to lose those extra pounds and north you go, then the economy takes a downturn and you’re headed west. Pretty soon you have no idea what your original course was, and you are so lost you don’t know which way to sail. Sam may not be a millionaire, and he doesn’t have fame or a show on the Food Channel, but I’ll bet he’s happy. He knows who he is, who he wants to surround himself with, and he sticks to it. He doesn’t worry about the person who leaves because he doesn’t have soup, or because the wait is too long. That’s who he is, and if you’re one of the lucky ones that likes Sam just the way he is, he will feed you well.
My challenge to you is this – decide who you are in one area in life. Think of one person that is already like that, and seek them out. Stand up for one thing that you believe in. Just one – one decision, one person and one belief. That’s your first sign on the wall or door. When you’ve tried that on for size, don’t let it go. Add your next sign. This is my next soul searching challenge to myself as well. Who knows – maybe next time you come to the dentist I’ll be in a barely-heated corner with three chairs, filling teeth on good customers only. Just make sure you don’t ask for soup!
Dr. Michelle Jorgensen