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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

T-shirts and Travelers

This is a not-so-fabulous photograph of one of my favorite t-shirts.

It holds a great deal of sentimental value for me because I purchased it on my last night in Budapest. It has gone with me from Budapest to Paris, has been worn in numerous places in Colorado, and may have traveled to some neighboring states. Hey, I don't remember everything I have packed on every trip! Aside from the obvious memories associated with it, it's a really cool shirt. It has a very detailed line drawing of parts of the city. The paint is starting to flake off, but I still love it. I'll probably wear it until it's just a white shirt that only has the word Budapest on it.

When Trent and I decided to go to a restaurant that serves breakfast at any time of day, I pulled on my trusty Budapest t-shirt. As I gave myself a last-minute check in the mirror, I thought, "Someone is going to say something about this shirt today." When our server came to our table, she exclaimed, "I really like your Budapest shirt!" Now, I've heard this before, but she still surprised me because she pronounced it the way it is supposed to be pronounced. In Hungarian, a single letter s is pronounced like sh, so Budapest is pronounced more like Budapesht. 

Of course both Trent and I lit up when she pronounced it that way, and we began to chat with her about why she knew to say it that way. She has an eighteen-year-old daughter who has wanted to go to Budapest for years. We talked about the Revolution of 1956 and I asked her to let her daughter know that she needed to look up at the buildings to see the bullet holes from that terrible time in Hungarian history. I told her about my family leaving for the USA after the revolution failed and they were slated to be executed. She has a relative of a relative who lived in Hungary; I have many who still live there. Trent and I enjoyed the brief time we had to speak with her and encouraged her to let her daughter know that she would most likely enjoy her trip a great deal. We left with full tummies as well as hearts full of joy. It was wonderful.

After the latest round of Medicinal Madness (more on that in a day or two) we decided that we needed to get out and have a treat. We had received a gift certificate to a restaurant last Christmas and had been hoping to save it for our anniversary, but decided that there was no better time to use it than right then. So I pulled on my red pants and my Budapest t-shirt, and we headed to Boulder for dinner. 

Frankly, dinner got off to a rough start. We walked in and waited at the host stand for someone to seat us. A lady and her young son, who came in after us, were asked by the young host if they would like a table. To my surprise, this woman did not have the courtesy to tell him that we had arrived first. She said that yes, they would like a table, and he seated them. He walked straight past us back to the station, never even giving us a glance. Trent and I looked at one another with raised eyebrows, stunned at his behavior. Trent asked if we could be seated at a table and the host told us that he would check to see if there was a clean table available. It was before the dinner rush began, so there were dozens of empty, clean tables that he walked us by before seating us at the very back of the restaurant.

He seated us in an area that was assigned to a very good server, but he had people at most of his tables. They were also all seated within minutes of each other, so we felt even more slighted. I must emphasize that we didn't feel slighted by the server; it appeared to be deliberately poor seating by the host. I sat there at the back of the restaurant trying to find some humor in the situation. I thought, and said to Trent, that as I am a fairly substantially-sized person, it's pretty amazing that the host couldn't see me. I still felt a bit overlooked (invisible?), probably because my nerves were still jangled from all of the stress regarding the phone calls we had dealt with earlier.

Trent excused himself to go to the restroom, but spoke with the manager instead. She was a delightful person, and knew exactly who had been responsible for the ill treatment. She dealt with us very kindly and really saved the day for us. Before we spoke with her we had decided to never return to the restaurant, but we changed our minds because of her. Not that we have tons of money hanging around for dining out, mind you. That's one of the reasons we only go to places that treat their guests well. When we have another opportunity, we'll definitely go back there again.

As we left, it seemed that every employee gave us a smile, thanked us for dining with them, and wished us a good evening. The young woman who was now at the host station gave me a bright smile and said, "I love your Budapest shirt!" As you can probably guess, those were magic words for me. I thanked her and told her that I had gotten it in Budapest, and asked her if she had ever been there. She told me that she will be going there next spring. She will be studying abroad in Prague, but definitely wants to go to Budapest. Yet again, I found myself briefly telling someone about the revolution and my family's flight from the country. She was more excited than ever to go. She had never heard of the revolution and told me that learning about it touched her history-loving heart.

Once again, my t-shirt had brought me a brief, delightful interaction with a person who wanted to go somewhere that I had been. What a pleasure to share a moment or two (okay, several) letting them know how much they were likely to enjoy their travels! These young women will also know that this beautiful city has had its share of both happiness and sorrow. I hope that they will enjoy the warmth and kindness of the Hungarian people as much as I did. And I wonder what further experiences my Budapest t-shirt might bring me.