Darin's Point of No Return

If there’s one thing that’s, hopefully, grown deep inside all of us during these curve-flattening, soul-sucking, economy-obliterating, life-stealing months of COVID-Mania, it is the concept of appreciation.

Well, maybe not a sense of appreciation over the isolation and frustration so many have felt during this time, or the government-mandated impositions on our ways of life that have caused many of us to feel as if our personal liberties have been systemically encroached upon with each passing day, but more so an appreciation of what we once had at our disposal. You know, the whole, “You-don’t-know-what-you-got-’til-it’s-gone” thingy.

Maybe we miss having friends over for drinks on a casual Thursday night, or watching our kids go crazy at the little play area in the mall while we enjoy the sanctity and peace of simply sitting down for a few moments. Maybe it’s going to live sporting events or concerts, crammed in posterior-to-belly-button with one another and collectively sharing in the entertainment.

Maybe it’s just being able to hug a loved one.

For me, it’s a bit of a mixture of all these things, along with being able to sit down and play cards with either friends or strangers, and enjoying a cocktail while I listen to really talented musicians do the things that only really talented musicians are able to do.

For instance, there’s a gentleman in Ohio who really enjoys a jazz and blues club in Cleveland Heights named Nighttown, which has been presenting music and good times to patrons since 1965. Due to a steep rise in virus cases in the area, owner Brendan Ring decided to voluntarily shut things down after closing the doors a few weeks back.

But remember how I told you about this gentleman who really likes going to Nighttown? Apparently, for this guy, the music was part of the pleasure for him, but so are the people who work there. A lot of us can identify with that, right? Aren’t there places you’ve liked to frequent simply because of a host or hostess, or bartender or server that made your day just a little bit better?

Those are people to treasure in life — the ones who give you smiles simply by being themselves.

Anyway, back to this guy. He apparently ordered a Stella Artois on Sunday, got his bill for $7.02 and handed it back to Ring after his credit card got swiped and he paid the bill, according to an article on Fox19.com.

“Take care of this,” Ring remembered the guy telling him. “Split it among waitstaff.”

Ring said the guy walked away, and then he looked down at the bill.

“‘Oh, my God! He left a $300 tip on a $7 bar tab.’ And then I put my glasses on,” recalled Ring. “And I looked down and I said, ‘Oh, my God!’ It was a $3,000 tip!”

Ring ran out to catch the customer, certain he had made a mistake.

“He said, ‘No — that’s what I intended. Share it with the staff. Good luck to you guys. Merry Christmas and we’ll see you when you come back,” according to an account on MSN.com. There were only four servers working that day, so each of them got $750 from the tip, according to Ring.

Obviously, that money can come in handy. In any year, really. Who wouldn’t enjoy getting an extra $750 in his or her pocket right before Christmas? Especially when you are fully aware that your job is about to be shut down for the foreseeable future.

Like many business owners, Ring has felt the pain of 2020. This is the second time he has shut down his business, which was previously open 364 days a year — only staying dark for Christmas Day.

“I spent 28 years at Nighttown, and I never worked a day in my life,” said Ring. “I have fun. This is not a job. This year, it’s been a job.”

He explained that he had four of his regular customers come down with the virus, and he wasn’t sure what to do.

“Am I doing the right thing?” regarding closing, he asked himself. “Is this the right thing to do? I have to consider my staff, right?”

He decided to go the cautious route, and some of his patrons decided to try to help him out by buying extra food from him before closing so they could fill their freezers. He said he is eternally grateful for the support, and the Irish-born Ring said he couldn’t believe how much attention this story was receiving — explaining that his sister who still lives in Ireland saw a story in her local newspaper on the support Ring and his staff had received from his customers.

In a year filled with downs, and peppered with stories regarding discord, death, damage and destruction, it’s nice to be reminded of decency and dignity.

Remember our small businesses, now more than ever before. Remember the owners of these businesses, and remember the people these owners are responsible for at the end of the day.

Executive Editor

Darin is a native of Washington, D.C, and studied journalism at Temple University. He is a combat-veteran Marine, and has worked as a reporter and editor throughout the country. He is married and has one daughter, who doubles as his harshest critic.