The following was published in the book “Doing Good for Goodness’ Sake: Heartwarming Stories and Inspiring Ideas to Help You Help Others.”
I wrote this story after helping a Japanese couple visiting the United States for the first time whom I met while working as a pizza delivery driver for Papa John’s in Las Vegas.
If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers,
it shows that he is a citizen of the world,
and that his heart is no island cut off from other lands,
but a continent that joins to them.
[One Pair of Hands – Carroll Roberson]
Living the life of a pizza delivery man, I’d often find reason to rejoice. More than the occasional $5 or $10 tip were the smiles of the children waiting at the door, and every once in a while, the unexpected.
I had just pulled into the busy parking lot after a string of deliveries. As I neared the pizza parlor I saw two people running toward me. A man and a woman, Asian looking, carrying big shopping bags emblazoned with the logo from one of the clothing stores that helped to anchor the strip mall. I turned into my parking space, a few rows back from the pizza parlor. I put the car in park and looked up. There they were, smiling, looking relieved.
All of a sudden, the back door of my car opened. I turned around. The couple had jumped into the backseat of my car. At first, I was confused as to why they would jump into a pizza delivery car; after all, it was evident from the sign on the top of the car that read “PIZZA” in large bold letters. Then, it made sense. They couldn’t read English; they saw the car-topper and thought I was a taxi. That had to be it.
I got out of the car. They looked bewildered and followed. I pointed to the pizza parlor. They realized their mistake. Obviously embarrassed, they laughed nervously and walked briskly away. I went back into the store, thinking little of it.
A few minutes later, I stepped outside and noticed the same couple, across from me, looking like they were waiting for something. The woman walked away and a few seconds later she returned. I heard the phone ringing and took the call. A pickup. “Pie on screen,” I told my coworker.
I went to the front window and looked out. Again, the woman walked away, the man shaking his head. A minute passed, the woman returned, now shaking her head. That’s it, I must find out what’s going on.
“I’ll be right back,” I told my co-worker.
Before I approached, the woman had walked away again. The man looked exasperated. I looked toward Starbucks. The public phones, I thought. That’s where the woman went. She returned.
“No taxi come,” she said tearfully in what was obviously the few words that she knew in English.
I noticed a card in her hand. “Can I see?” I asked.
She handed it to me. It was from North Las Vegas Cab, miles and miles from where we were.
I had my cell phone and called the number. Busy signal. Tried again. Busy signal. I looked up at the couple; they looked exhausted, defeated.
“What country are you from?” I asked.
“Japan,” the woman answered.
“Where are you staying?”
She looked at me, confused. “No understand.”
She nodded sheepishly. She opened her purse, pulled out another card.
“Ah, the Mandalay Bay . . . nice hotel,” I replied. “How long have you been in Las Vegas?”
“Three day,” the woman said, smiling. “First time, America.”
I wish that I could take them to their hotel, I thought. But it was too far and I’m sure my boss wouldn’t go for it. I was the only delivery guy. What I needed to do was to call another taxi service, one closer. There was a phone book in the pizza store. I motioned for the couple to follow me.
“Rest your legs,” I said pointing to the chairs in the waiting area. They smiled and sat, relieved. They were exhausted and maybe hungry too.
I went around the counter and pulled out the phone book. I found the right number and dialed. “Where to?” said the dispatcher.
“About twenty minutes,” was the reply.
I related this to the woman who, in turn, relayed it in her Japanese to her husband. He nodded a sigh of relief.
I went around the counter back to the pick-up area. “Are you hungry?” I asked them, pointing up toward the big pizza sign.
“Yes, yes, yes,” the woman answered.
“Would you like pizza?”
The woman looked at the man, said something in Japanese. He smiled a very big smile.
“Yes, yes . . . cheese, cheese,” the woman answered.
I put together a large cheese pizza and slipped it into the oven.
“Six minutes,” I said to the couple.
And then I asked them if they were thirsty.
“Yes, cola,” the woman replied.
I pulled two 20-ounce bottles from the cooler, a few napkins, and two paper plates and handed them to my new friends. The woman rose, bowed slightly, and opened her purse. She pulled out a wad of American dollars of various denominations.
“No, no,” I said. “On me.”
She insisted. Again, I refused. “Please, pizza’s on me. No charge.”
She smiled and sat down.
When the pizza was ready, I sliced and boxed it before handing it to the Japanese couple.
The man drew a camera from his pocket. He took a picture of the pizza box and then had his wife pose with the two plates. Then, he gestured for me to stand with his wife, and he took another picture.
The man opened the box, and with the hot steam rising, he took a deep breath and exhaled with a smile.
“Good, good, good,” the woman said. And then she set her plate down and opened her purse. She pulled out a little notebook, rose, and handed it to me.
“You write address.”
I wrote it down and then a few minutes later, the cab arrived and the driver came in.
“Somebody call a cab?”
“Yes, please take my friends visiting from Japan to the Mandalay. They’re tired. You know, they came over here to do some serious shopping.”
Two weeks later, I received a package. Inside was a beautiful Japanese card inscribed within: “We have heard about American hospitality but it was our first time to experience it.” Beneath the card was a beautiful tin containing an assortment of Japanese crackers, cookies. A few weeks before Christmas, it was the perfect gift.