Monday, November 04, 2013

Smiling With Her Heart's Best Face

I once convinced the entire staff of a sushi restaurant to wear nametags.

Not on purpose. Like most things in life, it just kind of happened.

The waitress asked why I was wearing a nametag, so I told her. She seemed to like it. So much so, that she asked if I had any extra nametags with me. Which I did. So I pulled a spare out of my wallet, asked what her name was, labeled it “Katsuki,” and handed the nametag over.

She giggled, said arigatogo three times and hurried back to the kitchen to share the story with her coworkers. I watched as they listened, laughed, inspected her nametag, waved in my direction and went back to work smiling.

I was elated. Whenever this kind of interaction happens, I’m always reminded of why I wear a nametag in the first place. It makes people friendlier.

But it also makes for a good story. And here’s when things got interesting.

A few months later, I returned the same sushi restaurant. When I walked in the front door, my friends and I were greeted with a hearty irasshaimase, as is traditional for most sushi bars.

But as we gazed around the dining room, we couldn’t help but notice that something was different.

All of the employees were wearing nametags.

Servers, hostesses, busboys, chefs, dishwashers, even the managers wore red and white stickers with blue writing––exactly like mine––donning their phonetically spelled Japanese names.

No. Freaking. Way.

As the hostess walked us to our table, each of the employees we passed smiled and pointed to their nametags as if to say, you inspired this.

In fourteen years, I’ve never seen that happen.

Not for a business. Not for an entire staff. And certainly not for a group of people from a different country.

We had one of the best meals of our lives that night. The chefs even sent over a complimentary tempura shrimp appetizer to our table, as a thank you.

And of course, Katsuki was there the whole time. Smiling with her heart’s best face.