I recently returned from an incredible 10-day vacation in Cozumel, Mexico – a beautiful island paradise off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in the Caribbean. It was a phenomenal trip full of scuba diving, abundant marine life, exploration, relaxation, and of course an unhealthy amount of tequila and guacamole.
I will be posting more about this epic trip including images, videos and more, but in today’s post I want to talk about one of the main highlights of my trip which was also the most unexpected.
One night around 6PM, the crew (my three cousins, two uncles, aunt, brother and I) decided we wanted to grab a bite to eat after running a few errands in town. Instead of sticking to the touristy areas for dinner, we decided to save our pesos and head out for some authentic Mexican food in the heart of town. We hopped on our moped scooters (which is hands-down the most awesome form of transportation ever) and set out looking for a hole-in-the-wall spot that would provide us with the biggest bang for our buck and hopefully wouldn’t wage war on our foreign digestive systems.
After driving a few kilometers and confirming that we were the only gringos within a 10km radius, we finally settled on our dinner spot, a local pizzeria and tacqueria. We were well into town at this point and pretty far from the downtown tourist area and our waiter, Nico, didn’t speak any English.
Nico was friendly and upbeat despite the language barrier, probably in his late twenties, and was wearing a green-striped shirt and a baseball cap. He was the only waiter on staff at the time (around 8:30PM) so he was constantly running around the restaurant trying to keep the customers happy.
We ordered chips and guac to start and struggled to translate our order of one cheese and one pepperoni pizza to Spanish. Finally, Nico seemed to understand what we ordered, or so we thought… He returned a few minutes later with our chips and guac, and about 10 minutes later with one cheese pizza and not one but two pepperoni pizzas! I guess it got lost in translation that we only wanted two pizzas but we were all pretty hungry so it wasn’t a big deal.
After drinking a few waters to replenish my body fluid after sweating thanks to the unbearable Mexican heat, humidity and spicy salsa, I decided to order a cerveza (that’s ‘beer’ in Spanish for all my fellow gringos). I asked Nico for a Sol – which is the Mexican equivalent to a Corona Light – but he told me that they were out and before I could give him my second preference, he disappeared. Guess I won’t be having any drinks tonight, I joked to my brother and cousin, confused as to where our waiter disappeared to.
What happened next was unbelievable, at least in my prior dining experiences… A few minutes later, my brother confusingly looked out over our table, his gaze fixed across the street and said, “Hey, look – I think that’s our waiter.”
I looked over and saw Nico dodging traffic as he hurried back to the restaurant from the corner store about a block away, plastic bag in hand.
He finally returned back to the restaurant and revealed the plastic bag that he was holding. He reached down and pulled out a 6-pack of beer… it was a 6-pack of Sol. He grabbed a handful of them and returned to our table, smiling as he placed the newly purchased beers on our table.
I was in shock. I was at a loss for words as I couldn’t wrap my head around why Nico, who could hardly understand a word I spoke, was so dedicated and devoted to his customer, me, a stranger – so much so, that he would run across the freaking street, dodging scooters and cars to get me a beer! I mean come on, it was just a beer!
What if he tripped, or rolled an ankle on his journey to the corner store? Or worse, what if he got hit by a car?!
For a beer? For me?! I couldn’t believe it but I was incredibly grateful. Not because I had a beer to drink, but because this man who I met 15 minutes ago, and would likely never see again, would go through all that trouble to satisfy my request. Why did he do this for me? I don’t know exactly, but I was overcome with gratitude.
I began asking myself why I was so blown away by Nico’s service. It could have been because I had never experienced service like that before – an experience like this, in my opinion, would never happen in the US whether it be because of insurance/liability issues or more likely, because the server wouldn’t care enough to make it happen.
However, what struck me the most was his selflessness and desire to serve and meet my request (regardless of the need to play Frogger in the hectic Mexican streets)
Nico’s act of service may have not been a big deal to him, but it was to me. I couldn’t express my gratitude to him (literally, because of my poor Spanish) but did my best to make sure he knew how grateful I was before I left the restaurant. I reached into my boardshorts pocket and gave him all the money I had on me (a whopping eight dollars! I gladly would have given more if I had it.) as a tip for his kind gesture.
So what can we learn from this experience?
Above all, I think the biggest takeaway from this story is that there are few things in this world that bring about the type of happiness and fulfillment that come as a result of serving others, for all involved parties. I recognized that Nico placed my needs above his own, and I was incredibly grateful and humbled because of this – even more so because we were both strangers to each other.
He could have just as easily told me “no tenemos Sol cerveza” and I would have ordered a different drink and life would have carried on just the same.
But he went well above and beyond what was asked of him and placed another’s needs above his own. Think about how much our world would improve if more of us lived according to this standard. The world needs a whole lot more people who do this – more people like Nico.
Me, my Sol and Nico, the legend himself
The good news is that it starts with one – one kind act witnessed by a bystander increases the chances of that person engaging in similar acts. Try it out – see what happens – I think you’ll be pleased with the results. Let me know in the comments what you think, or tell me a story about your experiences with someone going above and beyond their duty – I look forward to hearing from you!