This is the famous Babette’s Furniture Store in Leesburg, Florida. It is the very place where the good men, Fat Tony and Andre, work.
A Story of Kindness
By Richard Mabey Jr.
As most of you, who are regular readers of my blog know, aside from working as a freelance writer, I also work as a Gate Attendant at one of these big gated communities in Central Florida. For the most part, I get a lot of extremely rude and obnoxious people coming by my Gatehouse. For example, one of my jobs as a Gate Attendant, is to give people directions to street addresses, businesses, and health providers. Well, it’s safe to say that only one out of five people even say thank you or thanks, after I’ve given them the directions to where they want to go.
I’ve been a Gate Attendant for four years now. I can honestly say that I don’t think that one single day has ever gone by, working at my Gatehouse, where someone hasn’t used swear words at me or spoke extremely harsh to me. People often just yell at me, simply because they say they hate Gate Attendants. For some reason, I still cannot figure it out, a lot of the people who live in this particular gated community are extremely rude and obnoxious. For the most part they look down upon Gate Attendants. Ironically, we are one of the main forces that are looking out for their safety and security. I guess it’s just the way life is.
At any rate, once in a blue moon, exceptionally kind people come by my Gatehouse. They’ll respectfully stop at the stop sign. They’ll give a polite hello. Some may even be kind enough to ask me how I’m doing. Believe me, these type of people are far and few between. If you find it hard to believe and you live in Central Florida, just ask any Gate Attendant how they get treated by John Q. Resident. You’ll be shocked.
Well, back to my main story here. Lo and behold, about four years ago, the Babette’s Furniture Store truck stopped at my Gatehouse. When I say stop, I mean that they actually stopped. Not a rolling stop. Not an almost stop. But rather a full blown, respectful, true blue stop. Well, I almost had to reach for the smelling salts, because I nearly fainted. Even though I was a rookie back then, I quickly learned that very few vendor trucks, lawn mower guys, cable television workers, and tradesmen rarely fully stop at the stop sign. Most do this rolling stop. Then, when you talk to them about the need for them to stop, they mouth off at you. It’s just the way it is.
But here was a man who respectfully stopped. His name was Fat Tony. And, he worked for Babette’s Furniture Store. Now, before you write in to my blog and tell me how horrible it is that I referred to this gentleman as Fat Tony, I assure you that is the name he likes to go by. In fact, Fat Tony has the wording “Fat Tony” embroidered above his shirt pocket.
Fat Tony has a contagious laugh. He has an easy going spirit. His coworker, who rides in the passenger side of the truck is named Andre. I could easily picture the two of them starring in a comedy show. They have this Abbott and Costello kind of thing going for them.
Well, as time went by, during my rookie year; Fat Tony and Andre drove by my Gatehouse frequently. They always had a good thing to say. They were always upbeat and friendly. In fact, I am convinced that the good Lord sent them to me, at the exact moment when I needed a friend. It would be uncanny. Some old curmudgeon would have just yelled at me for holding out the stop sign to him. Which, by the way, is the very thing that I’m supposed to do. Then, lo and behold, there would be the famous Babette’s Furniture Store truck, trucking along right behind the old grouch who had just cursed me out.
How far reaching was the effect of Fat Tony and Andre’s friendly spirit? Well, when I decided to buy a new bedroom set, guess where I went without a second thought? You got it! Babette’s Furniture Store. Then, I bought a desk set there as well. Guess what? It was Fat Tony and Andre’s friendly spirit that motivated me to choose Babette’s Furniture Store. It wasn’t some fancy full-color ad in the daily paper. It wasn’t some clever television commercial. It wasn’t some flashing billboard. No, it was just good old fashioned, down-home, Mayberry friendliness that convinced me that Babette’s Furniture Store would be the place to go to buy my bedroom set.
Well, lo and behold, the story doesn’t end there. As fate would have it, Fat Tony and Andre delivered my bedroom set to my house. My mom and sister were home at the time. After they delivered my new bedroom set, both my mom and sister said that the two delivery men had to be the nicest delivery men that they had ever met.
As if that wasn’t amazing enough. There’s more to this story! One day I was cleaning my bedroom. Really heavy cleaning, the kind of cleaning that you do about once every three or four months. I had removed the headboard from my bed and was polishing it up. Well, as fate would have it, the headboard fell down. As a result, it got a little nick in it. I was really bummed out.
A couple weeks later, lo and behold, here comes Fat Tony and Andre trucking down toward my Gatehouse. They asked me how I liked my bedroom set. I then told them the story that my headboard now had a nick in it. Well Fat Tony looks at me and asks me, “walnut brown, right?”
“Yes, that’s it,” I simply replied. I was amazed that Fat Tony remembered the color of my bedroom set. After all he probably delivers at least a dozen furniture ensembles in the course of just one day!
Well, Fat Tony, asks Andre to get him a walnut brown marking crayon. Andre almost seemed to pull one out of thin air. I mean, David Copperfield would probably have been a little jealous of their routine. Now here’s the thing, this was not the old Crayola Crayon that we remember from our childhood. No, this was a big, thick crayon.
Fat Tony handed me this thick crayon and said, “that oughta do it.” Well, I thanked Fat Tony and then he drove off. Kind of the way that the Lone Ranger would do after he saved the good folks at Gold Miner’s Gulch from the bad guys.
That night I filled in the nick on my headboard with the walnut brown crayon. It worked like a charm. I bragged about it to my neighbor. He asked me if he could borrow the crayon for a nick in his bedroom bureau. He too was amazed at how well it worked. When he returned the crayon back to me, he asked me where I got it. I told him that the delivery men at Babette’s Furniture Store loaned it to me.
Well, I kept Fat Tony’s walnut brown crayon in my lunchbox and brought it to work with me every day. I did this in anticipation for the next time that I would see Fat Tony. A couple of weeks went by and lo and behold, Fat Tony and Andre came trucking down the road to my Gatehouse.
I thanked Fat Tony and Andre for the marking crayon. I also told Fat Tony that I had loaned it out to my neighbor and he appreciated it also. Well to my surprise, Fat Tony said to me, “well that’s good. Keep it in case you need it again.” I earnestly thanked him and the old Babette’s truck drove off in the distance.
Well, gossip is one of the main ingredients of my neighborhood. In fact, I really don’t know why they even publish a daily newspaper in my gated community. In my neighborhood, word travels faster by mouth than any printing press in the world. Sorry, neighbors, but hey, you know it’s true.
So, the word soon got out in my neighborhood that I had this magical walnut brown marking crayon that covered up nicks and scratches in furniture. Soon, I wasn’t able to go outside for a walk without someone asking me if they could borrow my marking crayon. And guess what? I told every single person that borrowed my walnut brown marking crayon that the delivery men from Babette’s Furniture Store had given it to me.
Their reactions? Basically it would go like this: “Oh really? That was nice of them!”
Now, before I close let me say this. In this little story, I concentrated on the kindness of Fat Tony and Andre. But let me make it clear, ALL the delivery men for Babette’s Furniture Store have always been respectful and friendly to me.
I had heard that at the colleges in Florida they are now rewriting their textbooks for business students. The new marketing concept is this: forget about spending millions of dollars on television commercials, newspaper ads, radio spots and billboards. Instead, hire goodhearted people to work for you!
Here’s the bottom line: kindness is often more valuable than gold!