Recently we were on vacation in the Thousand Islands region in northern New York state. The weather was great, and our base was in Clayton, NY. One sunny day we went on a jaunt to look at antiques and neighboring towns. As we drove along, the car seemed to be buffeted by the wind, which was high that day. But as drove further, it seemed to get worse, and much as we hated to admit it, the car started to hesitate, indicating that the wind wasn’t the problem at all.
We were between towns, not at all in the middle of somewhere, and we began to make agitated calls to information to see if there were any repair shops anywhere near us. We managed to get a couple numbers from the operator. Of course, when dialing information, accuracy suffers somewhat, and though we did scare up some actual people that answered, a look at our map revealed that they weren’t particularly close to us at all.
Fortunately we managed to reach Watertown, NY, before the car quit on us. A couple more inquiries revealed that there was a Goodyear repair shop, and best of all, they were willing to look at our car. The car made it, and though we were not happy about needing repairs, we appreciated that it hadn’t been in the dead of night on one of those very lonely highways nearby.
We noticed that there was a diner nearby, and decided to camp out there and cool off while planning our next move. We had no idea how long the repair would take. We got a friendly greeting, and headed right for the counter, as we often do in diners so that we can chat with the staff and watch the cooking. We had sandwiches, and shared our tale with the waitress. Soon the proprietress, April, joined in the conversation. Both she and the waitress sympathized with our problem, and immediately had loads of ideas about who to contact and what to do. They even offered to leave work and drive us to a rental agency!
We rapidly got the names and numbers of probably every car rental agency in town, and even inside information like fun factoids about people who worked in them. After 2 or 3 calls, we found a place, not only with a car available, but who was willing to come to us with the car. Within minutes, our situation had transformed from being possibly stranded, all the way to a friendly meal with people who didn’t just help us remedy our problem, but really gave us the royal treatment. While waiting for the rental car to arrive, we heard more tales from April, whose personality and energy level are almost preternatural, and very entertaining. She goes a mile a minute, and anecdotes just tumble out of her.
Our ride arrived, and we copiously thanked our new friends, and relaxed, knowing our problem had been solved. As a bonus, we discovered that Watertown has one of the most beautiful libraries we’ve seen – a gorgeous historical gem with Tiffany windows, beautiful marble statues, rare paintings, and breathtaking architecture, the Flower Memorial Library.
One thing we enjoy about small-town diners is how fun it is to talk to the locals and get the feel of a town’s personality, something you can’t really do at a humdrum chain restaurant. But the people at the AJ Diner were exceptionally sweet, friendly, and treated us not just cordially, but as if we were valued family members. We don’t take that for granted. I hope that if you make it to downtown Watertown, you’ll pay them a visit and say hi.
If, by chance, they read this, Lonnie and Dave from Syracuse say hello and many thanks for changing a lousy day into a happy experience!!!!!
AJ Diner, 455 Court St, Watertown, NY, 13601. 315-777-4811