We spent the weekend visiting out oldest son in Cleveland and we had a great time. We got to explore the city, including a walking tour of a closed subway tunnel and a free trolley ride around town. We also had some great meals along the way. But what made the weekend even better was the kindness of strangers.
It started with our drive out. We were stuck in a slow-moving traffic, with two lanes slowly merging into one. I noticed that the Coke tractor trailer that was right behind us seemed awful close, and a couple of times it seemed like it had to brake fairly quickly to avoid hitting me. It was about five minutes later when a car pulled up next to us, honking its horn. The couple in the other car signaled for my wife to roll down her window, which she did. They then proceeded to tell us how close the Coke truck had come to hitting us, most likely because the driver was texting! The couple then told us they would let us pull in front of them so that we wouldn’t have to worry about getting hit. It was such a nice gesture by complete strangers, and it was a harbinger of things to come.
We arrived safely in Cleveland, and later that night we went out to Abuello’s Mexican restaurant for dinner. There was a little bit of confusion over who our server would be, but after a short wait, it was all resolved, and we thought nothing of it. However, the waitress offered us a free appetizer because of the delay, which we didn’t really notice. Our meals came, and there was a minor mix-up with one of the meals, and it had to be returned. The correct meal was brought out a couple minutes later, and we enjoyed quite a delicious meal. When we got our check, we were in for another surprise – they did not charge us for the meal that got mixed up. The service throughout the dining experience was outstanding, and we were happy to leave a generous tip. We look forward to returning to a place that treats its customers so well.
The next day we drove into downtown Cleveland to take a tour underneath a bridge that used to be part of the subway system crossing the Cuyahoga river. The tunnel only opens up once per year for this tour, so we were lucky to be visiting this weekend. After parking our car and trying to figure out which way to go to get to the tour, a young woman noted our looks of confusion (a specialty of mine), and asked where we were trying to get to. We told her, and then she said she was heading in that direction, and walked the full 10-15 minutes with us to get to the tour, even though that was not her destination. Along the way, she told us all about the local neighborhood, recommended a few places to eat close by, and told us about other points of interest in the Cleveland area. We could not have had a professional tour guide that was any better. Her love of Cleveland was obvious, as was her kindness.
(One of the coolest things we saw along the way was this unique bridge that opens up to allow river traffic to pass through by spinning around in place. Here is a video:)
After the bridge tour, we walked around the many exhibits scattered throughout town. At one of the booths, a woman spotted my Villanova shirt, and told me that she had gone to LaSalle, a local rival college. We had a nice conversation, and she told us about how much she enjoyed Cleveland, even more than Philly.
The tour guides on the trolley buses were quite enjoyable to listen to, and it as easy to feel their sense of pride in the city.
Later that night we went out to a great pizza place in Cleveland Heights, Dewey’s. There was some confusion about one of the pizzas ordered (no doubt brought on partly by my request for no cheese on my half of a pizza), and so they had to make us another one, no questions asked. The pizza was superb, one of the best I have had in quite a while. And then surprise, when they brought us the bill, they did not charge my wife and I for the pizza we had split.
It seemed to be turning into a magical weekend with all this free food!
Today, however, when we started driving around on a few last minute errands, the brake light on our car went off and a warning sound kept beeping.
So we stopped at a Firestone Auto service center, and they checked it out for free, even though they told us up front that they did not have anyone working today that could fix a brake problem, if that’s what it was. Unfortunately it was. However, they did top our car off with brake fluid, at no charge, and even called another Firestone center down the road to see if they could handle, which they could not.
We started calling around a few places (Sundays are not the best to get car work done), and a couple of places said they could take a look to see if it as something they could do. The first place we went was another Firestone center. When they checked it out, they did not think they could get the job finished today, but they also topped off our brake fluid, again at no cost. We have used Firestone auto centers before back home, and have always been impressed with their skill and great customer service. Apparently, it’s the same in Cleveland.
We eventually ended up at a Sears auto center, who were able to get the job done. At checkout, one of the guys working said he would apply a few discounts to the work, and it ended up being nearly $90 cheaper than what they had quoted me when I dropped the car off. I don’t know if there are any Sears Auto Centers near where we live, but if so, I’d love to be able to give them some auto repair business.
We finally got our car at 5:00 pm, and it was time to start our seven-hour drive home (hence the lateness of the blog). Over the course of the weekend, my wife, son, and I all remarked how Cleveland seemed to be the kindest city we were ever in. Everyone we met was friendly, seemed proud to live in The Land, and seemed committed to making sure the people they interacted with were having a great day.
So we are safely home now, and we are looking forward to our next trip to Cleveland. While the best part of the trip was seeing our son, we couldn’t help but be impressed with the city and its people. We can’t wait to pay forward all the kindness we received this weekend.
Well done, Cleveland. And now I’m rooting for a Phillies-Indians World Series!
P.S. Heart image from the Washington Post