A Knight in Malta


The only business in this particular entry is the Malta Diner, although the story isn’t really about the diner, which was only the beginning. It’s a wonderful diner, though.

The Malta Diner stands on a corner curve of the fourth roundabout heading east from exit 12. It’s a family-owned restaurant, in business for more than 19 years, with a varied menu and a great staff. July 13 at 3 p.m., my son Jesse, 16, and I had a breakfasty sort of meal there. The loaded French fries about conquered us before our eggs even arrived. Delicious.

Notwithstanding how full we were, after this late brunch, we set out to find the Zim Smith trail entrance nearest the diner. In our innocence, we (Jesse) turned right instead of left, and passed several winding lanes on our right, which might or might not have been trailheads. They might have been deer paths. They might have been fire roads. Assuredly we didn’t know.

The one we selected turned out to actually be a driveway, with long lines of cars parked bumper to bumper on the side (it proved to be summer festivities, not a popular trail). When we peered down the curves to see a house and balloons, thereby discovering the actual driveway nature of our randomly selected road, we determined to back out before we became trapped where we stood. So Jesse pressed gently on the accelerator, and…with a small THUNK! we connected with the car right behind us.

Jesse is a very good driver, if new at it. The backing-into problem was really my fault, because I was porting a large and view-blocking chair in the back of my Hyundai Elantra at the time. Jesse peered out over the chair, and I popped out of the car to see how much damage we had wrought.

He and I saw the Mustang logo on the shiny car behind us at the same time. He whispered something inaudible and horrified, and I just stared at the little silver horse.


Now imagine, if you will, what the average owner of a silver Mustang might do and say if a 16-year-old boy (in a Hyundai Elantra with his mother and her chair) backed into his car. Jesse and I were cringing inwardly, imagining this extremely unpleasant confrontation lunging our way. Fix the upcoming horrific scene well in your head. Hear the shouts?

And…then a gentleman stepped out of the gleaming Mustang and addressed himself to us in a polite English voice: “Hard to see backing up, was it?” He bent to examine the bumper of his car. I trembled to note there were indeed scratches and scrapes.

“Oh, well, those were there before,” he said calmly. He wiggled the bumper up and down, and we noted rigidly that it did indeed wiggle. “It’s all right,” he determined. “No harm done.”

And that was it. !! No screaming no accusations no calling the police no demands for insurance cards no dread consequences whatsoever.

I thanked the Englishman profusely, explaining about the Zim Smith Trail in a more or less coherent fashion. He pointed us back to the intersection and said to park at the petrol station before crossing the street.

After getting the two cars now parked behind the Mustang to back up so we could turn around and get out, and locating the petrol station (which turned out to be a Stewart’s), Jesse and I found ourselves at last on the Zim Smith trail, where we had an hour’s conversation on the politeness of British people in general and the unexpected kindness of strangers in particular.


So…pass it forward. If the scratches—actual or metaphoric--were already there, and no harm’s done, travel on. Be kind to strangers, teach your children well, walk on new paths. Keep your vision clear.

And hey, eat at the Malta Diner, where our waitress was nice enough not to smile at two mere mortals taking on the immense platter of loaded fries.



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