Having had a few drinks the night before and leaving his car at the bar, his memory was a little hazy about what had happened.
But when his girlfriend saw the note on his windscreen, it was clear what he’d been up to – and she didn’t waste any time in sharing it online.
Art graduate Austin Martin told his girlfriend he had plans to meet up with a friend at Union Bar and Grill in Gering, Nebraska.
When he woke up the next day and looked out of the window, he vaguely remembered leaving his truck at the bar, so asked his girlfriend Janelle to give him a ride to collect it. But he never imagined such an ordinary story would soon go viral.
As the couple pulled into the parking lot, Janelle spotted something on the windshield under the wiper. It wasn’t usual for people to post flyers in the area, so she knew instantly that it was something personal.
Austin was still feeling a little worse for wear after the night he’d had, so didn’t even notice the note. Which was just as well for Janelle, who was determined to get to it first.
Janelle pulled up right next to Austin’s truck, making sure the driver’s door was closest to her boyfriend’s vehicle.
By the time Austin knew what was going on, Janelle was out of the door with the note in her hands. Austin stared at her reading the message, confused. And then it all came flooding back to him.
Austin had been really looking forward to the night out. He hadn’t seen his friend from college for months and although he’d told himself he wasn’t going to have a drink so he could drive home, one thing led to another and before he knew it, he was over the limit.
The next thing he knew, he’d woken up at home and his truck wasn’t where he usually parked it. But the mysterious note would soon fill in the gaps.
Gering doesn’t have a cab service, and ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft don’t operate there, so if Austin wasn’t able to drive home, he would have had to get a ride from someone who hadn’t been drinking that evening.
And it’s exactly this that led to someone placing the note on his truck windshield.
As Janelle read the note out loud, it was clear that it hadn’t been written by someone Austin knew.
“Dear Union Bar and Grill Park Guest,” the letter began. “Just wanted to thank you for leaving your car parked overnight.” Austin started to sweat. Did he not do the right thing to leave the car there? Would he be fined?
“Let me take a look at that,” said Austin, desperate to see what kind of trouble he was in. But Janelle was also keen to find out what her boyfriend had been up to that would prompt a stranger to leave a note on his car.
She continued reading aloud while Austin braced himself to face the music.
Seeing the note, Janelle’s paranoia had gotten the better of her. Her boyfriend had come home drunk the night before after saying he was going to stay sober.
Then when she drives him back to pick up his vehicle, there’s a note on his windshield. But fortunately for her, the message was actually a very pleasant surprise.
“I’m not sure if you consumed alcohol at our restaurant or not, but we want to thank you for not drinking and driving,” the note continued.
The message had been written by bar owners Scott and Carla Swanson as a way to reward customers who were responsible drivers. But that’s not all they had to say.
“Bring this letter to the bar and we will give you a hamburger and french fries,” read the letter.
“Please accept this as a thank you for being responsible. Life is valuable, have a great day. Scott and Carla Swanson, the Union Bar and Grill owners.” Janelle was floored by the gesture and was quick to share her thoughts on social media.
“More bars should take note from Scott and Carla Swanson,” Janelle said on Facebook, along with a photo of the kind note.
The post went viral, attracting more than 26,000 likes, 1,500 comments, and 53,000 shares. But the owners themselves are a bit confused as to why the note has garnered quite so much attention.
“Why it went viral this time, I have no idea because it’s been posted a lot of other times,” said Scott, explaining that they’d actually been doing this for some time.
“Carla and I pulled into the parking lot a couple of years ago,” Scott continued. “We had a pretty good night the night before and there were 10 cars in the parking lot. Carla mentioned that we ought to think of something to do for the people that are responsible.” And his wife is delighted by the response.
Carla is thrilled that the note has gone viral, because she hopes other bars might do the same thing and help fight drink driving.
“The more we can do away with people driving and drinking, it’s better for every community,” Carla added. “My message to them is don’t drink and drive and get a ride if you’ve been drinking too much.” But the pair don’t do it all the time – and for good reason.
Scott said that while they love spreading the message that it’s OK for customers to leave their cars overnight to avoid a drunken trip home, it’s not something they can do for everyone because eventually, drinkers would start doing it just to get a free lunch.
Surely no one would abuse the hospitality of such good-intentioned folk!