While many of us love to travel, it seems as though some have taken their passion for exploring the world one step further. The most influential female travelers in the world have proven how they can take on the planet one step at a time – taking everything in their stride.
Cecilie once worked as a nurse but has since ventured around the world conquering some of the toughest challenges along the way. One of her biggest achievements was completing the Explorer Grand Slam meaning Cecilie has stood at the peak of the highest mountains across all seven continents, as well as making her way to both poles. To top it off, Cecilie even traveled 1,700 miles across Antarctica using just cross-country skis.
Some of us enjoy walking, but how about making a 10,000-mile journey from Russia to Australia? It seems as though Sarah wanted to set quite the challenge for herself as she took just the bare essentials and a satellite phone. It took two years of preparation before Sarah made her first steps, and spent three years on her expedition where she faced dangerous animals and tropical diseases along the way.
Tragically, Karen thought her career was over at just 21 years old as rock climbing fall left her paralyzed from the chest down. Thankfully, this female traveler has continued to see the world as she has skied across Greenland’s ice cap, kayaked from Canada to Alaska, and cycled across the Himalayas. The best bit? Karen has represented Britain at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympics and walked away highly decorated from both.
Rosie Swale Pope
It was losing her husband in 2002 after a battle with prostate cancer that gave Rosie the push to get out and raise awareness for the illness. How? By leaving home for five years and traveling over 20,000 miles across the Northern Hemisphere where she completed the world’s longest unsupported run. To top it off, Rosie has also completed 27 marathons in 27 days while using her spare time to offer motivational speeches.
There’s seeing the planet, and then there’s becoming one of the most influential female travelers in the world. It looks as though nothing can stop these incredible women as they journey to show we can do anything we put our minds to.
Markaj’s Patience Is Put to Test
When Markaj walked up to the table he was serving, he discovered that the woman he was tending to had already left. Luckily, the woman had paid her bill and left the money in the leather wallet. Apart from the money, she had left something else.
It turns out that the woman had left a nasty note for him. There was no tip, as the woman had only left enough money to cover the bill. Dejected by her manners, the hero of our story started cleaning the table. Then, suddenly, something caught his eye.
Let’s go back a few hours. The waiter in question here is named Armando Markaj. Markaj works at Patsy’s Pizzeria in Harlem, New York. Patsy’s is normally packed to the brim and that day was no exception.
The eatery was low on staff, compared to the amount of customers that they had — and therefore, Armando was having a rough time keeping up with all of his customers, including the aforementioned rude woman and her daughter.
Critiquing the Picture on the Wall
Patsy’s Pizzeria opened its outlet to the public in 1933. It goes way back and is one of the popular pizzerias in the city’s grub scene. Markaj helped the woman and her daughter to their seats and wrote down their orders.
He noticed that they were examining the photograph on the wall with a scornful look on both of their faces. Something had triggered them — and not in a good way. We’ll soon find out what it was.
It Was Never Like This
Markaj was beginning to sense a problem. But, it didn’t start out like this. After all, he had done everything right. He had greeted them with his warmest smile, provided them a seat as per their preference, and brought their orders over in a timely manner.
He had not goofed up anywhere. But his sixth sense was telling him that something was off about the duo. It was only a matter of time until things would unfold.
And His Intuition Was Right
Just when he was prepared to go back to the kitchen, the older woman stopped him in his tracks. She raised her finger towards the wall and asked him why there was no painting/picture of women up there?
Markaj was dumbfounded by the question. No one had asked him this before. He was at the loss of words. He was thinking hard and racking his brain, trying to come up with an ideal response.
He Tried to Tackle the Situation
Markaj tried to handle the situation by turning his charm on. He let out a burst of throaty laughter and attempted throwing some humor their way. But, he instantly regretted doing that because what he told her was, “Maybe women don’t like eating too much pizza.”
The women immediately stared him down. Markaj had mishandled the entire situation and this woman was hell-bent on not letting him off the hook so easily.
Removing Himself From the Situation
Markaj knew it was a sticky situation. To prevent the situation from getting out of hand, he did the next best thing that he could think of — he removed himself from the stressful situation. It was already a stressful evening for him and a lot of customers were awaiting their orders.
He mumbled an apology and began attending to other customers. This seemed to irk the older woman even more. She began judging him, and judging him hard!
She Left Just Like That
Both the woman and her daughter left just like that. They left enough money to cover the bill, and not a dime more! And while it was a bit of a bummer, Markaj had kind of seen this coming.
Still, Markaj was somewhat glad that the woman had at least cleared the bill before leaving. Apart from that, she had left two more things — a rude note for him and a mysterious envelope that would change the course of the entire evening.
A Structural Problem
We’re digressing from this interesting story for a second to highlight the lack of pay in the food industry, specifically for waiters and servers. They’re actually paid a pittance for their jobs and have to heavily rely on tips to make ends meet.
That’s not all. In a lot of places, the restaurant takes a cut from the tips — a practice we think is extremely toxic and dated.
Anyway, getting back to the story. So, when Markaj picked up the bill, he noticed that the woman left a note that read — “Maybe the women don’t tip either,” in response to Markaj’s joke. Markaj was taken aback by the blunt words. But, he tried to remain calm and concentrate on his work. And so, he began clearing the table.
Suddenly, he noticed a white envelope. He thought that the woman had left another rude note, and he dreaded the mere thought of it. But, it was something else that made his eyes go wide in amazement.
The Contents of the Envelope
Markaj knew that he had to handle the envelope with care. When he saw the Citibank logo, he realized that these papers are actually very important. He (our hero) made a dash towards the door and tried to spot those two ladies in the parking lot.
But those two women were long gone and Markaj was left with the envelope. His mind was racing with multiple thoughts as if someone had opened 16 different tabs on his browser.
Markaj later told to a bunch of local reporters that as soon he saw the logo of Citibank, he knew that the papers were important. Luckily, he had found that envelope before it got thrown in the trash by mistake.
Inside the envelope was a check made out for $424,000. It was the largest amount Markaj had seen in his life. But, his conscience is so pure that he wanted to return that check to its rightful owner.
Was He Tempted?
Markaj could have easily taught that rude woman a lesson by taking the check for himself, or at least chucking it. He could have paid off all his debts, bought things for himself, or even invested the money into something.
The possibilities were indeed endless. But, he chose not to do any of that — and decided to do the right thing.
The Next Step
After making the decision, Markaj didn’t really know how to go about it. He ultimately gave the check to the restaurant’s current owner, Frank Brinja, and explained to him the entire situation. Frank, who was taken aback by the amount written on the check, put it in his pocket.
He thought that the person who left the check behind was a billionaire. But, was she? Keep reading to find out.
At Patsy’s, the normal protocol for any lost item is to put it in the lost-and-found box. But, since it was a check made out for a half-million dollars, they decided to do things rather differently. They tried to brainstorm on what could be done.
Frank tried to find out information about the woman through the name written on the check. However, every effort was proving to be futile. They decided to keep the check with them for a while and were hopeful that the woman would sooner or later come to the restaurant searching for it.
While all this was happening at the restaurant’s front, Karen Vinacour — the rude woman in question — was going berserk searching for the check. She had searched every nook and cranny of her house and was on the verge of giving up.
She even looked for it in the trash can. Once she was sure that the check wasn’t in the house, she began retracing her steps. Suddenly, she felt a glimmer of hope.
Retracing Her Steps
As a part of retracing her steps, she rang up the coffee shop. They told her that they didn’t find any such check and naturally, Karen was disappointed. Her only hope now was Patsy’s. With trembling hands, she dialed up Patsy’s number and enquired about the check.
But no one had any idea about what she was talking about. Later on, Karen would find out that she had actually called the wrong Patsy’s.
Her Life Savings Were in That Check
Karen’s entire life savings was in that one check and now, it was all gone in a poof. At least, she thought so. Karen was heartbroken and devastated. That money came from selling her apartment, after all. Losing that check meant facing financial distress.
She called the bank to cancel that check but when she made the request, the bank representative told her something that would come as total shock. And so, Karen clung to each and every word to make sense of the situation.
What the Bank Said
The bank told Karen that since it was a cashier’s check, she would have to wait a minimum of three months to put forth a cancellation request. The three-month period was excruciatingly long given the situation at hand.
The bank further told her that it could be cashed if someone should find it and decide to withdraw the money. This meant Karen had to make some serious financial compromises. She was couch-surfing — and this situation only added to her couch-surfing period.
Involving the Media
Much time had passed, and Karen still hadn’t come to Patsy’s searching for her check. So, Frank turned to the local media for help. The word got out and they were able to contact Karen within 15 minutes.
When Karen showed up to the pizzeria, Markaj was the first one to greet her as she entered. Would she behave nicely with him this time or accuse him of swindling the check?
The moment she saw laid eyes on Armando, her face dropped and she became a bit flustered, clearly embarrassed by how she had behaved when she dined at the pizzeria. Of course, though, she breathed a sigh of relief as soon as Frank handed her the check.
Luckily, Karen realized that she owed Armando an apology and thought that he should get some sort of finder’s fee for his efforts. However, what happened next greatly surprised the apologetic woman.
When Karen offered the money and her apology to Armando, he refused to accept the money — although he did gladly accept her apology. He later said that weekends are normally busy days for Patsy’s. He could have emptied all the leftovers on the table in the trash can but luckily, he was attentive and found the check.
Had he done otherwise, the story would have panned out differently and Karen perhaps would have never found her check.
Settling Differences Over Pizza
The duo had a good talk and they settled their differences over a hearty meal. They sat down to share a pizza and indulged in some pleasant conversation. Karen warmed up to him and opened up about her life.
She was really apologetic about how she had behaved with him the first time around and kept apologizing over and over again. Markaj ensured her that everything was fine and she didn’t have to apologize anymore.
Giving Her a Guided Tour of the Wall
After they finished their pizza, Frank told her that he wanted to show her something. He stood up and gave her the tour of the photograph wall. He took her through the various pictures that hung on the wall.
Apparently, Karen had missed out on many pictures during her initial visit. He showed her the pictures of powerful women such as Barbara Walters, Christine Quinn, Melissa Mark-Viverito, and more. There were, in fact, pictures of women all over the wall — but Karen had only concentrated on one picture that triggered her.
Later, when this story became viral, Karen expressed her gratitude towards Markaj and Patsy’s while talking to the local media. She said that she was forever grateful that her inappropriate behavior didn’t prevent him from doing the right thing.
She also talked about how she had offered him money, but he refused to accept any of it. Karen added that she intended to give him a gift certificate for education supplies.
Markaj’s Words Verbatim
While talking to the local media, Markaj only had good things to say about Karen. He said that when she returned to the restaurant for the second time, she was literally in tears. She was thrilled that her check had been found and kept safe by someone.
He then added that he did nothing big on his part, and it was just a small act of humanity. He concluded his interview by saying that small acts like these are what define you as a human.
Start of a New Friendship
Karen was so touched by Markaj’s gesture that she swore to be his friend for life. She announced her intention while talking to the reporters of local media. Karen said that it was a twist of fate that earned her a lifelong friend.
Two good things came out of this incident. First was that Karen learned her lesson (even if it was the hard way). And second, she formed a lifelong friendship with Markaj.
As soon as this story was covered by the local media, it started to win hearts all over the internet. The story gained traction and was picked up by national media outlets. New York Daily News reached out to Patsy’s owner Frank for a front-page feature.
Because of all this attention, Markaj ended up becoming one of the pizzeria’s star waiters. Another good thing about this story is that it really has no expiry date — people can read it anytime and anywhere.
Another Good Thing Came Out of This
Needless to say, Patsy’s became Karen’s favorite pizzeria in town and she is now a regular. The heartwarming story helped to establish the goodwill of the pizzeria. It earned them local and national press.
Markaj became a hero. The crowds began piling on the doorsteps of the pizzeria. And Karen became a changed person. This one tale changed so many lives — Karen, Markaj, Frank, and Patsy’s.
Karen Gets Her Picture on the Wall
Pasty’s owner, Frank, ultimately offered Karen a spot on the wall. He said that they were going to take a picture with her and put it up on the photo wall. Karen was touched.
She could not help but thank Markaj over and over again. It was because of his humility that Karen was able to witness this — which, in feel-good movies, is normally referred to as a happy ending.