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National

Wichita Waiter Gets Generous Tip In Form Of New Smile

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now a tip to make you smile. It sure made waiter Brian Maixner smile. In January, during a busy shift at the Doo-Dah Diner in Wichita, Kansas, Maixner's boss suddenly pulled him aside.

BRIAN MAIXNER: When your boss comes up to you to talk you when we're at our most busiest peak, usually it's not a good thing.

CORNISH: But this was a good thing.

MAIXNER: You know, hey, this customer back here wants to pay to have your - give you a full dental makeover and pay for your teeth.

FRED BOETTCHER: I've noticed the guy even before we sat down.

CORNISH: That is customer Fred Boettcher.

BOETTCHER: He was just hustling from table to table. He was a real pro. I could tell. But he was just smiling from ear to ear. And, God, he had the awfullest teeth you've ever seen.

CORNISH: Boettcher spoke with the waiter's boss and learned that Maixner is a single dad who also cares for his father, a disabled Vietnam veteran.

BOETTCHER: So he's doing all of that, and I said, well, I need to fix his teeth.

CORNISH: When Maixner heard the news, he came to Boettcher's table in tears.

MAIXNER: I was really pretty emotional. I was having trouble doing my job. So I was, like, yeah. It was a good distraction, you know (laughter)? I'll say that (laughter).

BOETTCHER: Well, he just said, I don't know why you're doing this, but I love you. That's what he said (laughter).

CORNISH: Boettcher, a lawyer and real estate developer, says he's been fortunate in his life and wants to pass it on.

BOETTCHER: It just seemed like the natural thing to do. And my judgment is that if you can do it, you should do it. It's just such a high to be able to help somebody that really is deserving of help but has not received any from anyone, you know? That's the kicker here, I think.

CORNISH: Last week, Maixner had six teeth pulled and was fitted for new dentures. Later this year, once his jaw heals, he'll receive dental implants. Despite the pain, Maixner says he can't stop looking in the mirror.

MAIXNER: I couldn't even not not smile, even though it hurt. And I was still like, wow, like, I've got to smile just because I can, you know (laughter).

CORNISH: And that's how, Maixner says, by smiling, he plans to pay it forward.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHEN YOU'RE SMILING")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Singing) When you're smiling, when you're smiling, the whole world smiles with you. When you're laughing, when you're laughing... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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