Come along with me now. We will go out for breakfast in our minds.
It’s a crisp, fall morning, nine thirty or ten o’clock. The hunger demon has been kept at bay with several cups of fresh, hot coffee. I could almost smell the smoky scent of bacon frying and my mouth began to water profusely, causing me to need to swallow constantly to prevent the drool from seeping out of the corners of my mouth.
I threw the proposal out there, loud enough for the girls to hear me no matter where they were around the house. I received two affirmative votes for having breakfast out. Here’s the way it works around here; if you make the proposal, you are expected to PAY. That’s just the way things have come to be understood between the three of us. There was a constant noise brought about by three people all getting dressed at the same time.
I was the first one out to the garage. I opened the door, put on my hooded sweater/jacket and got in behind the wheel of my old Toyota. The girls came through the door and I fired up the engine. Both doors slammed shut and I backed out. I checked to make sure the garage door was closing okay, shifted into drive and we were off.
There was very little conversation except that someone made note of the quickly changing color of the leaves on the trees and commented how some expert had predicted that we wouldn’t see much color this year because of the drought we had just existed out of in this area.
Three miles later, we pulled into the parking lot of The Stringtown Restaurant and found a spot right next to the door. Maureen stopped to get a Saturday newspaper as she always does. Once inside we noticed the signs that they had been very busy this morning. Most of the tables were either occupied or still had not been bused. Way back in the rear of the large main room I spotted a table with three chairs that was clean. I led the way and the girls followed closely behind.
We sat for about ten minutes and noticed that several groups of three and four people had come in behind us. Finding no clean tables to sit at, they sat down at the dirty one of their choice and the bus boys quickly came to clear them off. Another ten minutes passes and still no one had come to our table. That was really unusual, no matter how busy they were. All of the waitresses were extremely busy, scurrying here and there, disappearing into the kitchen for a time and then reappeared carrying large trays filled with covered plates of food.
Then something happened that caught all of our attentions. The waitresses had a new system it seemed. They would wait on the people who were closest to the kitchen door first. “What’s up with that?” There they were, taking the orders of the three other groups that had come in after us. In fact, one waitress had to stand aside until the bus boys finished clearing the table before they could step up and take orders or at least find out what they would have to drink with their breakfast.
We shot glances back and forth at one another. Each of us understood the expressions on the others faces. We were confused and growing more impatient with each passing minute. Now we were up to approximately thirty minutes without being noticed. My stomach was growling in protest and then I started feeling nauseous.
The newspaper had stopped rustling, I looked around at the others. Maureen had one page between thumb and index finger, frozen in motion. I’ve seen that look before; it’s not pleasant. For an instant my imagination played tricks on me. I thought I saw smoke coming out of her ears and a column of steam drifting off the top of her head, headed for the ceiling. If looks could kill, there would have been carnage scattered about the whole room. The groups that had come in after us got their food and were eating before we ever got that first cup of bitter coffee. Yes! That’s right! The coffee they serve is not the highlight of the meal. Let the carping begin!
A lot of things had changed of late at Stringtown. They had been doing some extensive remodeling and you never knew from one week to the next where the tables and booths would be the next time. They had raised their prices, found a new way to make toast that ruined it and the same was true of the coffee. They had hired lots of new help. Wouldn’t you think that the service would have improved instead of getting worse because of that fact?
How have they displeased us? Let me count the ways. I’d say the list is up to ten or more items by now. What in the world is going on? Mary’s place has gone downhill too and they also have been doing some remodeling and additions there. There are a couple of new faces to be seen, relatives I believe. Thank God! The coffee at Mary’s Place is still wonderfully fresh and tasty. They grind the beans for every fresh pot just before the brewing cycle begins. That is the edge Mary’s Place has over Stringtown.
Here’s the worse part of the whole mess. Saturday was my sixty-second birthday. Ain’t that a kick in the head? Would it have made any difference had I shared that bit of news with them? I doubt it. Honestly, the thought that it was my birthday never entered my mind until such time as we were back at home and Maureen said “Happy Birthday. You thought I had forgotten; didn’t you?” Why shouldn’t she forget; I had?
While sitting there at our table, spewing little bits of food here and there due to all the muttering we were doing while we ate, each of us confessed that the thought of just getting up and walking out without eating had crossed our minds at one point before that first cup of bitter coffee had been delivered. I spent the rest of the time trying to come up with some method they could implement that would keep this same thing from happening to others. I had some good ideas I thought.
I think the result of this experience will be that our trips to Stringtown will be fewer and farther in between. We’ve already begun to cut back on our trips to Mary’s Place. I suppose it is time for us to start looking for another place to have breakfast. Sure! We will probably find one too and it will be fifteen miles away.
Somehow we managed to salvage a very good Birthday experience for me after that bad beginning. My Baby Girl came over with her gift and a two page, single spaced treasure of words for her Old Dad. She knows I would rather have something she wrote than any fancy card she could purchase at a store. She had me choked up a couple of times there. The food got better too as the day progressed. Gail worked her magic in the kitchen and whipped up a large steak, baked potato and salad for my Birthday dinner.
I went to bed that night feeling older, as one should after being reminded about how old they are for most of the day.