Diner Diaries

Life and Times of a Patron of the King's Chef diner

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

My budget is putting a serious strain on my visits to the diner. I can excuse it when the kids eat all the sandwich fixin’s and when I just can’t bear the thought of microwave corn dogs (did I mention that before?) Anyway, today I wound up back at the diner. Things are changing there, so it’s a rare day that the three amigos are in residence. Today it was Gary manning the grill and counter and Mike(?) doing dishes and cold prep.

An older derelict fellow walked in, cigarette hanging from his mouth. “There’s no smoking in here.” So he ducked halfway out the door and the cigarette disappeared, although the stench didn’t. “Just a cup of coffee, no cream, just sugar. A level spoonful.” He repeated his instructions about the level spoonful, and sat at the “back counter”. The stench was 80 proof and old cigarettes. After a moment or two I felt dizzy, and a little guilty for not turning around and chatting with the old guy, but I couldn’t breathe.

What circumstances, what private hell, what character flaws, what emotional, mental and physical difficulties contribute to the making of a bum? I look at these guys and I see them as cute little two-year-olds, grinning up at their mom and dad, no one having any idea what lies ahead. What hopelessness allows a man to live like this, and what spark of humanity resists death when life is so grim?

Latecomers, an older couple, he as bald as a cue-ball, looked like a biker, she with a good half inch of gray growing out beneath her brown dye, ordered burgers and fries. “What’ll you have to drink?” He ordered a Pepsi and she asked, “Do you have raspberry iced tea?” “No raspberry tea, no lemon, no decaf.” Just regular tea. The real kind. Lipton, brewed and poured over ice. No sun tea, no herbal, no chai, no latte, cappuccino or espresso.

She is not dismayed. “My dogs have this theory—it’s always no until you ask.”

It’s a great line. My dogs are the same way, come to think of it, and no matter how many no’s they get, they still ask with the same hopeful expectation every time. They never get discouraged.

Boy, I should be more like that. Never let rejection daunt me or dim my hopeful expectations. Always ready to be excited by a ‘yes.’ I just love dogs.

And even though Gary is still on his “you have to go to a strip club” kick, I guess I’ll keep him as one of my favorite people. He has a nickname for me that might take him off the list, but we’ll see.

Well my break is over, so back to work. Diner’s closed.

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