Listen to Jim:
or read on…
The man of a certain age sits alone in the diner, his girth mastering most of the booth space.
He eats his breakfast as if he’s never eaten before, smacking and stuffing and sopping and glugging, like he’s not had a meal for days, though it’s evident that he’s been frequently well-fed and well-groomed. He leans into the food and stuffs away, his blow-dried sprayed whitening hair and monogrammed track pullover shirt quivering in the morning fluorescent light.
He is his own world for a few minutes in the crowded eatery.
Across the room, a mustachioed baseball-capped good ol’ boy with hand in napkinned lap eats mannerly and methodically, gazing all the while into the indiscernable space before him, ignoring the blaring TV set hanging from the ceiling.
Worldly waitresses, ears slanted from cached pencils, skillfully walk the tightrope assigned to their lot—the tightrope walk between appearing simultaneously aloof and chummy, careful to balance the roles of Mom and Flirt and Nurturer and Businesswoman while keeping all these morning shovelers of food happy and distant.
Four elderly men at Table 4 grunt and chat and laugh and tease as they relate oft-repeated stories about how the world is going to hell and how the young people these days…
They are having the best time they’ll have all day, for a smattering of minutes avoiding all responsibility and duty and honey-do tasks which will face them down later in the morning, no matter what.
One four-year-old sits with his grandmother and diligently stabs into waffles and syrup and butter with zeal usually assigned to a nervous dog digging for its favorite bone. In just a few years, he, too, will be trying to find the perfect breakfast place that replicates this perfect childhood experience he’s having right now.
He, like all of us in the diner, is imprinted with the combination of taste, texture, fragrance, feel of what it’s like to be in a safe, familiar, non-threatening place, being cared for by kindly strangers whose only goal is to feed you well and stay out of your way while you soak up all that nurturing atmosphere, the nurturing atmosphere you take with you to start the day right, even if later on, some grumbly non-breakfasted bastard wonders why you’re in a better mood than he is, and tries to take it all away from you