Breakfast at the Diner — #31

As I walk in, Harvey looks up from whatever he's doing behind the counter and eyes me. He says, "You want coffee?" The man is efficient. No wasted words. No Kirstin, obviously.

"Orange juice," I say, looking around for a place to park my buttocks. Maurice and Phil are on the left side of the counter's U, with plenty of room between them for me, but — nah. Maurice I could handle, but Phil just talks and talks and talks, and nobody needs that. On the other side of the U, I take a stool between Damned Good Coffee and Lady ManBun. Neither of them says hello, and that's exactly the welcome I was hoping for.

♦ ♦ ♦

From every direction in the diner — counter, tables at the front, tables at the back, and carry-out customers at the register — today's conversation is about — what's the right word? The riot? Insurrection? Gunpowder treason and plot? They're talking about whatever happened in Washington DC the day before yesterday.

"A coup," someone says, "in America."

After years of telling his deplorable followers tall and terribly untrue tales about everything they're afraid of, Donald Trump — who's somehow the President of the United States — has convinced his true-believers that he won the 2020 election in a landslide, but it was stolen from him. In the real world he lost by more than 7-million votes, but Trump has always rejected the real world. On Wednesday, at Trump's explicit request, thousands of his followers stormed the capitol building, hoping to overthrow reality. You might have heard about it? Well, I'm hearing about it here at the diner, and the verdict is unanimous.

"They should impeach him and arrest him," says Damned Good Coffee.

"They should've impeached him months ago," says someone at a table in the back, and of course someone else patiently explains what 'impeach' means, and that Trump was in fact impeached, almost a year ago.

Maurice says, "Well, impeach him again, and charge him with sedition."

Lady ManBun says, "Five people are dead because of that madman."

Phil says, "Bring back tar and feathers."

Even Harvey, who never talks politics at the diner, says, "You're damn right."

This morning, at least at one small, mostly empty diner in Wisconsin, everyone's sane, and loves their country. Nobody's giving voice to the nonsense of Trump and QAnon, about an election stolen by Joe Biden, with help from Dominion Voting Systems, and pizza pedophiles and lizard people.

"Gerald Ford said it a long time ago," says crusty old Maurice at the counter. "Our long national nightmare is almost over."

"Joe Biden has never much impressed me," says Phil, "but he's a functioning adult."

Bouffant-Walker steps and rolls into the restaurant at that moment, and says, "Let's hear it for a functioning adult." Maurice lifts his coffee cup and nods, and a voice to my left and another from my right both say, "Hear, hear."

♦ ♦ ♦

Bouffant says "Good morning" to me as he passes my stool, and I respond with the same. Then he sits at what's become his regular table, and starts talking to the walls and tables and chairs, as is his habit.

♦ ♦ ♦

I order my usual — the house omelet, two pancakes, and an orange juice. Harvey brings orange juice, two pancakes, and an omelet I'm chewing but it's gooier than usual, with no ham, and where's the tomatoes? Hey, this is a cheese omelet, not the house omelet.

Do I care enough to mention it? Nah. Well, I mentioned it to you, dear reader, but I'm not saying anything about it to Harvey.

I look around, to see if any of the other customers are waiting on a cheese omelet, but there are no obvious suspects so I fork another bite. Life is an adventure, and so's breakfast. The pancakes are fluffy and fine, though, and — mmm hmmm — this omelet ain't what I ordered, but it's good.

♦ ♦ ♦

A couple of senior citizens, white man and woman, are at a table near the front. They're finishing their meals, and Harvey comes by with the coffee pot and the tab. The man glances at the price and says, "Check payable to Bob's Diner?"

Harvey's movements slow, and I suspect he's not happy. "Mister, we do not take checks."

"Oh, well," he says, and reaches for his wallet, "in that case, put it on my card."

"And we do not take plastic. Cash only, like it says on two signs as you're walking in the door." The signs are rather hard to not notice.

The man says, "Oh," stretching those two letters into three syllables. He's surprised, but doesn't seem angry. "Martha," he says to his companion, "you might have to pay."

"At the register, please," Harvey says, walking away as Martha starts rummaging through her purse. I'm picturing these two customers washing dishes at the diner's big sink, though I think that's just a trope. Or maybe it's a scam, and this guy has wangled a free breakfast from Martha.

She comes up with the funds, and nobody's feelings are hurt. At the register she says to Harvey, "Everything was divine."

"And we will be back again," says Free Breakfast.

Harvey nods, borderline smiles, and says, "Thank you."

After they've left, I'm curious enough to ask Harvey, "What do you do, if someone only has checks or a credit card?"

"Yell at 'em," he says.

"No, really."

"If they seem legit, I might take a check and cross my fingers. If not, I'll hold their license while they find an ATM."

"You don't make 'em wash dishes?"

He grunts, glares, and then says, "Do you want to eat off plates and silver washed by some deadbeat who tried to stiff the bill?"

♦ ♦ ♦

ManBun steps into the restaurant, with a young and attractive woman I don't recognize. Lady ManBun is seated near me, and it's long been my impression that ManBun and Lady ManBun were a couple. Hence, the names I've given them.

She seems cool with the situation, though. She waves at them, and they all exchange a few cordial words as ManBun and his mystery date walk past the counter, on their way to a table toward the back. ManBun says hello to me, because he's an annoyingly friendly young man. I nod in reply.

If ManBun and Lady ManBun have broken up, it's an amicable separation. Of course, it's also possible that I've misconstrued their relationship. Maybe they were never an item, just pals sharing breakfast again and again. Whatever. Back to my delicious wrong omelet.

♦ ♦ ♦

Phil pays, and zips up his jacket to leave. "Thanks, Harv," he says.

Harvey replies, "Right back at ya, Phil. See ya tomorrow."

"I'm not sure I'll be in tomorrow. I have an early appointment."

"Well, then," says Harvey, "to hell with you."

Phil laughs as he leaves, and Maurice laughs as he sips at his coffee refill. I laugh too, but with Harvey there's no telling whether it was meant as a joke.

♦ ♦ ♦

Despite eating many meals here over many years, I don't often poop at the diner. I pee here plenty, but my bowels move on a tight schedule, and that train usually departs the depot at dusk. This morning there's a freight train rumbling, though, so I sit on the diner's porcelain for a few minutes, reading my magazine and taking care of business. On my way out, I notice a new sign they've added since my last standing visit:

"Employees must wash their hands, and you should too."


I'm a grumpy old man who lives alone and has few friends — basically a hermit. Once a week I have breakfast at my favorite diner. Most weeks it's my only in-person interaction with other humans, which is not my strong suit.

Yeah, I'm aware of the coronavirus, so I go to the diner at dawn, before it gets busy. I wash my hands before and after, cough into my elbow, spray Lysol on my food, pay at my plate, tell the waitress to keep the change, and hold my breath while leaving until I'm outside. It's a little more dangerous than staying at home, but life would suck without breakfast at the diner, so get off my lawn.

And remember, decent people leave a generous tip.


Breakfast at the Diner

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