I’m at a restaurant this morning. The customer service is slow. I can tell that the employees are rugged veterans here. They’ve been in this game a long time. The days have passed when they were open to the needs of their customers. Years of stiff tips and demands from people who can’t be pleased have hardened them. So, they do just enough to keep their job and sanity intact, throwing in a fake smile where needed, in an attempt to squeeze an extra dollar out of the people they’re serving.
Rod Stewart is playing on the sound system. The song is from later in Rod the Mods career when he was more humble, repentant and singing for himself. The little general in his pants long since demoted and no longer a force on the battlefield. This didn’t make the song particularly better. Perhaps this is why my waitress looks annoyed, though I’m fairly certain it’s not because of the music. She looks burned out, irritated and probably needs a smoke. Her yellow finger tips bearing witness.
Faced with another week of menial labor, the employees here resemble the walking dead. The gloomy look in their eyes from staring at a clock where five minutes equals an hour, is utter agony. Their occupation could be aptly named- this isn’t what I signed up for in life.
A much older fellow slowly strolls in and glares at me long enough to make an obvious statement. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that I’m sitting at his usual table, complicating his morning.
The way the sun sits in the sky at this time of the morning shining through HIS easterly facing window above HIS most treasured booth, is a big part of his daily routine. And much more important now, since someone else is sitting in it. I’d move, but I’ve already spilled a creamer on the table. In unofficial diner code, this means the table is taken. He’ll complain about not getting his VIP seat to his waitress, I’m sure of it.
But perhaps he’ll order something different today as I’ve thrown him out of his orbit. Normally he might order eggs sunny side up with extra crispy bacon, because these are things he can depend on when his body and mind are no longer his to rely on, until the occasional broken yoke puts him back in his place and reminds him that he’s never in complete control, similar to me sitting in his spot.
I have to do a double take as I notice a customer who flew in from another decade to my left, reading what appears to be a newspaper. It’s an oddity in a restaurant now. How did something so common a few years ago suddenly become a candidate for nostalgia? Similar to phone booths, newspaper boxes have gradually faded away, soon to be sold on EBay in the antiquarian section. I debate on sharing my thoughts with the man on all of this, but he looks grouchier than the guy I stole the booth from. I guess I would be too if I was reading the news.
Seeing most of my cities retirement community in the restaurant this morning, makes me think about how as humans we judge people based on age. Our lives are chained to a number. Humans are obsessed with it. It’s like organizing people in a numerical filing cabinet. We are labeled, categorized and expected to perform a certain way that is in coherence with our number.
How many amazing moments or wonderful experiences in life have we cast aside or not followed through on, because we’ve been imprisoned by a number.
My waitress brings me my check, telling me to have a nice day. I leave an extra dollar on the table for the hard effort she put into trying to be friendly.
Human interaction has gone awol in the last decade, and so, some of us from the pre internet age tend to appreciate the moments where we can interact in person. But after being at the restaurant, I feel as if staying home, getting on the internet and eating a bowl of cereal might have been a more positive experience.
Still, if it wasn’t for being in this time and place today, I wouldn’t have this random mash of thoughts to write about. I do know that nothing enlightens us or changes us better than our own life experiences. Even the simple everyday ones.