“What can I do you for?” My gravelly voice sounds even worse this morning, but I am a-hopin’ my big smile aimed in the general vicinity of these hungry tourists will divert attention. Got to quit smoking. And even with that thought, I’m itching to get outside by the dumpsters and smoke a quick one. My mid-mornin’ break can’t come too soon. It was a long night, what with the baby cryin’ and the neighbors a-hollerin’. Fireworks till near midnight for the holiday travelers didn’t help matters either.
But here they are, my bread and butter, so…
I continue to smile prettily as they take their old sweet time checkin’ out the menu. How long does it take to decide on a short stack or regular, eggs scrambled or over-easy and runnin’ all over the plate? They don’t even take a sideways glance my way. I could slip away for a couple of puffs and they’d never even know I was gone.
Signs a’ life, now, though. The big one in the chair one size too little, the one I’m supposin’ will do the payin’, is coughing ever so slightly to get my attention. Like I’d chance losing a decent tip. Washer needs fixin’.
I direct my order pad his way and wait. He coughs a couple times more, takes a peek at the back of the menu listing the evening selections, then turns back to the inside. I sure hope he’s not startin’ over. But still, I wait. That’s what I do. But I’m on the ready, once the ordering onslaught starts.
Sure enough, one more cough, then, “Kathaleen, what’re you thinking?” So much for an order. The nearly see through woman with him simpers a little, then, “I’ll have whatever you’re having, hon.” Big Boy sure liked that, sitting up a little straighter, then with one more throat clearing, he begins in a deep sonorous rumble, like he’s reading a courtroom verdict. Not that I’d know anything about that…I’m just surmisin’, I suppose.
Says he, “We’ll have a stack of pancakes, bacon extra crispy, and two eggs, scrambled with cheese and pimento, ” Then, to make sure I understand English, he decides to look me straight in the eye, “That would be one for each of us,” Okay, slowly now. He continues on. “That would be one stack of pancakes for me, and one for Kathaleen,” Here he nods over at the still simpering female on his left, “That would be one order of extra crispy bacon for me, and another for her, ” He nods her way again, this time touching her hand so’s I’ll know just to whom he is referring. “And two eggs, two for me and two for her.” He waits, so I’m guessin’, rightly, here’s where he’d like me to read back his order.
I tilt my head just a bit, pretend to read the moronic scribbles I’d so diligently made on my notepad, and through my plastered-on smile, I begin the litany. “I have two orders each, ” I stress ‘each’ a little strongly, but Lord, does he think I’m dense? “That’d be an order of pancakes, extra crispy bacon, and scrambled eggs with onion and pimento for you, and…” Yes, he is expecting a replay, so here I go, “That’d be another order…, ” This time I stress ‘another’ for good measure, “… of pancakes, extra crispy bacon, and scrambled eggs with onion and pimento for the,” Ahem, “Lovely lady.” Not sure why I feel I need to suck up to the wimpy woman who can’t seen to cowboy up and order for herself, but I judged again, rightly.
Big Boy postures a bit for effect, smiles at Wimpy, who grins with great big teeth right back at him, then hazards a peek at my order pad. I’m sure hoping he’s puttin’ down his inability to read my scribbles to his own inability to read upside down.
“That’d be two eggs,” Oh no. “That would be two eggs for me, and two for her. Scrambled. With onion and pimento. On both. On both of mine, and both of hers.”
He waits expectantly. Again.
“Yes, sir. That would be,” Sigh. “One order for each of you. Pancakes for you. Pancakes for W-the Lovely Lady. That would also be an order each of extra crispy bacon,” Big Boy is starring me down hard, daring me to make a mistake, “One order of extra crispy bacon for you, and one for the Lovely Lady.” He relaxes ever so slightly. “I also have two eggs for each of you. Scrambled, with onions and pimento. One plate of two eggs for you, and one plate of two eggs for the Lovely Lady.” Alrighty then.
Big Boy takes Wimpy Woman’s hand in triumph, the looks to have a new thought. “Hon, what would you like to drink?” And of course, “Why, I’ll just have what you’re having.”
He reaches out for the menu, laid by the wayside earlier, and struggles to find the beverage listing. I focus on standing stock still, waiting, but my smile muscles are starting to talk to me. I’m durned certain he reads each beverage, along with calorie content, price, and checks for spelling two or three times, reading top to bottom, them bottom to top, then down again, just to be sure. I watch his eyes, sure of it.
Cough, cough, “We’ll have coffee, each of us, that is, and orange juice. For the both of us. One coffee for me, and one coffee for Kathaleen, ” Sigh. ” And one orange juice for me, and one for her.” He pats her weak little hand, and me? I’m screaming silently in the back of my throat.
And he waits.
I do want to take a deep, raggedy loud breath, but hold off for later. Too many smokes. Deep breathing could bring on a raggedy coughing jag, one not so good for business. Did I mention the washin’ machine needs tending?
And so I up my grin, trying to be friendly and not cheeky, “Of course, sir. One coffee for you and one for the Lovely Lady. One orange juice for you and one for the Lovely Lady.” She seems to like the ‘Lovely Lady’ references, so I pile them on. “And what size juice would the Lovely Lady prefer? We have small and we have large.” Oh, why did I go down that road? One orange juice size, always had been. Lord.
Big Boy takes the reins. “Well now, I don’t see anything here on this menu about size,” Here we go. Big Boy’s found his moment. “Is there a difference in price? Because right here,” He pokes at the menu with his beefy forefinger, “It just shows one price, 1.99. Is that for the large or the small? Because I’m not going to pay more for the large than 1.99. It says right here.”
Big Boy is in the beginning stages of belligerence.
And so, “Oh, no, sir, it’s 1.99 for the large, ” It’s not. “We’re just offerin’ a smaller version and the menus haven’t been changed yet.” We haven’t and they won’t be. Costs too much for re-lamination. If we were making changes. And we’re not. Lord.
He sticks out his chin, battle ready. “You mean to tell me this is the price for a large orange juice?” He’s sure I’m planning to take him for all he’s worth and then some. No extra snow cones at the water park for he and his today, because that lowlife waitress at the pancake house misrepresented the menu to him. So much for that tip, I’m thinkin’. He squints at me, pretty sure he’s giving me his very best stink eye. “Is the rest of this menu here right? ” Clearly he’s now pretty sure it is not.
“No other changes I know of, ” probably the wrong thing to say, recovery needed. “If fact, I’m certainly sure everything you’re reading is right as rain. Just the larger orange juice is all.” Which is to say, there isn’t one change at all. It is going to be a day.
Big Boy leans in toward me, just enough to imply aggression. I lean in just enough to avoid seeming intimidated. I’m in too deep to bail out now. The smile remains. It’s a stare down full on and I’m not backing down. The smile is helping. Finally, finally, he leans back a bit in his chair and hands me the menus, both his and Wimpy Woman’s. I don’t recall if she even opened hers. Now maybe she can’t even read. An unexpected wash of guilt floods my heart for judgin’ so quick. But I do think the orange juice battle may just be sidelined. Dodged a Big Boy bullet, or so I hope.
“That’ll do it, then,” rumbles Big Boy. Still, he adds a parting shot as I pretend to dot my “i’s” for effect, “But we want those big orange juices. Big ones, now. One for me and one for her.” I nod sweetly, I hope, and this time my smile is for real, as I ready myself for my tableside exit.
But then. But then. I watch his eyes slide from me to the pancake house entrance. The double doors have swung open wide and children of all ages and sizes and genders and state of dress tumble through like so many bubbles out of an overflowing washing machine. My shoulders start to slide when those eyes grow round and happy.
“Why looky here, Kathaleen! Look here! It’s the kids! They made it! You made it!” I feel my shoulders drop another inch for good measure. His joy is my affliction. “Here!” Big Boy booms booms my way, scrambling as best he can out of his little chair, “Let’s pull a couple of these tables here together, we can all have breakfast like a family!”
And so, I pop my notepad in a hip pocket with a little more gusto than need be, grab the corner of the nearest table, angle back and pull hard. Big Boy’s directing traffic. “We can squeeze in eight over here, sure we can! Nancy, you over there. Sammy! Sammy, you set by me. Now, ” Yes, now. ” “What would you crew like to eat?”
Grabbing new plastic menus out of the bin, I remember to check my smile. My washin’ machine does need attention.