Things on My Mind: The Diner Life
by, 01-19-2011 at 08:06 PM (4125 Views)
First of all, I feel the need to address my audience. Judging by the fact that I have over 1100 views and 0 comments on my last blog, I'm going to have to conclude that my audience consists of 1095 internet bots and probably 5 people who know me in real life and are spying on me. To the people who know me in real life, you're creeping me out by silently watching me! To my internet bot fans, I have no idea what you're reading my blog for, I have yet to mention anything about "Nike" or "Cheap Perfume". To anyone else, say something, this is getting creepy!
Okay now, on with it...
I went to a diner some time ago with my wife and I made a mental note of the entire experience. It got me thinking about what the quintessential diner experience looks like. So without further ado, here it is....The Diner Life (and the thing with the coffee actually happened to me)
The Diner Life
My wife and I decided to have a "breakfast for dinner" night. Our house has several diners nearby, so we figured we'd try one. Now, diners themselves are magical places to begin with...going to "The Liberty Diner" reminded me about what makes a diner great. The following are things I noticed, things that are integral to any good diner experience.
(1) The building in which the diner is housed should have some sort of metallic facade. If it does not have a metallic facade, then it must have some sort of unclean looking facade. It doesn't hurt for the diner to have an awfully plain name, outlined in neon lights, with 50's style font.
(2) When you walk in, various local newspapers should be stacked by the door (all of which should be free). There also needs to be some sort of machine that charges 25 cents for stickers, some outdated arcade machine like "Golden Tee '94", and some sort of prize machine that begs you to work a barely responsive mechanical arm (if only all your work gets you is a poorly-stitched mouse wearing a cowboy hat). It is imperative that the mechanical arm never respond properly to your manipulation of the controls.
(3) When you walk into the waiting area itself, one of the two following people should approach you. The first person fits this description: a woman with a budding mullet who stoically greets you without a smile. The second person fits this description: some guy with zits (or pock marks), slicked back greasy hair, and a bad shirt and tie. One of these people (or, joy of all joys if you are lucky enough, BOTH of them) will direct you to your table.
(4) Upon arriving at your table, the following things must be noted:
*(a) the table must show very recent signs that someone ate*a meal there, and that one of the waiters used a wet rag to half-assedly wipe down part of the table. This creates a homey atmosphere of a damp table with pieces of scrambled egg littered around the surface of the table. Oh, and this is important...you MUST immediately rest your forearm in an unforeseen patch of syrup.
(b) you must be seated at a booth that is lined with some sort of artificial cushy material. The seats will, of course, have pieces of food lying about.
(c) you should have place mats on the table in front of you. Please make note of these fine works of art. They need to feature 3" by 5" squares, each advertising some unheard of local business that you will never want to pay a visit to. The businesses should consist of tractor supplies, hairdressers, and assorted line dancing classes. This is a prime example of white trash synergy.
(d) the silverware sitting at the side of your place mat will be, errr, not quite silver. Actually, they should be silver enough that you can tell they may have once been silver, but are now just pieces of metal with soap residue fermenting on the surface.* Take note of the napkin dispenser on your table, spring-loaded with napkins and housed in a reflective silver container covered in greasy fingerprints.* Imagine all the people who have touched it before you.* At some point in your meal, you will touch it yourself.* And then you'll touch your mouth.
(e) a glance around should at least yield a 50's style jukebox, with artists ranging from "Journey" to "Chicago".* Don't expect to be rockin' out to "The Glory of Love" though, since the jukebox won't work.* Prepare to reach a*new low in your life as you approach a lard-covered employee behind the counter and complain about how the machine took your quarters.
(5) Now here comes a real highlight...interaction with an ACTUAL DINER WAITRESS. You must prefer your server to be a waitress instead of a waiter, since the waiter will be less likely to provide the ultimate diner service experience. Your waitress must look like the truck-driving psycho ghost from "Pee Wees Big Adventure". If she doesn't cackle, tell you her life story, or blow cigarette smoke in your face while ordering, then you are in the wrong place. She'll ask you what you would like to have to drink. This is a diner, so for God's sake man get yourself some COFFEE. The waitress will hand you your menu as she walks away.
(6) Ah, the diner menu...a work of art unto itself! General rule about diner menus is that you need to find where it says "Breakfast served all day". If they don't serve breakfast all day, get the hell outta there, NOW. Sure, there are many items on the menu, but they are just there for looks. You would have to be mad to order beef wellington, Salisbury steak, or ANYTHING else other than breakfast. It is always a plus when the menu features actual pictures of some of the dinner meals, that way you can see that they look more like one of those fake Fisher Price rubber food sets than anything you want to digest. As the waitress returns to the table, she will be holding a saucer with your coffee cup sitting at an awkward angle. She must then plop the saucer down on the table, causing your java to run down all sides of your mug, filling your saucer with a small puddle. Cue the waitress to say something classy like "that's what saucers are for" as she inhales a puff of smoke, coyly releases it from the side of her mouth, and then quickly licks the questionable mole hiding under*her thin layer of chin hair. The waitress then will pull out a dollar store notepad and ask for your order. When you find that wonderful breakfast section on the menu, order some pancakes (if they are called "flapjacks", you have hit pay dirt) and some hash browns.
(7) Now that the waitress is gone and you have some downtime, you will eagerly anticipate that first sip of coffee. Take note, your coffee mug will be off-white in color, and will also have tiny pieces of food plastered to the sides from the wonderfully inefficient dishwasher in the fully visible kitchen. Bringing the cup to your lips, you will hopefully taste the most revolting coffee of your life. Your entire face will slowly contort in an almost irreversible look of disgust. The coffee itself will be lukewarm and will taste like it has been cooking in a mostly empty pot all day. Notice that your eyebrows are clenched inwards, your mouth stuck in a slight frown, and your back will shiver intermittently. You will need a few minutes to actually change your face back to it's normal position. At a near gag, you will slowly place the coffee mug back in the flooded saucer.
(8) In no time though, your waitress will bring you your flapjacks and hash browns. This will not be your immediate concern however, you will quickly inquire about the coffee. The conversation will go something like this:
YOU: is it possible to get another cup of coffee? This one tastes...
WAITRESS: (interrupting) Old? Heehee, I know, we try to make the pot last as long as we can, we serve it until people start complaining, I'll get you a fresh cup.
Relish this moment...it is diner nirvana. Turning now to your flapjacks and hash browns, you'll see they don't look too bad! See, I told you not to get any dinner meats. Its pretty hard to screw up pancakes and hash browns. The hash browns, ideally, will be a twisted pile of mush with obviously unstirred butter slowly sinking through them. If God is smiling down on you, your flapjacks will come with some sort of no-name, generic brand syrup. Awww hell, let's just hope for the best and hope all it says on there is "syrup". It's a total bonus if said syrup pack has some never before heard of mascot character on it...like an elf leaning on a maple tree or something. Those are always the best. Also acceptable is if your meal comes with a little "syrup rack", stocked with unlabeled and unbranded syrup. Pour that syrup on your flapjacks and before your eyes your flapjacks will hopefully do too good a job of soaking in the syrup. This results in instantly mushy pancakes. Your now fresh coffee will arrive just in time for you to take your last bite of hash browns. If the coffee is good enough, feel free to linger for hours at the diner drinking cup after cup and pondering why everyone there is white.
(9) When you are finished your meal, the waitress will lay the "check" on the table and will mutter something like "thanks sweetie" or "come back again sugar". Pray that the bill the waitress gives you is just random scribbling on the back of a coupon with your total written at the bottom.* As you pay your bill and exit the diner, try not to pay any attention to the impending digestive explosion that is about to occur.
God I love diners.