Thursday, November 29, 2007

Midday Late-Night Eating

Little did I know, as I entered Tiffany’s Original Diner, passing the jukebox and the pinball machine huddled at the front like they were trying to leave, disappointment awaited me at the counter.

I’m not referring to Janet B. Women with stenciled eyebrows are sometimes hard to read, but Janet was straightforward with her “I value you no more and no less than the thousands upon thousands of customers that I’ve served” attitude, which is really quite a high level of value.

I was dropping in on Tiffany’s during off-hours—that being twelve-thirty in the afternoon. A man named Greg, who seemed to be the owner and was working with Doug to repair the flattop grill, said that the first rush comes as the local bars close, followed by a second rush of bar employees.

Maybe I came at a bad time. Greg was digging years-old grill grime out of the diner’s primary appliance with a butter knife. Janet was waiting for “the new kid” to show up and send her home.

“He’s got one minute,” she said. “Who shows up only one minute before work?”

“I always get to work an hour early,” a customer said.

“He does,” the guy beside him said.

Including me, only two of the seven people engaged with their various tasks (service, repair, patronage and crossword puzzle solving) weren’t smoking. John threw open the door and took a deep breath like he’d just run several blocks.

Variations on “Just made it!” and “Close call!” arose from all sides of the rectangular box of a restaurant.

“I heard you guys put grits in your pancakes,” I said to Janet.

“No, we don’t,” she said.

Disappointment can be crushing. I had believed that my information was reliable. With my only reason for visiting this appetite-smothering eatery flipped like gristle into the void, I was suddenly disoriented. The yellowed menu board offered little direction.

“What’s the Tibey?” I asked.

“It’s gravy all over your breakfast,” Janet said.

“What’s the Slinger?”

“It’s chili all over your breakfast.”

Like so many heroes, I was faced with a choice between greatness and survival.

“I’ll just have the biscuits and gravy,” I said.

“Is that all?” Janet asked.

“And a coffee,” I said.

“Don’t make me beg for a refill,” the crossword lady said.

“No woman begs to me with clothes on,” Greg said.

“Is that it?” Janet asked me.

“And a egg,” I said.

“Biscuits and gravy, John!” she yelled.

John, who was still sweating and could not access the temporary grill station due to the repair work, thrust himself against the laminate.

“I don’t know if my ass is supposed to be on the counter,” he said.

“It’s not like you’re going to shit on it,” Doug said.

John’s legs managed to clear the condiments and napkin dispensers, and he even made a show of spritzing some sanitizer for my benefit.

“This gravy is a little watery,” he said, looking into a bucket.

“It don’t make any difference,” Janet said.

“Zap it,” Greg said.

“Pitch it?” John asked.

“No!” Janet said.

“I could combine it with this fresh one,” John said.

“Don’t mix ‘em together!” Greg said.

A knowing look circulated the room like, “The new guy.”

“How long have you worked here?” I asked John.

“Four months,” he said.

“What about Janet?”

“Decades, man,” he said. “Her whole freakin’ life. I couldn’t do it. I want out already.”

Having topped off everyone’s coffee, Janet put on her coat and found her duffle bag-sized purse. On her way to the door, she leaned across the counter and kissed Greg on the lips. It was a sweet, mother-son kind of kiss.

“What, no French?” Doug asked.

“Not today, ma chérie,” Greg said, with a seemingly accurate French accent.

“See you guys tomorrow,” Janet said.

“Bye, Janet,” I said, feeling like a member of the family.


august said...

I like Tiffany's. I've never been treated kindly there.

I'll be there at the end of December!

shannon* said...

Good lord! What an experience! I'm sorry about the gritscakes. I know you were looking forward to them. Hey, if you can tackle goat ribs, you can tackle any kitchen project you put your mind to.

Emily said...

Tiffany's is a lot like a Whitie's run in that it's only good if you are under a fog of drunkeness at 3 am. But the bonus of going to Tiffany's is that you get to interact with the diverse crowd that frequent the place and like you said, be apart of the family by scooting uncomfortably close to a new friend, mid-bite when seats are limited, obeying orders from the cook.

An idea for a future post, which you may have already checked out, is Saratoga lanes down the street from Tiffany's. It's the oldest bowling lane west of the Mississippi? That might not be accurate, but it's old and on the second floor.

katie brad said...

I love the dialogue you captured. It seems like this little piece could evolve or inspire part of a short story....

Edan said...

The photo of the eggs and biscuits looks like hipster photography. You could mount that and sell it for big bucks!

Connie said...

First I'd have to stop LOL to write a serious comment. I would have loved to have a camera on your face during your visit! Thanks, I think I might skip this joint since I don't do too many 3am 'gotta have food' runs these days.

Biased Mom said...

WOW..not necessarily a gourmet experience - but a funny one! Thanks for the giggle!