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The Way We Were.

The rituals that keep me sane.  All of them.  It borders on OCD, or ADD, or anal retention, or something else, but it probably isn't any of those things because that would actually lend some legitimacy to my crazy and it would all become justified.   Much like chronic back pain, or being left handed, legitimizing it is not allowed.  Just suffer and be weird and shut up about it, thank you.

That entire introductory paragraph was a tangent from the thing I haven't even started writing yet.

So the real point is this, that I tend to have these rituals all the way down to where I eat lunch, what I order, and sometimes even what days of the week I do each.  I've seen it much worse than me, but I still do it.  I mix it up sometimes, just to prove that I can.  Like maybe toast instead of pancakes, or if I'm really crazy it's the BLT and the waitress will ask if I'm feeling ok because I didn't order breakfast.

To drink?  Always Mr. Pibb in a to-go cup, if they have Mr. Pibb.  Kind of makes me feel like a dick for even asking, but I ask anyway, because I really want that takeout sugar for my afternoon in the office. 

My god, none of that was the point.  The only point is this:  YESTERDAY, at the diner near my office where I go on Mondays, that special kind of tragedy that can only be compared to a death in the family or a breakup with that person who you were convinced you were going to marry one day, the kind of thing that makes everything wrong with the world for an indefinite yet lengthy and painful healing / recovery process, THAT happened.  To me.  And only me.

My favorite waitress quit.

You just don't understand.  You can never understand.  She was special.  What we had was special.  She called me "hon" or "sweetie."  She sat down in the booth with me while I ordered.  And then we talked about our lives.

"They do that to everyone" says you, the people not reading this.  Duh, I know that.  But still, we were special.

Two weeks ago I walked in and she was bent over at the very first table, wiping it down from the previous customer, and there was her ass, shining toward heaven, hell, and everything in between, all at the same time.  You couldn't see anything else without going around it.  And without her knowing I was there, I said "You just have no idea how tempting it is right now to lift my foot in the air..."  And she laughed, and pointed the ass even more in my direction, as if that were possible.  "Go for it," she laughed.

I've known Misty now for all of six months.  Six glorious months.  She invited me to a barbecue at her house this summer, and to swim in her pool.  She probably invited every regular customer at the diner, but whatever.  I didn't go, of course, because I kind of figured it was an obligatory "everybody gets one" type of invite, but I was flattered she asked.  In August she was gone for a week to get married, and last week I asked her if she was still happily married.  "They said it would never last," she grinned.  See?  I know this stuff about her.  I knew personal details about her life, and she knew about mine.  And we would ask each other followup questions on subsequent visits and we had inside jokes and ALL OF THE THINGS.

And really, I'm not doing this story any level of justice.  Some people are good at what they do, and she was the best at it.  In the year she worked there she quadrupled the attendance.  Particularly the lunch crowd, all of them regulars. The food is fine, but they were coming to see her.

It's that thing when you walk in the door, and there she is holding a Mr. Pibb in a to-go cup and asking me where I'm going to sit today, knowing full well which booth it will be.  Because she knows what car I drive and watched me park it.  Who does that?  It's just THAT THING.  You can't put a label on that, and if you can I really don't want to know because to me it is enigmatic.  As it should be.

So Monday she wasn't there, and I just assumed it was maybe a day off despite the fact that she never took days off.  I would tolerate waitress-who-was-clearly-not-Misty, I would eat my lunch quicker than usual, and go back to work.  I would not ask for the to-go cup because NewWaitress would not understand.  Nobody understands.

And so came that moment when someone other than me had the balls to ask where Misty was.  Hey, I was being polite to NewWaitress because she may not have been Misty and may not have known jackshit about me but that was no reason to hurt her feelings.  I'm nice like that.   But the cook in the kitchen yelled out the window that Misty quit last Thursday.  The words still echo.

Not the first time this has happened to me.  Hell, not even the first time it's happened to me in that diner.  One time I didn't like the replacement so much that I stopped eating there for a year.  Until the day that I did, and that was the day I met Misty.  "She quit last Thursday."  It's all that was said, because the other customer knew not to ask followup questions in front of NewWaitress either.  And I was already having an off day, compounding upon my off year, which may or not compound on my off life, but not good timing.  I sat there with my toast (this day did not deserve pancakes) and sipped on my soda from a red plastic cup and I just felt shitty. "We didn't even get to say goodbye," thought me, wistfully.

After lunch I took my money to the register.  NewWaitress saw me, raised a finger, and took a styrofoam cup to the soda machine.  She filled it with Mr. Pibb, put the lid on and gave me a fresh straw.

"She told you to do that, didn't she?" I asked, pointing to the cook in the kitchen.

NewWaitress shrugged.  "No.  I could just tell.  Most soda drinkers want to-go cups." 

I shrugged as well.  "Good catch."  But what I was really thinking?   MIND. BLOWN.

Yeah, maybe I'll eat there again next Monday.  Maybe I'll try the pancakes.


  1. my 2 favorite waitress's at the Pizza House of West quit ..Mary had larynx cancer and had one of those things in her throat to talk.. Barbara had double mastectomy and couldn't carry a tray any more..I miss going in there and having them bring me my unsweet tea to the table as I sat down..knew what I meant when I said I wanted crack rings. I miss them so much..but with all that's happened to them..that they are both alive..makes me happy..hope you get to see Misty again


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