I went to Perkins with siblings to celebrate our Mom’s 85th birthday. The service was so slow that by the time we left she was celebrating her 86th.
I don’t think our waitress really wanted to be there. My first clue was when she took our drink order by saying: “I don’t really want to be here.” I said we’d like drinks anyway. She sighed loudly enough to loosen the wig of the woman at the next table. The bright pink hair slid down her head like an amoeba eventually meeting her soup to form a new species of semi-gelatinous sea creature I named the Portuguese Wig-o-War.
Our waitress walked away with us shouting our order of a coffee and three Pepsis. We perused the menu and in between small talk she brought Oolong Tea and two Dr. Peppers. I wasn’t thirsty anyway. The waitress left again giving us time to finish deciding what we wanted. She in fact gave us enough time to write a playlet about four ravenous people trapped on a deserted island. My brother made props from a neighboring booth and we performed three shows to a delighted, if slightly puzzled, audience of eight Perkins’ diners and wait staff.
It was during our after show meet and greet when the waitress finally returned to take our order. Certain we wouldn’t get what we wanted we cleverly asked for four plates of haggis. At this point apparently the Earth’s rotational velocity slowed or we were trapped in a temporal vortex or some other Star Trekkie sounding thing because we waited so long for our food that my toenails grew through my sneakers into the floor pinning me in place.
We were this close to leaving when our waitress re-appeared. She dropped off 3 plates of canard a la rouennaise and a serving of chicken fingers, vanishing in a cloud of reddish smoke with a fiendish laugh and our salt shaker. The other patrons applauded but we were busy devouring our supper like people who don’t understand what the words “all-you-can-eat” mean at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
My mom couldn’t finish her food which meant asking for a take-out box. We formed a betting pool on how long it would take our waitress to bring it. In the meantime my brother walked across the street to a store and bought a stop watch. When he got back he started it and it still took the waitress fifteen minutes to show up with the box. My sister’s guess of the half-life of plutonium-38 was the closest so she won the pool. The pot was what had been in our pockets so she got 18 cents, an assortment of buttons, an eyeglass screw and a Chinese fortune from Hong’s House of Hunan.
Tempting fate we decided to each order a slice of pie to take home. Our waitress’s reaction at having to continue to work was not good. She put on sack cloth, covered her face in ash and sat cross-legged on the floor wailing to the ceiling fan “Why hast thou forsaken me?” When she left the four of us took to the floor ourselves to pray to whatever supernatural being rules over the ceiling of a Perkins to make our waitress move faster.
Apparently the god of the ceiling fan was a Presbyterian and our night out was pre-destined to go badly. Our waitress finally came back with 3 pieces of pie. Too bad we had ordered 4. She left to get the second slice of French silk and this time forgot our bill. Sweet, sweet death would have been a welcome sight had he come striding through the door but alas, we were left alive to wait for our check. When she finally brought it we tossed bills of all denominations at her in a feverish frenzy. My brother grabbed another diner and yelled “We just want to go home!” I was scribbling “SNIKREP” on the walls with a sharpie while my sister rubbed her temples proclaiming “It’s a madhouse! A madhouse!” My mom was contentedly finishing her coffee. She loves coffee.
I’m not sure what time it was when we were permitted to leave. It was dark outside; the kind of dark that steals your soul and asks for change. The world had been rearranged; I could feel it in my bones. We went to Perkins for supper and lost everything about us that was good and pure. Damn you Perkins, damn you to hell.