We walked into our usual restaurant and took a booth in the non-smoking section. But something wasn’t very usual. The restaurant was extremely busy for 10:30 on a Saturday night. Something else was off, too. We didn’t recognize any of the employees. There had to be four or five people waiting tables, as well as a manager and someone manning the cash register. All of them were new faces. We read over the shiny new menus several times during the twenty minutes we waited before someone took our order. When the food finally came our waitress abandoned us, and our Cherry Cokes went dry. When you pay $1.59 for a Cherry Coke, you expect multiple refills. We had to actually call for her from across the restaurant to get her attention. Wisely, we asked for our bill along with the refills. Something had definitely changed.
Usually the place was a well oiled machine when we made our late night stops. One particular waitress always seemed to keep the place going. She hustled around the restaurant with a permanent scowl etched in her face. She was probably in her early fifties and rarely cracked a smile. We always heard her sighing and more than once I watched her walk away rolling her eyes. We always tried to be extra nice to her. You can’t expect much of a tip from two college students ordering muffins and water. She earned the nickname, “The Cranky Lady.” Anyone who frequented this particular restaurant would instantly know who we were talking about if we mentioned the Cranky Lady. Now she may have been cranky, but she knew how to do her job. She was fast and efficient, always being sure to come back and check on us. You never know when we may need another water.
There’s something cozy about the familiar. I miss the Cranky Lady. In fact, if the Cranky Lady isn’t there anymore, we’ll probably find ourselves a new usual restaurant.