Recently I had lunch at the Carrollton Diner. Yes, the Carrollton Diner. Never heard of it? Well you're not alone, neither has most of Carrollton, or by extension, most of the world. It is home to the best chicken noodle soup in the world and cakes the size of small end tables.
Before I get into the diner, I guess I should explain a little about Carrollton. In order to be considered "backwards", Carrollton would still need to take 3 steps forward. It is a place that hasn't been discovered yet, and frankly, that is just fine with most of the inhabitants. Despite society slowly making its way in and invading the town, the locals are resisting change with every fiber of their being. Town attractions include the jail, AppleBee's and the live auction barn. Recently, a big cross standing approximately 200ft high was erected to, well I'll say "welcome you" to town, but it actually tends to serve more as a warning: We are God fearing and if you don't believe in God, and do not have a confederate flag located somewhere on your Ford pick-up truck, we will not hesitate to crucify you. See, we already have the big cross.
When I say "we," I of course do not mean "me," as I am a Northerner and the whole Southern hospitality thing seemed to skip most of Carrollton. It is all very Hatfields vs McCoys, insiders vs ousiders, Marsha vs Greg over who has rights to the attic. I lived here 3 years before my first neighbor, Gloria, ever spoke to me. When she did, she informed me that she was from Chicago, lived here for 15 years, and well, no one would speak to her either. She also told me that all of the neighbors...the ones that don't speak to her, assumed that my now-ex husband and I were drug dealers because we came in, put up a 3 board style fence and have "all of those attack dogs."
The attack dogs she is referring to are 5 white fluffballs called American Eskimos that stand almost knee high. Not only are they not attack dogs, but if you actually came onto my property, the only threat you would face would be if they licked you to death and, if you happen to have a cookie on you and wanted to share it with them, they would probably take you right into the house and show you where the valuables were. Still, I decided to withhold this piece of information from Gloria, who I'm pretty certain didn't tell me the drug dealer remark to help explain why no one was speaking to us, but more to see if she could score some good reefer. I figured, let the neighbors think we are drug dealers. No one will ever complain about my grass being too long or my dogs barking.
Now that you have a little idea about Carrollton, let's go back to the diner. The diner popped up about 3 months ago in a location that has changed hands at least 500 times. It is hard for a business to make it in Carrollton because the locals, for the most part, won't even try it. The owners will therefore, do anything to get someone's business. When I first went to the diner, I noticed a sign posted that read: Per Popular Request, We Are Now Open 24HRS.
Popular request means some no teeth having, overall wearing guy named Earl came in one night and said through tobacco chew filled gums, "Eh, how come y'all ain't open 24 hours?" And, like a genie in a lamp, the owners granted Earl's wish and now they are. It seems Earl, thinking he has influence, told all of his friends about the diner because when I went there for the first time, it was packed.
The place was set up like a real diner, with booths, a counter you could eat at and glass cabinets displaying desserts that made my thighs grow two sizes just by looking at them. The owner spotted me, and fearing I had been in the door for 2 full seconds with out being spoken to, hurdled a table and came to greet me.
"How many?" he inquired, happy a new customer was trying the place.
"Just 1," I replied, as he gave me the awwww, I'm sorry you have no husband and no friends look and seated me at a booth set up for 6. Obviously, he saw me eyeing the cakes and assumed I would need a lot of room, that or he too could see my imaginary friend entourage.
The waitress came and took my order, then I sat quietly trying to figure out something to do. Usually, I bring a magazine or something, but today, eating was a spur of the moment idea, so I was empty handed. I glanced around the diner and began to eavesdrop as I heard the women in the booth across from me speaking to the waitress.
There were 3 of them. Two white, one black. Each was at least 150 years old if they were a day, and all were clearly locals. They were dressed in their finest for lunch. Two wore hats, all wore pearls. Clearly, they had been friends from the time they were old enough to carve their first hieroglyphics on the cave wall. They couldn't have been any cuter.
They asked the waitress about the desserts, even though they hadn't ordered their food yet, and in their little, old lady sweet crackling voices said, "Oh, isn't that lovely?" as the waitress described them. The waitress proceeded to take their order, then made her way to the kitchen.
The older black lady, that beared a remarkable resemblence to Aunt Esther from Sanford & Son, sat back, her voice strong and opinionated, " So... I'm just sayin'," she went on as if they were in mid-conversation, "she was all up in our grill, but now that she got a man..." she trailed off, then started again.
" And poor Betty. She just dropped poor Betty like a hot potato. She was all up in Betty's grill. But since she got herself a man, she can't be bothered with poor Betty."
"Mmmmmm-hmmmm" the other two women agreed, one reminded me of Bea Arthur with her large frame and almost manly mannerisms, the other waved her E.T. like finger at Aunt Esther."
"You just know..." Aunt Esther stopped and put a smile on her bulldog like face as the waitress approached the table and placed their meals in front of them.
"Oh, this looks lovely. Everything just looks so wonderful, " she commented once again in her crackly, old lady voice as she smiled at the server.
"Yes...but where is the bread?" Bea Arthur's twin inquired, her voice also quite weak and barely audible.
"Bread?" the waitress asked making sure she understood the whispered words. "It doesn't come with bread, but I can get you some, if you like?"
"Oh, yes please, that would be so kind of you," Bea commented gently placing her frail hand on the waitress' wrist and using what looked like all of her day's energy to smile. The waitress hurried away to oblige the request, pleased she could make the old woman happy.
"What the hell is that?" the Golden Girl remarked to her friends with the same intensity and strength in her voice that Esther had displayed when speaking about poor Betty. "Who doesn't serve bread with a meal. I mean, what is that?"
"I know. I know," the other two chimed in disgruntled agreement.
The waitress returned with the bread and the woman accepted it with a weak, muffled, "Thank you," then gave the waitress a dirty look and an aggravated laugh as she dipped her bread into her gravy. "So go on," she instructed Esther.
"I'm just sayin' she is going to be all up in Betty's grill again when that man dumps her. Dumpin' her like a hot potato. And if she thinks she is gonna be up in our grill again..." she wagged her foreboding finger at the women as she sat back in her seat and noticed me looking at them.
Realizing I had been watching them like a sitcom, I put my head down and pretended to play with my phone, which isn't an I-phone and does nothing but call people. I flagged the waitress down, got the check, paid and left. I was afraid if I didn't, I might be the next one on the town crucifix...if it wasn't currently being occupied by the "Betty dropper."
"Please come again," the owner yelled as I walked out the door.
Of course I will. Where else can you get lunch and entertainment like that for under $10? Although, maybe next time, I'll invite Betty since I couldn't help but notice for all of the outrage they had and complaining they were doing about the mystery woman, they failed to realize, no one had invited poor, dropped like a hot potato, Betty to lunch.