The main reason for this was the half-dozen patrons already present at that early hour, all of whom were grumpy-looking old men. You see, I plan to someday become a grumpy-looking old man myself, and here I was, in what appeared to be their natural Saturday morning habitat! What an opportunity to observe and learn!
The first thing I noted was that even though I was in a small town where everybody had to know each other, none of the grumpy-looking old men were sitting together. In fact, they’d carefully positioned themselves in such a way that ensured the maximum amount of distance between each other. Clearly, this was a place where one’s personal space was valued, which in itself was enough to vault it into my Top 10 Restaurant list.
Being relatively young, I knew that I stuck out like a sort thumb, and so I found the best possible place to sit that wouldn’t infringe on anybody’s personal space and made a beeline for it. I nodded to one of the customers as I passed by, and he politely returned the gesture, but I could tell he was suspicious. I obviously wasn’t from around here. Also, I wasn’t a grumpy-looking old man. Yet.
The waitress came over and I ordered coffee, because that’s what Jack Reacher would do, and then I began to soak up one of the most unique experiences of my life.
It was quiet, so very, very quiet. Obviously, a lot of the silence was a direct result of the personal space rule, but even when the waitress topped off the cup of one of the grumpy-looking old men, their conversation was subdued, to-the-point, and generally seemed to focus on the topics of celery, tomatoes, and mud. Nobody was showing off here. This was a serious place for serious people, and although I’d only been inside for a few minutes, I could sense that foolishness of any kind would immediately be met with multiple passive-aggressive glares. What a place! It was no wonder I was falling in love with it! Heck, I excel at passive-aggressive glares!
The overwhelming silence, however, was not in the least bit awkward, and instead could only be described as blissful. How refreshing to sit in a public place without anybody striving in some way for attention! My entire body relaxed, and I sipped at my coffee and eventually ordered a meal. I’d take this over a day at the beach anytime! (Unless maybe nobody was at the beach and they served coffee there.)
The closest thing to excitement that broke out during my visit was a brief conversation between two of the grumpy-looking old men. They were sitting about 5 or 6 booths from each other, and their discussion was held with slightly raised voices. The topic at hand had something to do with celery, tomatoes, or mud, but it didn’t last long. Points were succinctly made, and silence soon returned to the restaurant.
It wasn’t, however, a complete silence. There was background music to contend with, in the form of a radio tuned into a pop station. It seemed to me to be an odd choice, and as Taylor Swift was singing “Blank Space,” I kept waiting for one of the grumpy-looking old men to pull out a pistol and shoot the speaker off the wall.
But then again, who am I to say? I’m not yet a grumpy-looking old man, and so why should I assume I know anything about their musical tastes? While I couldn’t help but imagine that most of them would rather listen to Earnest Tubb than Taylor Swift (as would I), perhaps I was completely misjudging them.
I wanted to ask the closest grumpy-looking old man about this, but I held myself back. I’d gotten away with a polite nod to him earlier, but I didn’t think an actual conversation would fly. No matter how comfortable I felt, I was still an outsider, and I was deeply afraid of being on the receiving end of a terrifying passive-aggressive glare.
My meal soon arrived, and since I was quite hungry it didn’t take me long to work my way through it. I then sighed contentedly, and as I pushed away my plate and began to think about paying the bill, I realized that in the time I’d been in the restaurant, nobody who’d arrived before me had left. They obviously weren’t distracting themselves with frivolous conversation, and, assuming they weren’t all slow eaters, I came to the conclusion that grumpy-looking old men spend the majority of their Saturday mornings sitting in quiet restaurants, either because they have nothing better to do or because their wives have a honey-do list waiting for them at home. Either way, it sounded like a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning, and I felt my motivation to someday become a grumpy-looking old man growing by leaps and bounds.
Not long after, I left my tip and stood up. No matter how at-home I felt in my quiet little booth, I couldn’t sit there any longer. I hadn’t yet earned the right to linger over a completed meal for hours on end like the grumpy-looking old men were doing, and the best thing I could do was leave before I upset the natural balance of things even more than I already had.
As I paid the waitress at the front desk, we chatted briefly about the weather, mainly because I didn’t know much about celery or tomatoes or mud, and soon after I found myself walking towards my car, wondering what all the grumpy-looking old men were doing now that I was gone. I imagined them all still sitting there, quietly listening to Taylor Swift, sipping coffee, and practicing their passive-aggressive glares, but perhaps my assessment was wrong. Maybe as soon as I drove away the entire place would erupt into song and dance, with each grumpy-looking old man playing an instrument of their choice. I mean, how was I to know? No matter how much I want to be one, I’m still not a grumpy-looking old man, and there’s bound to be plenty I have to learn on the subject. However, when I do finally reach that point in my life, I’m pretty sure I’m going to spend a lot of my time in restaurants such as the one I discovered on that rainy Saturday morning. It was definitely my kind of place.