#308 Joking with the staff at the restaurant

I eat out a lot.

I’m not proud of it but living alone downtown surrounded by greasy burger joints, neon sandwich signs, and late-night pizza places means I’m often tempted to trade a crinkly fiver for a waxy-wrapped package in a paper bag.

Sometimes I step into the zone of an empty sub shop or barren pizza place and it feels like I’m walking onto a late night talk show stage. Someone’s filling napkin dispensers while another chops tomatoes and they’ll be joking like Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon. They’ll be in tears laughing at something funny from a few moments before and I won’t know if someone dropped a jar of olives on their foot, a customer ordered a slice of pizza for their cat, or the boss got beet red because nobody ordered receipt tape for the register.

No, I won’t know what’s going on but if I’m lucky they’ll invite me onstage.

Just a few nights ago I walked into a greasy hole in the wall with my friends Nick and Julie and two guys behind the counter were having some sort of hilarious engaging argument. When we walked in they turned to us quickly and one of them immediately yelled out “Hey … what’s a perm?”

We laughed and Nick jumped in quickly to clarify: “What, you mean like in someone’s hair?”

“Yeah, exactly bro. Like, one of us thinks it’s when you make your hair curly and the other think it’s when you make your hair straight. Which one is it?”

He leaned on the cash register with his fist under his chin and with the furrowed brow and squinty eyes sort of looked like a modern day version of The Thinker, only wearing a paper hat. The other guy was laughing behind him while pulling a dripping basket of wet fries from the bubbling hot oil.

“I dunno, I think it stands for permanent,” Julie started up. “Like, anything you do to permanently change your hair in a new way. So … you’re probably both right. Or both horribly wrong.”

A few seconds later we were having mock-serious debates and laughing out loud in a tiny hilarious connection in our dusty neon world. It was a great moment and it made me realize that joking with the staff is always a great time.

Yes, whether you’re laughing with the ladies at the laundromat, trading barbs with the barbers at the shop, or joking with the jail guards in the joint — well, it just means you nailed your cameo appearance onstage.

Congratulations on a great walk on performance.

Today you win the Best Supporting Actress of


Photos from: here, here, here, and here

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