Where Everybody Knows Your Name

favoriteboothI’m back to writing at my usual haunt. Las Palapas has a new waiter. When I sit down this morning in my usual booth, he brings me a menu. I can’t remember the last time I held one.

“Thanks, but I know what I want. I’m here all the time.”

I give him my order. He writes it down on a green pad, another thing that never happens. The food comes. It’s the wrong order. I eat it anyway. Seriously. He’ll learn. After a few weeks, he’ll be like the others, asking about the girls, or the book, or my laptop, or my fountain pen. He’ll know that I drink lemon in my Diet Pepsi, and that I’m allowed to use the secret WiFi password.

I’ve been writing here for so long, I’ve been introduced to the wait staff’s adult children. I’m not a guest. I blend. Invisibility fosters observation. I love this place because there’s always something to write about.

Today, it’s the man alone in the corner booth. He sounds like James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams. Not the affable They-will-come character from late in the movie, but the angry, I’m-not-a-prophet character, who slams the door in Kevin Costner’s face.

Except for a low loud bass, the patron in the corner isn’t physically imposing, but he’s fed up with my waiter.

Was he served my order?

He slams down his cup, spews a string of double negatives, and tosses a five on the table. On his way out, he yanks open the front door and passes without acknowledging the family entering from outside. They take over the corner, a young Mexican-American couple with an infant and a toddler. The waiter starts over.

I wait and watch.

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