What I love most about this diner is the broken lock on the front door. Rita told me how it broke over a decade back, and the manager had tried getting it fixed, but it was around the Fourth of July so their usual handyman was out of town. But when he returned from vacation his wrist was broken from a motorcycle accident. So what was there to do? The manager would've felt guilty finding another handyman, seeing as this was his go-to guy, not to mention that he ate here all the time. Plus, the diner had been fine going over a week with the broken lock, seeing as the place never closed anyhow, so the manager decided another month or two -- or however long it took for a broken wrist to heal -- would be fine.
A place that never has to lock its doors, not because it belongs in some utopia where people wouldn't imagine crime, but because there's always something happening inside fascinates me. There's always somebody holding down the fort. I can feel as though there's something to learn from this phenomenon.
It was just another day, which meant I had nothing planned, and I didn't know what to expect. I spent probably an hour laying in bed, alternating from staring out the window and then at the ceiling, before a call came in.
-- Hey, man. You wouldn't have any lunch plans today would you?
Another thing I liked about Jackie was that even though he knew I had nothing going on with my endless repetitive days, he never talked to me as though that were the case. He still talked to me like I was a busy functioning member of society, which coming from any other person would offend me, but from him, I don't know, it felt empowering.
-- I'm meeting a really cool friend that I think you'd really like. We're meeting at the Greasy Spoon.
I go to the Greasy Spoon half an hour early to enjoy a hot cup of coffee while staring out the window. Jackie shows up ten minutes early.
-- What are you drinking? Is that black coffee?
The waiter comes over and asks what Jackie would like while giving me a refill.
-- I'll take a coffee. Thanks.
-- You got it, hun.
When I watch Jackie take a sip, I sense that he doesn't enjoy coffee as much as I do. After a couple sips he grabs two types of sugar packets and then reads them before putting them back.
-- Yes. Do you not like the taste of coffee?
-- I don't mind it.
-- I can't live without it.
-- Have you always been this way?
-- No, I thought it was not that great at first. Not gross but nothing good. I'd have much preferred ice cream or a snickers bar back then.
-- I think I'm still at that stage.
-- How do you keep up your crazy hours?
-- A lot of energy drinks. I should transition to coffee though. Healthier. But it's so fucking hot right now, maybe I'll transition in the fall.
-- Good idea. Summer is not a good time for coffee. So who's your friend.
Jackie looks up while taking a sip.
-- There he is right now.
A man in his fifties, dressed in a tailored pinstripe suit walks through the door and smiles at Jackie. He shakes his hand while placing the other hand on Jackie's elbow. Jackie immediately introduces me to the man and the man to me.
-- It's so great of you to join us. Always an adventure to meet one of Jacks friends. I'm Mr. Ball.
Jackie relocates so that he and I are sharing the booth across the table from Mr. Ball. The waittress quickly swings by.
-- Anything to drink, sir?
-- Yes. Coffee is fine.
-- Alright. And are we ready to order?
-- I think we could use a minute? What do you say boys?
-- No problem. I'll be back with that coffee.
After she brings the coffee, I watch Mr. Ball as he takes his first sip of the coffee. He closes his eyes and lets out a sigh of pleasure before taking another immediate sip. And then he places the mug down.
-- This place is fascinating. The lock on the door is broken.
Jackie turns to me.
-- Don't you know the storybehind this?
-- Yes. The lock broke sometime ten years ago. And since they don't close, they never fixed it.
-- No. Tell him more. Tell him what happened. with the handyman and stuff.
I tell the story as best I can. And Mr. Ball seems to get a kick out of it. Jackie enjoys listening to it like it's the first time. We are briefly interrupted by the waittres who takes our orders. Jackie and I order dishes with enourmous amounts of calories. While Mr. Ball, just orders two pieces of rye toast.
-- I'll have that right out for ya'll.
-- So. how did they break the news to the contractor then?
-- Oh. Well. I kind of didn't tell the story right. They didn't really make the decision. Cause like, they were planning on getting the door fixed eventually. They were just waiting for the contractor to recover.
-- And then, well one day. He died. And so the manager just decided fuck it. I guess. That's how I see it.
-- Wow. I do like the way you see it though. What is the saying again? Never allow a lie get in the way of a great story. And so this place has never been closed since then?
-- Fascinating. This is the type of business that really awes you especially in the 21st century. I could never imagine having my office be so open all the time.
With that statement, he effotlessly took out a business card and slid it across the table to me.
-- That's where I work, if you ever want to come by.