Scattered and Smothered

I’m too early to sign-in for my first appointment, yet without adequate time to do anything constructive—caught in a ‘tweener, as we say—and rather than annoy everyone in the waiting area with inane calls on my cell phone (Hi… uh-huh…it’s me…uh-huh…whatcha doin’… uh-huh…) I glide into the Waffle House across the street to kill a little time.

I get a resounding Howdy! from the crew behind the counter, return the greeting with a big wave, and sit alone in one of those booths by the window with the little sign that tells you not to sit there if you’re alone. It’s not that crowded right now, yet I feel compelled to crane my neck and peer outside as if to indicate that my posse will arrive momentarily.

A couple of bikers at the counter are chain smoking Camels, some teenyboppers chatter in a booth way in the back, there’s a scary old granny with hair the color of a New Mexico sunset camped in the corner, the Statler Brothers are wailing on the jukebox, and a fat guy in Bermuda shorts is waddling off to the john with a Bass Pro Shops flyer tucked under his arm.

Somebody’s tweaked the ambiance here to perfection.

The waitress, a big girl, asks what she can do me for and I order two eggs over well, hash browns scattered and smothered, bacon, wheat toast dry, and a Diet Coke.

An abandoned newspaper lies used and abused on the short counter next to what’s left of somebody’s scrambled eggs and coffee. I navigate around the modest tip, dodge a dollop of grape jelly, and endeavor to see what’s going on today in the land of the free and the home of the Braves.

I toss aside the Classifieds, Home, Style, Metro, Arts and Living sections, whittle it down to the big three—National News, Sports and Business.

I start with Sports, of course. It turns out that baseball is no longer America’s favorite game–football is. There’s a bunch of people out there who claim soccer is, or will be, in a few years, and I write them off as dilettantes out to yank my chain. I fold up the crinkled, egg-splattered sports pages and move on to the business section.

Under Personal Finance, a colorful graphic shows how much money you’re going to need to retire comfortably. A cute little cartoon of a 1930′s-style hobo with his empty trouser pockets turned inside out cheerfully illustrates that unless you make some very big changes, you’re likely to spend your retirement living under a bridge in a cardboard box.

I scan the National News, read a disturbing article that says if you clone something, sooner or later the new thing you’ve created will go bad on you, like a banana left on top of a breadbox or a forgotten container of yogurt in the back of the fridge.

A couple slides into the booth behind me. She’s wearing a smart navy suit, looks a bit like Diane Sawyer. He’s a dead ringer for Walter White from Breaking Bad– the innocent Walter White from the early episodes when he still had his hair and was teaching high school chemistry. He even has Walter White’s wardrobe going on with the twill pants and the plaid shirt from Timberland and the boxy, casual shoes.

“A Smoothie King franchise? Are you nuts?”

“Why not, Dolly? It’s a turnkey operation with a predictable income.”

“Oh, it’s predictable, all right. It’s predictable that you’ll hate it within six months. You’re lousy with people and you’ve never had a smoothie in your life.”

“Yeah, but-“

“Let me be clear— no, no and hell, no.”

Personally, I’m with Dolly on this one. I glance at my watch. Whoops–gotta go!

I down my Diet Coke with a loud slurp, leave behind what I can assure you is a generous –actually, quite handsome — tip, and ready myself for my appointment across the street.

Let’s see, I’ve got my notepad, fancy pen, background notes. My tie is tied correctly, nothing unsightly between the teeth, no egg yolk on the lapel.

I’m ready.

I’m going in there with a good idea for a prospective client. I sign in at the desk, exchange pleasantries with the receptionist and take a seat in the waiting room. Across from me, on a sofa behind a coffee table, a young guy in a new suit is on a cell phone.

“Hi,” he says. “Uh-huh…it’s me. Uh-huh. Whatcha doin?’ Uh-huh…”


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