Gas Station Sandwiches

As some of you know, Monday was Leah’s birthday. As some of you may also know, aside from writing posts about a person on their birthday, I’m about the world’s worst at making someone’s birthday special for them. I have some legitimate reasons for being so bad at this but, mostly, it’s just not a talent that I have in my toolbox.

It just occurred to me that the missing talent may not be limited to birthdays. Maybe I’m not good at making people feel special on any day. That’ll have to be another post, or a therapy session. Either way, moving on.

Monday was Leah’s birthday and she wanted to go to lunch. She wanted to try the brick-and-mortar location of a popular food truck in town. We rolled through the streets of Birmingham at 11:45 and found the last parking space on the side of the building. Must be living right! We walked around to the front of the building and were greeted with a big sign that read, “CLOSED ON MONDAY”. I thought only fancy hair salons, country clubs, and nice restaurants were closed on Mondays. Super Cuts, Don A. Hawkins Municipal, and this place should be open.

“That’s okay”, Leah said. “I’ve heard about another place around here somewhere that’s supposed to be really good. Let me Google it and see where it is.”

Wherever it is, it’s closed on Monday also, or so Google told her.

So, we’re standing on the corner in an area of town that is going through a revitalization, but it still prone to crime, on Leah’s birthday, wondering what to eat for lunch. Across the street, the lights of a new restaurant beckoned. Leah Googled the restaurant, was okay with the menu, and away we walked.

In all honesty, I thought that it was a neat little set-up. The building was once a service station, with what was formerly the retail area converted to the bar, and the service bays converted to the dining room. I like a building with exposed bricks. I can’t imagine that they ever totally removed the oil, grease, and exhaust residue from the bricks and concrete, but that’s a minor concern, I guess.

We sat down a little after Noon o’clock and a friendly waiter took our drink order. Leah and I took a couple of selfies to document the occasion, and the waiter returned with our drinks and to take our lunch order.

“What’s good”, Leah asked.

“People LOVE the patty melt”, he said, “it’s new on the menu, but people have really liked it.” Sold. Bring us one with no onions and one all the way. Only one of us was concerned about offending people with our breath that afternoon. 12:10, this party was rolling now!

There weren’t a lot of people in the restaurant when we arrived, six or seven tables with 3 or 4 people each, but I noticed that their food was coming out of the kitchen very slowly. The table of 4 next to us, who had already ordered when we arrived, got their food at about 12:30. So, it wasn’t until about 12:40 that I started thinking, our’s will be the next order out that little window.

Then a man in a purple shirt walked in from the patio to ask about his party’s order. “Five minutes”, said someone in the kitchen. “The guy told me ‘five minutes’ twenty minutes ago” purple shirt responded, plenty irritated. After seeing that display of unsportsmanship, we decided against asking about our order and to just be nice and wait.

Bad move.

Eventually, all of the tables that were occupied when we arrived had turned. New people arrived and ordered lunch. I hope that you’re not in a hurry, I thought to myself. At about 1:00, I saw a sandwich on Texas toast slide in to the serving window. That right there was a patty melt. I don’t know corned beef from brisket, but I’d have bet my Don Mattingly rookie card that the sandwich in the window was a patty melt!

It was, and it was delivered to the couple sitting across from us who arrived about 30 minutes after us.

The waiter placed the patty melt on their table and, for the first time in probably 40 minutes, looked at our table and seemed to wonder if we ever received our food.

I don’t talk much. Most of you know that. Leah says that, in times like this, I don’t need to talk because if what’s going to come out of my mouth matches the look on my face, it’s not going to be good for anyone. So, as the waiter looked at us, I looked at him. He put he finger up and took a breath and, in what was really an amazing moment, I witnessed an epiphany right then and there. An experience of sudden and striking realization occurred within his mind, and it had to do with two patty melts, one with onions, one without. An epiphany is a neat thing to see when a light bulb goes off in a child’s mind and they finally understand long division. Not so when it occurs with your waiter who realizes you never got food.

To his credit, he beelined back to the kitchen area. After a couple of minutes, he returned and, as if he were solving a puzzle on Wheel of Fortune, he announced, “Your order did not print out.”

It was after 1:00 by this time. He told us it would be 10 minutes. I didn’t know if that was really 10 minutes or, remembering the angry purple shirt guy who was told “5 minutes” 20 minutes ago, if it would be more like 30 minutes. Leah had an appointment and I had to get back to work, so we told him thanks but 86 those patty melts. I have kinda always wanted to say that.

He said that he wanted to give us gift certificates so that we could come back again but, of course, printer problems and whatnot didn’t allow him to efficiently print those.

So, for her birthday lunch, Leah and I sat in a service station for an hour. No kids pulling on us, asking us to take them to Academy Sports for a new basketball or telling us that something wasn’t fair. Kid-less and food-less. She grabbed a Snickers bar from a vending machine before her appointment. I ate a brown banana, all the time thinking, “I’m so hungry, I could eat a sandwich from a gas station!”

Happy Birthday (anyway), Leah!

 

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