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    Life is short. Words linger.





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    All of the time spent working at the Weiner King helped me grow as a person, and I credit Jack Little for much of the good instilled in me. Not all, mind you, but a lot, because they were my formative years. I’m certain thousands of young people who passed through those doors would say the same thing.


    You can’t run a restaurant business without maintaining a loyal base of customers, and the Weiner King was no exception. For over a decade, it was the center of my ever growing universe, and I got to meet a lot of interesting people. This is a short story about one of them. I don’t remember his name, but I’m sure I knew it back in those days. Jack made it a point to say hello to as many people as he could. Subsequently, we all did. Most of our regulars appreciated being acknowledged; some more than others.

    This particular guy was an engineer of some kind, so he was a little bit different, but not in a bad way. I think his brain was floating around in a loftier place than mine. Quirky? I wouldn’t quite describe him as that. Intelligent? Yes, very, and he was friendly. Anyway, he usually came in every week and, sometimes, more than once.

    Generally, Jack and I worked the grills; one day burgers and the next day, hot dogs. Sometimes, we’d change things up and head to the front to greet customers and take their orders. It was great to interact with as many people as we could, and it was a nice break from cooking.

    During the lunch rush, we usually had two cash registers running and the lines were sometimes quite long. Waiting in my line was the engineer. Eventually, he made it to the register. He had a mustache and long beard that I’d have to describe as a cross between Hemingway and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top fame. Dark, but with a good touch of gray.

    I took his ‘to go’ order and, while counting out change, made small talk. Yes, I’d have to describe it as rather personal, but it did have to do with food. Kind of. In a roundabout sort of way.

    “You had scrambled eggs for breakfast, didn’t you?”

    “Yeah. How do you know?”

    I pointed to my imaginary beard and nodded. (I didn’t even have a mustache back then.) Suddenly, his whole demeanor changed. Clearly, he was agitated and mumbled a few choice words under that hair.

    “I’m really sorry,” I said, because I could clearly see I upset him.

    “NO! NO! NO! It’s not you. I’ve been at work since 8 o’clock this morning and not one single coworker said anything.” It’s like having spinach or poppy seeds in your teeth and you expect someone to tell you.

    Since he had no problem with me, I decided to make light of it. “Can I have it? I didn’t eat breakfast this morning.”

    That caused him to laugh. Oh well… all in a day’s work. After the transaction, he disappeared into the crowd, waiting for his number to be called. When he came back to grab his lunch order, we acknowledged each other. The tasty-looking egg morsel was gone. Darn. Anyway, he remained a loyal customer, but never told me how he handled it at work. And I never asked.

    Of all embarrassing moments in life, I sure am glad I never had to tell a customer “your barn door is open.” Then, I’d have to tell him “you’d better close it before the pony gets out.”




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