After the sixty-five mile training run....
The Farmer and His Wife
I then made my way walking across the Sussex Queens Diner parking lot. I knew that I had to clean up in the bathroom after ordering coffee, I think as I approach the lobby of the diner.
I entered the lobby before opening the door to the dining area. I take off my camelbak and untied my jacket, smelled it, it smelled like the clean fresh air from outside. ‘Thank God’. I thought to myself. I donned the jacket back on. I pushed my sunglasses up to fix my hair from my baseball cap, I’d been wearing to protect me from the sun.
Then held my camelbak and entered the dining area. I then ventured to do something I’d never done before. I sat on the diner’s stool that faced the somewhat typical backdrop of a New Jersey diner, where there are mirrors behind the counter that appear planted in between where waitresses stand watching customers, and the machinery, for the coffee and the like, are being operated from.
I’d really only seen men sit on these stools at a diner counter. The men that sat there appeared to either be blue collar workers, usually at the end of their shift. Quite often middle-aged men or older men did this. It appeared to be their wind down, as if a pre-retirement mode of what they’d like to be doing when no longer working.
I also recognized quite often depending on the time of the day, that I’d see men, who were retired, perhaps widowers or men who had wives who were either always out and about with their friends, or their wives were home-bodies.
At first I felt so awkward. Then a waitress of about early to mid-fifties asked, “What can I do for you?”
I responded, “I’d love a cup of coffee and a big glass of water and a menu, Ma’am. Thank you.”
As she began to serve me, I asked her, “Ma’am, could you please tell me where the ladies room is?”
She replied, “Yes.” And pointed to where it was.”
I thanked the waitress and proceeded to go to the ladies room. I cleaned up washing my face and hands, and then got back to my seat at the counter. As I sat down I realized there was an elderly gentleman, of World War II age generation, who was seated next to my seat. He neared around six foot tall and had a strong, modest, yet slender build.
The one thing that grabbed my attention was, prior to this I didn’t notice him as I approached my seat. He sat to my left. I thought to myself, ‘Am I supposed to talk to this elderly man?’ I then flip back to my hunger. I scan for pancakes, eggs, bacon and some sort of fruit to eat.
Now, barely having six hundred calories I’ve ingested on the run, I realized I’d ran about sixty-five miles or more. The time I spent running was a good nine hours and thirty-five minutes. I had been outside including purchasing drinks, eating, and phone calling about ten hours and fifteen minutes or so.
Having about four hours sleep before the run after a full day of work and family, lent itself to a distant fatigue. Everything now was in slow-motion. A common thing I’ve experienced, after a good three hours on my feet running is when I stop, the world seems bigger. I seem smaller, nothing matters anymore and you just can’t get me pissed. I have the longest fuse, I’m calm. I’m not quick to any kind of judgment or thought either. And I’ll listen to stories from people endlessly. It’s like I’m the black hole, taking in whatever the world is doing, saying and I have no response.
Soon enough the same waitress who served me coffee and water comes to take my order. I order pancakes, full stack, a poached egg, bacon, and grapefruit juice. I’m so psyched to eat.
As I sat there at the diner counter I began to get a little nervous, because the elderly gentleman next to me seemed to be lonely. So to regain my social skills, I begin to fumble around with the coffee creamers placed before me, before the food comes. I’m inspecting the creamers and wonder, ‘how cold do these things have to stay?’ I’m in a bit of ‘la-la’ land feeling stoned from the run. My head is buzzing.
As I sit there in my buzzing wonderment, I looked up, I look down. I look straight ahead. I then repeated the looking up and down and straight ahead. ‘Weird’. I thought to myself. ‘I now realize I’d never been put in this situation before.’ I thought over and over again to myself as I sipped the coffee and drank ice water awaiting my mini-feast.
My thoughts continued, ‘Wow! So this is what the old men in the diner feel like, Uncomfortable, no one to turn to, and no one to talk to. My mind screamed. ‘God! How lonely?!!!’ I sink back into my own uncomfortable feelings. ‘I must understand this old man, who’s sitting next to me. He must be so alone. I can’t be so selfish, considering the awkwardness that scares me. I’m not even at work, and I’m thinking like this. Well, that’s me. I am a workaholic.’
I pause my thoughts, ‘God! Okay I’m not old right now. Make the best of it. I am dressed kind of odd. Gee, I hope I don’t stink.’ I sniff, ‘Nope. Good. I can’t ignore this guy. It’s just not right to. What do I say?’ I try and stop my brain. I’m jittery yet super calm. ‘Okay God I need a sentence. A one-liner would do. Like a guy picking up a girl would say, but not exactly like that. God, now that’s a terrible thought.’
The elderly gentleman is very quiet. He seems totally still. Almost as if he’s not even sipping his coffee. That is how still he is. ‘How do old people do this?’ My thoughts continue to flow, ‘Actually, most of the times I picture old men at diners, whose wives are ill or dead, never old women. It’s as if it doesn’t happen to old women or something. Well, no, because they’d be with one of their girlfriends. Men don’t do much of that, especially while their wives are alive and well.’
Getting the nerve up, I begin, “I remember when I used to work behind a counter as a waitress.” I pause, “It was a long time ago.”
I can now sense the elderly gentleman beginning to turn his head slightly my way. He begins, “Well I was a short order cook, when I was a kid. And you can’t be that old.”
I respond, “Oh it was almost thirty years ago, when I was age sixteen. I’ll be forty-five this year. I’m older than you think.”
He smiled slightly, “Well I did it for a short period of time. In 1942, I became a paratrooper. I missed the invasion of Normandy.”
I now was enthralled. I love history, “Wow!” I nearly stammered, “How did you end up there?”
He continued as my food was placed in front of me, “I was nineteen and I got called to go into the Army. They liked me and offered me to become a paratrooper.”
Hesitating I asked, “Not that I would think anyone would have enjoyed themselves in the war. But, did you enjoy the camaraderie?”
He paused and smiled, “Yes, I did. Actually, yes.”
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