As I write this, we’re on the plane home from a week of adventures.
It was late this past Sunday morning, traveling, Columbus, Indiana.
Janet and I were on our way to the Creation Science Museum in Kentucky, and then the Ark Encounter forty-five miles past that.
It was brunch time and we drove through downtown Columbus. We decided to grab something fast before heading on to Kentucky.
We like the “local flavor” of places, especially in rural areas, so when we spotted a hole in the wall diner near the town square, it seemed perfect.
Walking in the glass door, the bell jangled announcing our arrival. There was no need for a bell though. The place was packed!
To the left was an old fashioned soda bar complete with mounted round stools that lined the counter and a row of packed booths across from it. A quick turn through a door opening on the right took us to a small room filled with tables and chairs.
It was seat yourself, and we felt fortunate to find an open table in the corner.
The menu was covered with classic breakfast and lunch items: biscuits and gravy, bacon and eggs, chicken fried steak, coffee in big heavy mugs.
A personable, highly efficient, apron wearing waitress came over and welcomed us. She warned us that it would be at least a 35 minute wait for food.
Janet glanced my way. Quick math said the wait would run us late to the Museum opening on an already tight schedule that day.
I winced, wanting to stay at this marvelous new find, but we were pressed for time.
We thanked the waitress for her honesty. She was totally understanding as we began to stand and we ordered a coffee and Diet Coke to go.
By the bar stools, she poured coffee in an extra large styrofoam cup and then served up an over sized Diet Coke.
With wallet in hand, I was ready to pay.
“How much do I owe you?”
She blinked, like the idea of payment had never even crossed her mind.
“Oh no!” she blurted out. “You had to wait. This is on the house!”
It was out of the blue, so I insisted. “I wasn’t asking for anything. I want to pay you.”
“I know”, she answered kindly, “but it’s nothing.”
Another waitress working the counter smiled at the interaction. Barely looking up she said, “I’ve known her most of my life, and she’s really stubborn! It won’t do any good to argue with her. “
I looked back at our waitress. “Well would you take this as a tip?”
She hesitated, then smiled like she would compromise, this time, and reluctantly took the tip.
We thanked her profusely and exited the small, crowded diner.
Janet suggested a picture of the place. I’m quite sure the picture of the outside does no justice for the home style food quality, and it certainly does no justice for the hospitality and character of both staff and ownership inside!
It’s funny how one little interaction can make you feel about a business, a community, even a state. Maybe it’s because it instantly makes you feel like you’re at home. I don’t know.
I do know I want to go back there! I want to sit at the same table, a long while this time.
I want us to drink fresh coffee from large heavy mugs. I want to splurge and order those flakey biscuits, with creamy sausage gravy on top dripping down the sides. I want a piece of crispy fried bacon and fluffy scrambled eggs, with pepper sauce dowsed on top.
I want to sit and listen to the table beside us as two old couples tell stories of days gone by, and talk about how things just aren’t the same anymore.
I want to watch the great big farm boy quietly eating at the bar while he overlaps both sides of a stool.
I want to silently root for the young family in church clothes. The young mother insisting her toddler eat all her food, not just blobs of grape jelly. And the dad telling his son he can’t play on his phone, then calmly squelching a temper tantrum with a raised eyebrow and a don’t you remember last time look.
I want to smell the pancakes with melting butter and syrup on the table near us, and breath in the deep, rich aroma of pan sausage sizzling on the griddle, permeating every molecule of air inside.
I want to hear the bell jangle when the door is opened to hungry customers, then hear it jingle as satisfied patrons leave full, in body, soul and spirit.
I want to tell the waitress we came back, came back all the way from Texas, just so we would know what we missed in a small diner in Indiana.
Life. Life is like that.
We often hurry so much that we rush past the diner in search for dinner, and if we’re not careful, we end up hungry, on both accounts.
In life, big things don’t usually bring us the most joy, but rather, it’s the simple things.
So the next time you’re wandering around Columbus, Indiana, or for that matter, any place north, south, east, or west of there, look for the simple, out of the way places.
There’s bound to be some goodness, joy and life in there, and a story to boot!!