The following was originally published on the now defunct maincampus.com. I was paid a lousy $25 for my (admittedly feeble) effort. To the best of my knowledge, they no longer hold rights to this piece (especially since they are dissolved). If this is not the case, please /msg me.
Long Island Diner Culture: A Complete Guide
Since coming to college, I've discovered that not only are most people somewhat less than knowledgeable about Long Island's geography ("Isn't it only like, 20 miles long?"), but many have never experienced what can only be described as "Long Island Diner Culture." For those unfortunate souls, I've prepared this primer: read it, learn it, live it.
First, you must understand that Long Island is populated by nothing but consumers; as Billy Joel put it, "There ain't much work out here in our consumer power-base." Driving east-west (or even north-south) along any of its smaller highways is like traveling through a strip mall at 60 miles per hour. Actually, you'd be lucky to make 20 during rush hour on the LIE, Long Island's main artery: everyone works in the city (<sarcasm> New York, of course; it's the only real city </sarcasm>), everybody commutes, and far too many people drive.
So, although it's assumed that everyone on the Island has tons of disposable income (not true, by the way), there isn't a damn thing for teenagers to do on a weekend night; I mean, who wants to hang out at the mall? So we drive around. We're not going anywhere; we just drive. Of course, no one is ever content just driving. Everyone wants someplace to go and no one has any ideas, so we kvetch at the top of our lungs, shouting over some well-worn Nirvana tape blasting in the stereo with four blown speakers.
Sometimes we find places to go, like Adventureland (an incredibly tiny amusement park whose main draw is their arcade) or the bowling alley, or (on a particularly bad night) a place to play laser tag. But no matter what we do or where we go, we invariably wind up at the diner sometime after people from other places would give up and go drink or get high somewhere. Maybe it's the Turnpike, or Broadway, or Sweet Hollow -- wherever we weren't the night before. I order a cherry Coke or a vanilla egg cream, extra sweet. Tim gets coffee with cream and six Sweet-n-Lows and pancakes that he cuts into tiny pieces. Everyone else gets some permutation of burger and fries or, if she wants to complain that she's too fat, simply cottage cheese. We blast "Roxanne" on the jukebox; sometimes we get into fights because Glenn picked Celine Dion. We pay the bill, tip generously (after all, at this point, it's past 1a.m.), and head to the parking lot.
Sometimes we hang around the parking lot for a while; sometimes people get tired and go home because they have to be up for work in three hours. The rest of the time, we have to find somewhere to go. Maybe Sev's for a Slurpee or a bag of chips, or the parking lot behind Office Depot to play football or spud. Every so often, though, we go to Connecticut.
Yes, I said Connecticut. There's a little wharf somewhere outside Stamford that's "The Coolest Place in Connecticut to do a Little Dance." I understand that it's behind a yacht club or something. Sometimes we just do a little dance and get back in the car. Sometimes we empty our bladders into the Sound.
But sometimes we save our pent-up urine for a bigger target, perhaps the home of sports entertainment: the WWF Headquarters, located in Stamford, CT. What a joy it is to take a whiz on the home of such great personalities as "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Cactus Jack, and the most electrifying man in sports entertainment, the Rock. Okay, so it's not really their home, and there are usually pyramids of Castrol GTX piled up in the lobby. But symbolically it's a big event. It's entertainment, and it's free (except for gas, and liquid bladder fuel). We head home, singing along sleepily with Kurt Cobain or Billy Joel or (God help me) John Linnell. The next night we do it all over again.
So next time you're in the New York area, spend a night out on the Island. Hit as many diners as you can, then get a giant-sized coffee from 7-11 and hang out in their parking lot until the cops chase you away (it's always Nassau County PD #810). Then go hang out at the Sev's down the block until the sun comes up. Maybe go to the beach for a quick dip in the Atlantic in the middle of March (don't forget to bring along a taco to sacrifice to the sea). Urinate in public. That's the Long Island experience.