I sat down at the booth, swung my briefcase and its impromptu belt-turned-shoulder-strap around to my side and set it awkwardly on the cushion to my left. And after a couple seconds of reflection, I decided to be mannerful and removed from my head the garish corduroy hat whose appearance can only be described as something Fidel Castro might have worn hunting in Manitoba. Not that I looked any less ridiculous, of course. My hair belonged at Woodstock. During an F2.
As I relished the auditory awareness that came from the annulment of my ear flaps, I failed to notice the entirely visual phenomenon of the waitress walking directly towards of my table. She was quite young, probably no older than seventeen, and wore her hair back in a ponytail that bounced a little with every step she took.
"Hello, and welcome to Leo's Coney Island. Would you like anything to dri-"
"Ah, do you have any water?"
I was long ago made aware of how absurd that question was, by an almost palpably sarcastic answer that they hadn't had that spirit there since the last time my hair was stylish. But I never really bothered to think of a better way to ask for water, and it quietly became one of my stock restaurant phrases, along with "uh" and "yeah, the fri-no, wait, no...uh, maybe...no i'm not that hu-ah you know what yeah sure I'll have the fries".
The "yes" I received was somewhere between an understanding of what I was asking for and confusion at why I'd asked it the way I had, probably leaning toward the latter but I'll never know for sure because at that moment my thoughts were focused solely on onion rings. Without bothering to look for (or at) a menu, I asked for a full plate. And then I was asked with a substantially higher level of confusion if that was all I wanted.
Yes, it was.
And as she bounced briskly back to the kitchen, I could only hope I hadn't mistakenly showed up at that one restaurant that charges $40 for a plate of onion rings (which, hopefully, never actually existed and was just another one of my asinine "what-if"s).
Over the course of the next seventeen or so minutes, my wait became steadily more forlorn. Where were they? Every time I saw an apron at the edge of my peripheral vision I craned my head around the end of the booth in expectance of my order. At that point I realized that the entire demeanor of the situation probably made me look like a homeless guy; previous to entering the restaurant I had walked with my thirty-pound briefcase more than a few miles through a wintry Michigan forest wearing plain tennis shoes and no gloves, which combined with my lack of breakfast and lunch that day gave me an obnoxiously powerful hunger. It probably didn't help that my pants and shoes were soaking wet below the ankle and that I carried my briefcase with the belt I wear specifically for such purposes, looped through the handle and buckled around my shoulder.
Eventually, however, my reflections on the hoopty nature were interrupted when the waitress returned with my order. I thanked her offhandedly, noticing and paying no attention to her thinly-veiled bemusement. And I ate my onion rings. They were good. Not excellent, mind you, but adequate, and after walking as far as I had I didn't really care. As I processed my fuel from the blazing-hot rings at the top of the plate to the lukewarm ones on the bottom, I took a short break for a swig of water and saw the waitress standing at the other end of the restaurant with another worker, looking precisely in my direction with unsuccessfully suppressed laughter.
The joke was on her, though, because only one of us could say we truly enjoyed our onion rings that afternoon. And neither of us could say we got tipped*.
* No, just kidding, I'm not a jackass. I'm just uncouth.