A Minute to Myself (161)
A Minute to Myself (162)

At the Diner

On Wednesday afternoon I had an interview that was required for a teaching of writing class that I hope to take for four weeks this summer. I think it went well since the director told me at the end of my individual interview (most of the interview was with four other teachers) that he would like me to take the class, he then proceeded to tell me that my school district doesn’t foot the entire bill. Well, there goes more of the lovely tax refund that I already received because I filed early.

After the interview I was not ready to go home. I wasn’t ready to leave behind the public persona, the respected colleague and professional, the woman who made people laugh and say, “Yes, I see what you’re saying,” and the woman who seemed so confident and smart, full of ideas and, yes, in control.

I didn’t want to go to the House of Bitters so I decided to eat out, at a diner. I love eating at diners; I think this stems from being a New Yorker and the fact that I eat out often by myself and in a diner I feel fine with my book and my “One, please” answer to the “How many?” question. I was quite pleased when I remembered that there was a diner nearby, so I went there.

When I pulled into the parking lot I watched as a mother and daughter got into an SUV with Pennsylvania license plates. It was at that moment that I remembered that this was the first place we ate in as a family when we moved to Virginia. We had just driven down from New York City and we were all grumpy and tired; we didn’t recognize any restaurant chains, so the word “diner” sufficed for us.

Now I went in alone and was seated in a mini booth. After giving my order I looked across the room and saw a young couple bow their heads together and say grace. Then a much, much older couple came in. The husband bantered with the waiter; it was a diner so he assumed the waiter spoke Greek. The wife laughed as her husband recounted the scene to her right after it happened, with her there, as if she hadn't been there. And the way they spoke, as if in roles, I thought that they must have been doing this same thing for decades.

Across the room was a group of friends. One woman was the loud conversation hog. When she wasn’t talking she wasn’t listening and she was jiggling her leg. I thought that she would probably be one of my co-teacher’s students and I would probably be telling to be quiet all the time. And there was the woman talking on the phone very loudly about the purchase of a French-door refrigerator and its placement in her kitchen. I told myself that I shouldn’t be more annoyed at how loud she was just because she was on a cellphone and not in a live conversation, but that was hard to do.

While I ate I read a special Valentine’s issue of the Washington Post Magazine with short stories that I had in my pocketbook for a while. The story that brought me in was about a couple that had split up after their daughter died in Thailand on her wanderlust trip; I think it was called “10,000 Steps.” Of course, since it was the Valentine’s issue the couple got back together in the end. But before the re-coupling, the woman decided that she needed to do something to get out of her funk—so she decided to walk. The 10,000 steps came from her reading about pilgrimages people take to reach different temples in Thailand. At the end of the story she finally takes a walk that is 10,000 steps and she arrives at the playground at the school her daughter had attended and there is her husband. The thought bubble that popped into my head at that point was that the pretty symmetry of stories does not have their corresponding symmetry in life.

Then I realized that I was living the symmetry. There must have been a reason for me to be back at that restaurant with that thought in my head. Almost nine years ago I was starting something new with my family. Now, now I am starting something new on my own—the class (if I get in) or what I will do in its stead, because I know that I will do something new this summer (because I need it for me, and for my license renewal). Is the meaning then that there are new and exciting things for me to do and be involved in, and that they are not just in the past? Is the meaning that my life is a series of short stories and not a novel?

The next time that I go to that restaurant I should remember when I was last there; it would have been when I was by myself, living and embellishing my life through the lives of others and my own.


Liz A.

He assumed he spoke Greek? In the dark on that cultural reference. I realize that has nothing to do with the actual post.

Diner brings up images of Waffle House in my mind, which is where I choose to eat when traveling alone. There's the bustle of people on the road, and the regulars who mosey over a cup of coffee. Plenty to get wrapped up in to feel refreshed from the monotony of an interstate.

Seeing older people in their routines always warms my heart. I know some might consider that the unfortunate aspect of marriage, but I think it's one of the comforts.

Life is a series of short stories, or maybe a book series. Books open and close, but the experiences stay tied together. Symmetry and balance are important in all things.

"...living and embellishing my life through the lives of others and my own." Fantastic view. I feel uplifted just reading it!

Laura of Rebellious Thoughts of a Woman

Liz, the Greek reference is to the fact that most of the diners in the New York area used to be owned and run by Greeks. There were a lot of columns and mirrors and stuff, certainly not like Waffle House.

I love watching how old couples are in sync with each other.

Your comments embellish my life!


I love your descriptions of the people in the diner. What a great place to "people watch." You did a wonderful job finding the meaning in the mere mundane routines of life. Great post!


Living and working alone from home I can relate to getting yourself together and going out and the thing being over and then not wanting to go back home to yourself, just yet. Unfortunately for me, so often it seems there is no place to go. You used your time well to observe and speculate and think.

I came across this quote by Anne Morrow Lindbergh recently, "The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach — waiting for a gift from the sea." At first glance it seems a bit passive but, on the other hand, when there is nothing much you can do but wait to get through something, it's a good attitude to have.

Good luck to you in this next phase of your life. Getting there may be difficult but I'm sure arriving will be worth it.


A good diner is a wonderful thing. You painted such a vivid picture of the people in the diner, I could see them in my mind. People watching can be really fascinating.

There is something great in your future; the exciting thing is not knowing exactly what it is. How interesting that you ended up in the same diner yet in such different circumstances.

Midlife Slices

I love to people watch in restaurants or malls and try to figure out their relationship. I also hate loud talkers in restaurants, whether it's in conversation or on the cell. I want to yell at them to "shut up". LOL


I eat at diners alone a lot. I love it.

Liz A.

Ooooooooh, thanks for bringing me into the loop. Now that you mention it, the one Greek family my hometown had a restaurant. Awesome gyros.

Laura of Rebellious Thoughts of a Woman

Liz, gyros are my food of choice at a diner, unless it's breakfast time and then it's anything with bacon strips.

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