Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Dog at the Grocery Store

We almost drove completely thru Fayetteville, and we had to turn back, because we figured this was the last chance for a grocery store before we got to the campsite. (We didn't know that there was a good one in Yellville.)

So we turned back. What was the name of that place? Harper's? Hunt's? Harp's. That's it: Harps (no apostrophe).

As we turned the corner into the grocery store parking lot, a man was riding down the middle of the (3 lane) road with his big brown lab. The dog was jumping and flopping and very excited to be out on the town. The man waited at the stop light (in the middle lane). We parked our car.

By the time we got to the door of the store, the dog was running up to us. He dashed back to the man, who was locking his bike, and then the dog dashed into the store, leaving the man outside.

Out! we heard a woman shout as we walked inside. Out, dog! she said as she waved her arms and shoo'd the dog back outside.

The dog went out just as the man came in with a quite disinterested expression on his face. Clearly the dog did not belong to him. Trudy got that very serious animal-saving look on her face and turned back as if she intended to find out where the dog came from. I quickly turned the other way and walked towards the produce.

We bought only a few things at Harps. We were already mostly stocked and needed only a few perishables. So we got some hamburger for dinner, eggs and sausage for breakfast, some yogurt, and a few other things.

As we left the store, the brown lab was still there, talking to a man seated on a bench. The man was feeding the dog some kind of snacks and talking quietly. Trudy walked over to investigate. When we got back to the car, Trudy walked up and reported that the man was not the owner but had called the number on the dog's tags. Thank heavens for that -- I'm not sure what time we'd have arrived at the campsite had someone else not assumed the animal-saving responsibility.

So with the dog in good hands, we drove east out of Fayetteville, toward our campsite at the Buffalo National River.

Travelling northward on summer vacation.
Fayetteville, AR

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Witnesses to the Waffle House Protocol

The motel clerk that night was not particularly helpful when we asked about a place to eat (although her face did initially light up when she thought we were asking about a good club in downtown Ft. Smith). When it turned out we were asking about breakfast for the following morning, all she could come up with was the continental breakfast, which in the event turned out to be quite lame. So we held out some hopes for the morning shift.

The next morning, Trudy said she asked the new clerk if there was a Waffle House nearby. Her blank face suggested that she doesn't do much travelling, and her suggestions (Denny's and IHOP) left us cold.

We found a Waffle House, anyway.

The place was pure chaos inside. It was as if we had found the corporate training center. There was no Good Morning! shout from behind the corner as we walked in. Indeed, after the greeter showed us our seats, he muttered, Oh for heaven's sake and walked to the other side of the shop, evidently dissatisfied with how long the empty tables were remaining uncleaned. And the middle-aged, skinny, blonde waitress who seemed to be shouting most of the orders had not yet worked up the nerve to actually shout them and was still learning the "protocol".

Since she was having trouble, we discovered that the shouted-out orders to the cooks actually follow a well-defined protocol:

  • Pull three bacon...
  • Mark ham and cheese...

That's a ham and cheese omelette, said the manager, who was on the grill.

What? the waitress asked.

Ham and cheese omelette, he repeated.

It took her a while, but she eventually figured it out and said, Mark one ham and cheese omelette.

Pull is evidently a cue for the person grilling the meat. Mark must be a cue for the person making the eggs. There's another term they used for the waffle person, although I can't remember it. And it's obvious that the difference between "ham and egg" and "ham and egg omelette" is crucial, since they have to know what to cook in addition to what goes in it. If I had a pencil with me, I might have jotted down a formal grammar for it. But I digress...

All the while, our order seemed to have disappeared into the abyss and it took forever to get our coffee, even though we were sitting at the bar and the staff smiled at us every time they passed by. Still, the order eventually came, and in the meantime, we got to watch the inner workings of Waffle House in action.

Trudy had eggs and a waffle. Ben had two waffles. I had three eggs and some of Ben's leftover waffles. When we left, we were quite satisfied, as you always are when you leave a Waffle House, and we were ready for a long day driving northward.

Travelling northward on summer vacation.
Ft. Smith, AR

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Joe posts great photos here.

I don't know how he does it. He's got a great eye for small pieces of what otherwise passes as the ordinary world. I've tried doing the same thing. I can't. The small pieces don't leap out at me as they must for him, and when I go looking for them the results are uniformly lousy.

Here is a recent example: blue sky, clouds, an office building, and a parking lot light -- oh, and a surveillance camera watching his every move, I suppose, as he took the shot!

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