“Good mornin’, hon. What can I get you to drink?” “Water, please ma’am.” I liked her right away. According to her nametag, her name was Robin. I adjusted my chair underneath me. I slid closer to the countertop and looked around at the staff and other customers at the Waffle House.
Robin was different. She was about sixty-five years old, with dark eyes, eyes dark as marbles. Silver streaks ran through her hair.
I ordered a Grand Slam breakfast with fried eggs, sausage, hash browns, and dry raisin toast. Robin approached with a waffle before the rest of the meal and said, “I’m sorry it’s taking so long. But would you mind if I just brought your waffle while we’re waiting on the rest?”
“Yes, ma’am. Fine. That works. Thank you,” I said.
Robin was obviously embarrassed at how long my meal was taking to be prepared. The cooks were more interested in cawing to one another than working, it seemed.
The other staff persons were men and women between the ages of eighteen and thirty. A jukebox blared Kool and the Gang’s “Get Down on It.”
The other employees lined the countertops like crows. Without making eye contact, the staff communicated with one another—about customers’ orders, and gossip that (presumably) only they knew about.
As I continued to wait for my breakfast to be prepared, I watched the staff. Their lips mouthed the lyrics to the Kool and the Gang song. Some even rolled their hips during the chorus.
And there was Robin. She grimaced at the volume of the music. She returned to where I sat, at least two or three more times. “I’m sorry, sir. I don’t know what’s taking so long,” she said.
She began writing on the yellow pad she carried in her apron. She handed it to me and said, “Sir, I’m only charging you for an egg breakfast, since you’ve had to wait so long.” She colored with embarrassment. She just didn’t fit in with the others. She was older. She didn’t like loud music. She didn’t participate in the gossip amongst the other employees.
The other employees got louder, cawing at one another, feeding upon one another’s volume and laughter. Were they laughing at Robin, I wondered.
When my meal arrived, I’d already finished the waffle Robin had brought earlier. I left off checking emails on my phone, to which I’d turned to keep from growing angry at the wait.
Finally the remainder of the meal arrived and I finished it quickly. Then I looked at my ticket: $3.00. Sweet Robin.
I stepped up to the register to pay with my debit card. I tipped Robin another three dollars. She deserved it. She was being murdered bit by bit, but she quietly sang her birdsong in her own way. Perhaps her middle name was Grace.