Ah, the ambience of a cafeteria is hard to beat. Wobbly tables, help-yourself-silverware, and impossible ketchup packets are just a few of my favorite things. And sometimes there's even a view. The windows of this particular establishment looked over both a jail and a parking lot.
The menu taped to the counter was limited to mostly fried food, and the special of the day was meatloaf -- a tricky and often unwelcome entree. There was only one salad offered, so I had only one option. The elderly proprietors were Polish and wore matching gray sweaters emblazoned with their national flag.
"Hallo und velcome! Vhat vould you like to eat?" He was so chipper and so eager to please. "Ve haf meatlof especial today."
"That does sound tempting, but I think I'll have the salad."
"Ve haf joost ron out of salat. Vould you like meatlof?
"Wow, no salad? Well, thanks anyway," I said as I turned to leave.
"Vhat if I mok you a especial salat?" he offered. "I vould do dat."
"Sure, that very nice of you. Thanks so much."
"You go, sit. I vill brink to you."
I found my silverware, a seat at a wobbly table, and waited for my especial salat. The minutes went by and most of the other diners were served. Through the windows, I watched the jail, but no one escaped. Not even me -- because I was still waiting. Finally what to my wondering eye should appear...
"Vell, here you are! Your especial salat!"
And boy-howdy, was it special! It was a mixing bowl heaped with lettuce, crowned proudly and precariously with an immense slab of meatloaf. I was stunned into silence, but the rest of the lunch crowd was not. I could hear the giggling.
"Und here is your dressink!" He plunked down a 2-liter bottle of unknown something. "Haf a voonderful launch!"
To explain: I had just been selected for jury duty. I hadn't packed a lunch because I was sure I would be dismissed and back to the office by noon. Lesson learned. The other jurors and I brown-bagged it until the trial was over. Ultimately the plaintiff won but the defendant is appealing. I've been thinking I should appeal over the unlawful use of meatloaf.