Friday, March 5, 2010
Deep Thoughts at the Diner
We found ourselves having dinner at the local diner tonight, my guy and our friend the sensitive musician. We were celebrating a little; my guy's new songs are nearly ready for airplay and the local radio station loved it - it'll get airplay. Our friend's newest CD is done after five long and eventful years and he's rightfully very proud of it. I just got through another week. That's cause for celebration in my mind.
I love diners. I like the old, no frills, no space, no privacy diners the best, the ones that are mostly counter with a grill on the opposite side beside the coffee pot. It's genetic, I think. My father's entire family are diner devotees. Not only did we love to eat breakfast out, but on hot summer nights when the whole family was squeezed into the little Victorian house in the hills, we'd all pile into cars and go to the local diner for a piece of pie and a cup of coffee after dinner.
Diners, therefore, would make sense as a celebratory destination, just in case you're surprised we didn't go out for some gourmet extravaganza.
Plus you can get breakfast all day long. So while KB got a hot turkey sandwich with gravy and mashed potatoes and our friend got a turkey club, I got a Spanish omelette.
Then we started talking about the state of the world. Our friend's noticed an increased sense of desperation, of depression. In his latest visit to New York City, he said budget cuts have forced people to wait ten or fifteen minutes for trains and buses, increasing concerns about their safety. He saw garbage piling up on the sidewalks. He saw an elderly man riding the bus into Manhattan early in the morning. He was standing; no one offered him a seat. And our friend wondered - where was he going? To a doctor's appointment? To see a friend? To work?
We talked about the violence we see on the news. I was stunned to see a policeman beating a student who was protesting rising college tuition in California. Our friend said a photo essay he saw featured the same theme around the world: police holding back crowds. Whether they were protesters in California, hungry people in Haiti, looters in Chile, the theme was the same.
My guy takes what, on the face of it, seems to be a bleak view of it all. This is the way the world has always been, he argues. We don't seem to learn. We fight and we compete and we kill for our own interests. Human selfishness has destroyed civilizations and it may kill us all.
Our friend and I slowly sank into the floor.
"But don't see it as depressing," my guy continued. "Imagine that this existence is just a small part of your overall existence...and maybe you decided that for your best development you needed to learn about fear. What better place than this? What better time than now? And all you can do is change yourself, change the way you react to this ball of fear. Each of us can change, and that can change everything."
We were sitting a little straighter again when I saw something that made me smile.
The table near us had been surrounded by five teenagers. I'd watched a very thin girl ignore her plate of spaghetti, then twirl it around, then methodically cut the entire portion into five sections. She never ate any. It hadn't improved my mood.
But after they left, the bus boy went to the table to clean up. He bent over and picked up a dollar bill that had fallen beneath a chair. Without hesitation, he put the dollar with the pile of singles that had been left as a tip for the waitress.
So shines a good deed in a weary world.