Sitting in the diner at Galpin Ford waiting for my car to be tuned up, and I’m suddenly flooded with memories of my father. Diners were his world. It’s where he’d go to brainstorm business ideas, write lyrics on napkins, and entertain waitresses. He lived to make people laugh, and most people who knew my dad called him the funniest guy they knew. Diners were the place he’d go to try out new material.
Many of my favorite dad memories took place at Bob’s Big Boy in Cupertino. My parents divorced when I was 9, and dad was clueless in the kitchen — the only food items in his bachelor kitchen were milk, cashews, Pepsi, and Oreos. (He only ate food that was black or white. Hard to believe he died young). If he was feeding me, it thankfully wasn’t at his house. So we both loved eating out — dad was in his element and I was witness to the man at his best, making jokes and blatantly flirting with waitresses.
One of his go to jokes when the kids were all slumped forward waiting for our food, was to look behind us and suddenly sit up and clear away anything in front of him to make way for the food. This prompted us all to excitedly sit up and clear our placemats, then look behind us to see… Nothing.
He must have found the disappointment on our faces endlessly amusing because he did this almost every time we ate out, and we always fell for it. It’s a trick I still whip out now and again.
Bob’s Big Boy used to advertise that their shakes were so thick you could hold them upside down and they wouldn’t pour out. Can you see where this is headed? Once I decided to show dad this miracle with my own thick, freshly delivered shake by holding it straight out, a foot above the table, and turning it upside down.
It worked! Even though the shake was over-filled into an ice cream swirl above the top of the silver goblet, nothing spilled out. Unfortunately, dad was joking with the waitress and missed it. I reset the shake and tried again.
“Dad — look!”
When dad turned around I stretched my arm out directly in front of him, and turned the shake upside down in mid-air. The contents hit the table so hard the splash hit both our faces, covered the entire table, and slowly poured onto both our laps.
With shake dripping from our hair and noses, we just stared at each other in disbelief. Me at Bob’s misleading ad campaign, and dad at the realization that his son was most likely mildly retarded.
My first thought in the diner this morning, as I saw the old men drinking coffee and joking with the waitresses, and remembering my father, was – what is it with old guys and diners?
Then I realized I am now older than my father was when he died.
It’s 40 years later in a diner that looks and feels exactly the same as it did with my father. Just as he did, I’m writing and brainstorming – although the napkin is now an iPad. And I’m getting paid to do what my father did for free.
Thanks dad — guess I’m a Big Boy now.