#699: Open 24 Hours

October 14th, 2016

The girl was pretty, young, big light blue glassy eyes.

The glassiness wasn’t from tiredness. She was too young to be tired. She was tired of, not tired in general.

She was tired of work, she was tired of being in a crisp white shirt and a black Golden Nugget Pancake House Family Restaurant apron. She was tired of being in a diner completely empty but for staff and a lanky boy with long, ratty hair waiting for her in a closed-off section.

But no, she wasn’t tired. She was just tired of.

She asked if I would be drinking coffee, told me someone would be with me shortly, kept gathering her pile of menus from behind the empty diner counter.

I had just come from the suburbs, where I had visited a friend in the hospital. That friend always likes getting referenced in the blog, but I think having three strokes is a pretty extreme way of getting a 1,001 nod. You could have just taken me to the zoo, kiddo.

She’ll be fine. Long road ahead, but she’ll get there.

But tired, hungry, late, fresh from a bus ride from where I had picked up the car share car to go to Naperville and with another bus ride in my future before home, I decided some curly fries sounded good. And the Golden Nugget’s marquee entranced.

I came during the restaurant’s dead zone. The dinner diners had gone home hours ago. The after-bar crowd wouldn’t show up for hours. The 11ish spot was reserved for cleaning, for the staff sashaying around humming radio songs and laughing together in Spanish while the glassy-eyed Anglo teenager they had hired eyed the clock and the boy waiting for her.

When she got the OK to go, she did a little happy dance for the boy. They seemed to be a couple in, if not love, the like/lust combo that’s really all you need as a teenager.

They scampered off, so eager to get out of there it was 20 minutes before the girl came back, having left her wallet in their rush to kiss and such.

I considered the boy, admitted that he would be considered damn good looking if I had trusted him. Since I didn’t, I found his long hair more ratty than rebellious, his mien more tedious than provoking.

Typical teen going for a bad boy complex, even though he was clearly nice enough to wait for her at work. I hoped whatever they had planned for the evening wouldn’t take her out too late — it was a school night, after all.

I chuckled for a moment, realizing I had seen a young couple in like/lust and had cast myself as the girl’s disapproving father. No strolls past the intersection of lanes Memory and Lovers. No mind cast back to ‘90s canoodling where I was the ratty kid waiting for some other pretty-eyed young woman to kiss and such. I instead mentally went forward to staying up late and yelling stuff like “My house, my rules” and “Look here, young lady!”

It was a nice feeling, like I had more future than past.

The cook and the two remaining waitresses chattered in Spanish. One of the waitresses watched TV with me, just on the other side of the counter, while I failed at sudoku. We listened to a pop song on the radio overhead, the one about the guy asking a girl’s father for his blessing and not getting it.

She hummed it for the rest of the night.

Enjoy dirty politics and dirty martinis with me at “How to Steal an Election,” a night I’m running with Atlas Obscura and the Room 13 speakeasy a week before the election. Swill craft cocktails while I take you through decades of COMPLETELY LEGAL voter manipulation in Chicago and elsewhere. Fun, civics and the best damn Old Fashioned I’ve had in years. Tickets are going fast.

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