SMOOTH SAILIN’: Going the extra mile at the greasy spoon

I used to go out for breakfast all the time. Lately, however, I have found that I need a cup of coffee before I leave the house. So if I am going to go to the trouble of grinding the beans and embrace the entire ceremony of percolating a pot of coffee, I will probably have a banana and maybe some toast in the meantime. That is plenty for me until it is time for lunch. This standing regime went out the window on Sunday and I found myself bellied up to the breakfast bar.


I was soon reminded that the job of waiter at a diner-type restaurant must rank right up there for pressure with air traffic controller and brain surgeon. My fetching waitress was already being pulled in eight directions by a half dozen different customers when I walked in. Still, she smiled at me and said, “Sit down, and I will be right over to wipe the counter.”

I followed orders and refused a menu because I know how I like my eggs. I’m fond of French toast and waffles, even pancakes, but I don’t usually order them in diners. I have too many friends in Vermont who are currently collecting sap from their maples to risk getting a sugary substitute for my syrup. I find my value in eggs over easy with bacon, home fries and an English muffin.

Right behind me at the busy diner a party of nine meandered in. My waitress looked up from wiping the counter in front of me and sighed. It seemed church was letting out, and in came the rush. It is a tough time to go anywhere on A1A, let alone out for breakfast. Especially when you involve a bunch of people who have not been correctly caffeinated yet.

My waitress started cobbling three small tables together for the big party as they lingered in the lobby. When the tables were set she welcomed the gang to sit down with a smile and dispersed the menus. Then she darted back to me and said, “Let me get your order in before this nine top or you will never eat.”

I think that is when I fell in love with her. This was not her first breakfast rodeo, and she was completely non-flustered by the chaotic scene playing out in front her.

Anyone with a vehicle knows this is a busy time of year in St. Augustine. There are spring breakers, house hunters, ball players, snowbirds and tourists of all kinds enjoying our early spring. If you are in the restaurant business it is a good time to make some money — if you are brave enough to deal with the public.

Sadly, I never caught her name but I watched in awe as my waitress effortlessly fielded a wide array of questions about the fare, the restaurant and the area. She didn’t balk at special requests, apologized profusely for running out of fresh-squeezed orange juice and showed no emotion when two extra people showed up late and asked to be squeezed in to the crowded table.

When she brought my eggs over she joked about the rush.

“People ask, ‘What would Jesus do?’” she said to me. “Well I don’t think he would show up with an 11 top on a Sunday morning.”

Now the deal was sealed. I was raised on sarcasm and am a sucker for anyone with a quick wit.

In a moment of impulse I told her how beautiful she was. Again, she was not flustered but she did start to get a little color in her face. I smiled widely. She looked at me and asked me if she was blushing. “No, don’t worry, you are fine,” I told her. Then I tipped her out at about 25 percent and left the restaurant.

It is such a delight in this busy world to see somebody that is really good at their job.

Bob Tis is a former Record reporter.