After a long drive we stopped in a small town in Oregon just north of the California border. We rose to face another long drive but treated ourselves by stopping at a truckstop for a real breakfast. I wheeled in and we were guided to a table by a hostess - if that's what you call someone who points at a table and says, "Sit there, it's free." The only other table that was occupied was well and truly occupied. There were seven men there. I mean men. Put on dirty clothes in the morning 'cause the job is dusty, men. Burping, farting, slugging, men.
The waitress, if that's what you call someone who serves tea with something floating in it, notices it and says, "At least it's not swimming" warned us to "not listen to the shit that comes from that table." The men, overhearing her, made smart comments back. I'm being generous with by calling a few vulgarities, "smart comments." I ordered breakfast, Joe said, "Ditto." After a few seconds Joe said, "Are you listening to those guys?" I admitted that I was not. He indicated that I should.
Amazing. These guys were like at a blue state support group for men. They were all talking about growing up and being beat by their daddies. One guy said, (direct quote) "It's OK to cry when it pains but not when it's that emotion stuff." They all agreed. Another told a story about beating his brother at a bar. After a few of these stories they moved on to work stuff. Then one of the guys said, "So, how's the kid?" to the guy sitting across from him. They all went silent. If I could have grown ears three times larger, I would have at that moment. Something was up. I knew it.
"Fine." Question answered, they all nodded.
"Good." Satisfied with the answer.
Breakfast arrived. We tucked in and they finished their coffees and were up and out the door. Several of them nodding to me in my chair as they passed.
On our way back to British Columbia two nights later, we stopped at the same hotel. We repeated the routine, not knowing that a snow storm would hit the road between Seattle and Vancouver that day. We should have made tracks then. But we remembered the breakfast. It was good. We pulled into the same table, this time the greeting was different. The hostess remembered us and just said, "Seat yourself, your table's free if you want it." The waitress came and said, "Same again?" We nodded and the order was placed.
The guys were there again. But there was an extra person at the table. A teenaged boy, maybe 16, sat with them. He was, like me, in a wheelchair. He spoke with a cerebral palsy accent. His father sat next to him and helped him with breakfast. He joined in with the conversation. They were back at it reminiscing, this time about sports and bones broken in other pursuits. The kid rolled his eyes at the stories. At one point he spoke, taking longer to get the words out, "Do you know how hard it is to go to school with the smell of bullshit in my nose?" The table exploded with laughter. They all kidded him that BS was all he'd learn in school anyways.
Dad left early, just after we'd got our breakfast, taking his kid to school.
After he left one of the guys said, "Nice kid."
The others, one at a time said, "Sure is."