October 26, 2006

Lois and the Catholics: Danke Schon.

On the plains of the Palouse -- a great, flat stretch of grassland that covers Eastern Washington and Western North Idaho, over which the wind whips like it's Siberia in the winter and where the lentil grows plentifully, but tastes like hippie dog food -- I had many of the formative experiences of the 17th-23rd years of my life.

Yes, in Idaho I learned to drink, to (sorta) write, to "ice block", and to roll a joint. I also learned about the sound a VCR makes when you drop it from the window of an 11th floor dorm room, and about home-perms and friend-administered hilights (neither a good idea). I learned what happens to boys who shave their legs and pierce their tongues (homosexuality and a beagle) and what happens when they build 9-foot beer bongs (my friend pees her pants at a party and I punch a boy in the face).

And last weekend, I learned that delicious food and funny stories come from diners inside which hicks wrangle pancakes and scrambled eggs while staring down girls in heels with lattes in hand and boys with well-pressed shirts.

It was on our way home -- we decided to take the long way, detouring through Coeur d'Alene so we could see some family on the way back to Seattle. As we got a God-awful early start, we were on the road and nearly to our first family-members' home before roosters even started crowing. So we did (surprise!) what I wanted to do: stopped for coffee and food.

The coffee appeared in a semi-populated stretch of highway in the form of a roadside stand. Caffeine? Check. We pulled back out onto the road, happy with our nonfat sugar-free vanilla lattes warming our hands, and started looking for someplace to get breakfast.

We squinted, and drove, and drove and squinted some more before we realized we were in the middle of the country. Not the "country", like the "Cunt-ry". There weren't so much a bunch of sprawling farms as there were the occasional 1972 Chevy rusting alongside the road with a man swathed in plaid leaning against a holey silo.

"Hey -- what's that?"


"That building..."


I squinted harder. I must get Lasix.

"Oh! Yeah! That looks like a diner!"

"I thought so."

"Can we go? Please? Pleeeaaasssee??"

"Yeah, sure."

I am persuasive, clearly.

My companion cranked the wheel, bouncing us into the gravely parking lot of "Lois". I think it was supposed to be "Lois' " (like, posessive), but it seemed the intricacies of the posessive form of the name were either unimportant to Lois or worn away by time. Either way, the building's name now appeared to be "Lois".

I clutched my latte, flug open the car door, and stepped under my friend's arm, and through the door into...


Once our eyes adjusted, we saw a row of farmers at the bar, drinking coffee and spitting tobacco into bronzed spittoons. There were a few women who didn't work there sitting in a booth next to the dingy yellow-curtained windows, discussing a 4-H steer show, and the politics around the events in the local chapter.

"gorrr innn..." I urged to my awestruck friend without moving my lips, nudging him in the side and smiling at our dining companions.

The other patrons lost interest in us a few minutes later, as we slid into our back corner booth. I pulled out the crossword and we started working on it, after deciding we'd both have one of the four things on the menu -- a scrambled egg and homemade toast.

"Okay. One across is five letters for 'a chapter in nove-"

"What can I get for you two? No coffee, I imagine?"

The waitress.

"Oh, no thanks," I said, "But we'll both have the 'little farmer' breakfast."

"You're going to have to slow down, honey," the waitress said, rolling her eyes and sitting down in the booth next to me. "That was two... what?"

"Little Farmers," I offered. "One scrambled, one over easy."

She proceeded to take our orders, and then tell us about her morning, particularly about the overflowing toilet (apparently this was a weekly thing, and caused her great inconvenience) and the 'ol gal' who was supposed to relieve her of the afternoon shift who just called in sick.

After she sidled away, the two of us resumed work on the crossword. Shortly, we were stumped by a clue for which the answer was clearly Danke Schon, but we didn't know how to spell the "schon" part.

As we were discussing, our waitress reappeared with our food (by the way, the best damn scrambled egg I've ever eaten -- and toast made of homemade bread like you wouldn't believe).

"What's the clue?" she asked.

We told her, and explained that we didn't know how to spell Danke Schon.

"Is it an 'e', or an 'a', or an 'o'?" I asked. "Neither of us knows."

"Ooh," she said. "I can't help you with that one." She leaned in conspiratorially, and whispered "There aren't any Jews here today."

As we looked at each other across the table incredulously, she straightened up and continued:

"In fact, you're presently surrounded by Irish Catholics." She paused, then finished with "Y'all enjoy your breakfast now."

Satisfied, she nodded as if for punctuation, and retreated to the kitchen, leaving us with the best damn breakfast west of the Missisippi, "5 across" unsolved, and a pretty funny story.

Oh, Idaho.


Chuckles said...

Danke schon, I think, but the should have an umlaut.

And the story is pretty funny.

minijonb said...

Ferris Bueller would have known how to spell it... where is he when you really need him?


Trebuchet said...

Thank you, chuckles. And yes, Mini, I was in desparate need, clearly. :)