How I Got Kicked Out of the Denny’s at 6112 100th Street, SW, in Tacoma, Washington
It was the kind of afternoon that makes flashing police lights glimmer in the summer sunset. It was the kind of afternoon you remember for the rest of your life, no matter how hard you try to desperately forget it. And she was the kind of lady who makes Godzilla look like a house iguana.
Three hours earlier I had picked my Grandma up from her house on South Yakima Avenue in the Hilltop neighborhood. It wasn’t the best of neighborhoods. It’s the kind of neighborhood where you don’t leave your car parked on the street because you’ll come back and the wheels and tires will be gone and it will be up on blocks. And the windows will be busted out and your radio and speakers and steering wheel and sun visors and glove box and seats and carpet will all be torn out of your car and gone. So I usually just pull up to my Grandma’s house and honk the horn and then wait until she walks out to the car. You only have your car vandalized five or six times on Yakima Avenue before you wise up.
Now the 18 foot walk from her door to the car was always a sore spot with my Grandma. Grandma used to pull telephone wire for Pacific Northwest Bell back in the ’40s. Some days she would climb 70 or 80 telephones poles in a day. And as she tells it climbing telephone poles all day is harder on your knees than being a Lincoln hooker. I know, I had the same question. A Lincoln hooker is a, uh, a woman of means who trades certain indiscretions for a five dollar bill. President Lincoln’s face graces the five dollar note. Hence, a Lincoln hooker. Anyway, point is Grandma doesn’t get around so well. And she let’s you know how that 18 feet from her front door to my car door seems like 18 miles to her.
When I pick Grandma up on the first Friday of the month, she has just gotten her Social Security check. And the first thing we always do is go to the Key Bank branch at 11th and Pacific. Grandma makes me wait in the car while she goes in and deposits her check. Then, she walks out of the bank, lights a Pall Mall cigarette, smokes the entire cigarette in one long drag, throws the butt into the flower planter right outside the bank door, then shuffles back to the car, gets in, and demands we go eat at Denny’s.
There are three Denny’s restaurants that’s are closer than the one we have to drive to. The first one is over on 6th Avenue. But we can’t go to that one because their rating was a C because they never cleaned their coffee makers. The second one is off Pacific Highway in Fife. But we can’t go to that one because that’s where all the, and these are Grandma’s words, not mine, “white hoodlums” hang out.
The third Denny’s we actually pass to get to the Denny’s we go to. That Denny’s is just off the I-5 on Hosmer Street. But we can’t go to that one because Grandma got into a scuffle with some girls from the Oregon Episcopal School cross country team. They were on some road trip and some of them ended up sitting at Grandma’s table. So when we came in that day, Grandma went right to her table and saw the group of OES Aardvarks sitting there and flipped the whole table over. Needless to say, we were kindly asked not to come back. A bunch of crying high school girls win over a really good Social Security check tip any day of the week.
So since we can’t go to any of those Denny’s, we have to drive all the way to the Denny’s on 100th Street in crappy Lakewood, which, I shit you not, is home to a one-dollar Chinese buffet. Seriously, it’s called Wok Inn-Wok Out. I’m pretty sure it’s a front for something because I’ve never met anyone who has ever admitted to eating there. But oddly enough, it has a lot of five-star reviews on Yelp. So who the hell knows.
When we arrived at Denny’s, Grandma shuffled in and went right to Table 25, sat down, and waited for Bernadine, her regular waitress, to come over to the table and bring her coffee, black, two sugars. But Bernadine didn’t arrive, and she didn’t bring her coffee, black, two sugars. Unbeknownst to us, Bernadine was on vacation in Atlantic City blowing her tax refund check on mimosas and craps.
The fill-in waitress Beth had no idea what she was getting into when she picked up Bernadine’s Friday shift. No poor, sweet, innocent, 16-year-old, high-school-cheerleader Beth was completely unaware of the Grandm-onster that lay in wait like a sleeping dragon at Table 25.
Beth bounced over to the table with a couple of menus, and without coffee, black, two sugars. That was strike one, and Grandma let Beth know by saying, “And just who the hell are you?”
Beth was unfazed at this point and happily responded, “I’m Beth. I’ll be your waitress today.”
Grandma was not impressed with Beth’s, as she put it, “smug attitude,” but we placed our order and Beth headed back toward the kitchen.
Beth quickly brought back our drinks, and, while we waited for our food, Grandma enthralled me with the minutiae of her afternoon soap operas while I wondered how much extra cash I had on me because I knew Grandma wasn’t going to leave Beth a tip at this point.
Beth returned with an arm full of plates and sat them down on the table. Then she made the fatal mistake of asking, “Does everything look okay?”
Grandma glared at the plate of plain pancakes in front of her, glared at Beth, and responded, “There ain’t no whip cream on these damn pancakes.”
Beth immediately noticed the error and said, “I’m so sorry, ma’am,” and picked up the plate and ran back to the kitchen.
She returned to the table and before the plate of pancakes with a generous helping of whipped cream hit the table, Grandma lit in, “This ain’t right, little missy! Where the hell is the cinnamon? I ordered cinnamon pancakes!”
Beth, clearly used to the sort of clientele the Lakewood Denny’s had to offer, started to explain, “The cinnamon is baked into the pan-”
Grandma stopped her cold, “The cinnamon goes on top of the whipped cream. Now, if this plate doesn’t come back with cinnamon on it, then I’m going to pop off your little blond head and play your skull like an ocarina.”
A look of confusion crossed Beth’s face. “What’s an ocarina?”
I chimed in, “It’s kinda like a flute.”
Grandma shot me a look, “Shut your damn mouth. Didn’t nobody ask you to help with your college education.”
I felt at this point it wasn’t necessary to correct Grandma that my familiarity of the ocarina came from hours spent playing The Legend of Zelda and not from my time spent in and around institutions of higher learning. I also felt it was in my best interest to remain silent as Grandma went on to explain the finer points of the history of Denny’s food preparation. As Beth’s tried to hold back sniffling sobs, a passing manager caught wind of Grandma’s lengthy and tactless history lesson and intercepted the conversation.
The police report noted that things escalated from that point and to make a long police report short, Grandma and I are no longer allowed at the Denny’s at 6112 100th Street, SW, in Tacoma, Washington.
Now we have to drive all the way to the Denny’s in Puyallup.