Monday, June 26, 2017

Sunday Dinner in the Twilight Zone



A few nights ago, I dreamed I was at an upscale restaurant celebrating something with several people, none of whom I recognized. The place was so upscale that prices weren’t printed on the menu. Not surprising; however, the meal choices weren’t printed on the menu either.

I woke up at 3:22 a.m. wondering where that dream came from.

I think I’ve figured it out.

That afternoon, a woman posting on an online forum mentioned she had grown up in Connecticut. Maybe my dream was a subconscious flashback to a strange restaurant experience during a family trip to that state sometime in the early 1970s.

One Sunday morning after church, my parents and my dad’s Massachusetts cousins, whom I’ll call “Fred” and “Ethel,” made a spur of the moment decision. They decided to just drop in on the Connecticut cousins without first calling to see if the cousins would be home. Three related families lived close to one another. Dad and Fred figured someone would be home. I had nothing planned, so I went along for the ride.

We knew the cousins would offer us a snack. However, before then, we needed something more substantial than coffee and cake or cookies. We intended to stop for dinner at a Friendly’s restaurant along the way. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find one during our two hour drive through what seemed like an endless trail of small towns.

We also passed several Mom and Pop restaurants, but they were closed. Finally, about three or four miles from our destination, Dad spotted a restaurant that looked open. I’ve forgotten the name of the place; I’ll call it the “Country Café.”

The flashing green OPEN sign in the window looked promising, the dining room did not. The lights were dimed, and we were the only customers in the place.

“Where is everyone?” Ethel asked.

“Maybe someone forgot to turn off the sign and lock the door when they closed yesterday,” I said.

We were about to leave when a woman popped out of the kitchen. The presumed hostess seemed surprised to see customers, but she led us to a table before scurrying back to the kitchen.

Fred and Ethel rolled their eyes. “I think she’s cross eyed or something,” Ethel said.

Mom frowned and looked around. “Well, at least the place seems clean.”

I thought the place seemed creepy. “Maybe we should just leave now.”

Dad vetoed my suggestion. He pointed out that this might be our last chance to get something other than coffee and cake or cookies until we were on our way home.

When the hostess returned, Ethel asked to see a menu. The woman frowned, mumbled something I’ve forgotten, and retreated to the kitchen. A few minutes later she reappeared, trailed by a tall, beefy man whom she introduced as the cook. He asked us what we wanted for dinner.

“Well, what do you have?” I asked. After a brief discussion, we decided on ham steak with mashed potatoes and carrots.

Thirty minutes later, our meals were delivered by another person who apparently had been lurking in the kitchen. We had no complaints about the food. However, the hostess hovered around while we ate. I wondered if she thought we were going to walk out with the silverware. Or maybe one of the employees noticed the out of state license plates on our car and thought we might walk out without paying.

That afternoon, we described our Country Café dining experience to several Connecticut relatives. None of them could place the restaurant, even though it was located within a few miles of their homes. I figured, being retired, they might not get around much, but then . . .

Postscript: Now I wonder if the restaurant possibly was a front for some illegal activity. That dining experience was one I didn’t care to repeat. Sad to say, I did, more or less, almost thirty years later on the other side of the country. And, maybe someday, but not too soon, I will blog about the place I often refer to as the Slug Café.

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