Terry Marotta: Dinner at the slow and easy inn
It looked like any motel you might see, riding on the broad sloping shoulders of the highway. In the lobby, a sign hung just behind the front desk. “No visits,” it advised its employees. “Absolutely no personal calls.”
Not 5 feet away from this sign, a weary-looking night clerk was making just such a call.
“Look: Eat the Jell-O and lie down. If you throw up, you throw up. Jell-O and a lie-down. Now!”
This said, she sighed mightily and hung up.
I checked in, and, nodding toward what looked like the restaurant, asked about room service.
“We got a lounge, honey. Your best bet? Go on in, order what you want and fetch it back to your room.”
So I went on in, past a sign reading, “Entertainment Thursday at 9:00: Shock-Jock Dave!”
It was Thursday. It was 9:15.
It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the lounge’s dim light, but I soon identified a young woman with a ponytail as the lone waitress. I ordered a Chicken Caesar with light dressing to go and sat down to wait for it.
Now when you think of a “shock-jock” you think of someone edgy and outrageous, right? I once caught a night of shock-jock stand-up during which an audience member rose to go to the rest room.
“There it is, ladies and gentlemen!,” the saucy DJ had shouted, pointing, “Living proof that early man did indeed mate with the buffalo!”
But tonight’s Shock-Jock Dave looked utterly benevolent, a kind of cross between the Cowardly Lion and the Michelin Man. A same-age woman with poofy bangs and green glasses assisted him. At one point as they carried in their equipment and their first CD of the night played, they paused on the dance-floor with deadpan expressions, turned their backs to each other and executed that switch-bottom dance-step that resembles a person toweling off his rear after bathing.
They were mellow.
And everyone knew them.
Everyone there was mellow, I realized in the 15 minutes that had passed: Now and then a patron would step behind Dave’s tables and check out the tunes for himself. From time to time, the bartender came out from behind the bar and let someone else fix the drinks. And at one point the waitress walked straight from the kitchen to four guys playing pool, held up a bare foot, and asked one of them to massage it.
Ten minutes later, the chef herself sauntered out, dressed in hospital greens with long hair down her back.
“We’re working on your Chicken Caesar but the chicken was froze” she said pleasantly. “As for your light dressing, why not head over to the salad bar when the chicken’s done and add the extras yourself?”
“OK,” I said, and back she sauntered to the kitchen, followed by a muscular male patron who emerged after an interval bearing a giant burger.
He took a seat at the bar between a rail-thin lady in a halter top and a quite-large one in a muu-muu, and tucked into his burger.
By then 40 minutes had passed and I still had no food. A party of four at a booth were in the same boat.
Exclaiming loudly, they summoned first the waitress, then the chef.
When they asked to see the manager, the barkeep wearily rose from a stool, and absorbed their departing curses.
The chef emerged then with my chicken salad. “Hey they want fast food, let ‘em go to McDonald’s,” she said, smiling. “Get your fixin’s now, honey. And don’t miss the nice Jell-o salad!”
Find Terry’s daily writings by searching her name and the phrase “Exit Only.” Write her there or at P.O. Box 270 Winchester, MA 01890 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.