I am working late in my office tonight, but my family drove to town so I could take a break and go have dinner with them at a little “country” diner. We were planning to pick up stuffed baked potatoes with grilled chicken, but when the time came for me to order, I couldn’t do it. I was overcome with the stress of knowing I was headed back to the office tonight. I was clouded by the red fog of weariness. The weighty sunken shoulders of the defeated weekday warrior being called into battle on a Friday night to finish what he couldn’t during the day. I thought about my life, and my choices, and my head filled with an excited rush as I chose to change my destiny. As the young waitress lazily collected our humble order I said, “You know what, forget the chicken and baked potato.” and then with a deep breath I said, “Give me the prime rib!” My voice echoed in the suddenly silent room.
The $25 dollar dinner plate of steak that is always on the menu but is never ordered. It just sits there, taunting you on the bottom of the list of more economically priced meals. The overpriced meat and potatoes meal that is only there to make the baked potatoes seem that much more affordable. A wise, prudent man will eat the chicken, my conscience told me. You are what you eat, James. Get the chicken. It’s what you deserve. But then a furious part of me rose up in my soul, and was like, “I’m a working man. I work for my meat. I’ll earn this meal tonight. Bring me your biggest piece of cow!” And everyone in the room just goes silent and stares at me in disbelief. People with forks full of pancakes frozen halfway between their plates and open mouths. The waitress is shocked and doesn’t even know the shorthand for “Prime Rib”. She checks the menu over my shoulder. I point confidently, “This, and whatever it comes with.” I say, to confirm that she isn’t hearing things. “The meat plate.”
Just to prove I’m serious I reach into my back pocket and slap two twenty dollar bills down on the counter.
“Are you sure?” She begins, “No one has ever ordered the-” I hold eye contact, “Bring me. The meat.” through clenched teeth.
The lady wipes sweat from her forehead and makes a note on her pad. I smile. The room relaxes. The man on the far side of the room resumes playing his ragtime piano. Everyone returns to their chicken baked potatoes and fluffy late night pancakes. I look around the room as if it were my kingdom now. I practically own this place. A particularly large mustached man nods to me meekly from the corner booth where he sits eating a double plate of baked potatoes. I return his nod with a cold stare until he shakily returns to his cheese and broccoli stuffed vegetable.
When my steak arrives, I politely hand my silverware to the waitress. I won’t be needing it this evening. I eat my entire meal with a knife.