Derek Johnson Muses

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The People I See at Culver’s

I walk into Culver’s in Waterloo, Iowa to get lunch last Monday, and there’s this older couple there standing with their backs to the condiment rack. The older couple in front of me tell this one guy to go ahead of them. I wince and hope they don’t invite me to move up in line, because I have no idea what I want. My indecision forces me to stand in front of the trash bin, creating an awkward situation when people have to throw their trash away. An older woman accidentally throws her plastic tray into the trash can, then reaches into get it. (I would have just left it.)
The older couple doesn’t invite to precede them, and I wait a while longer than I otherwise could have. The older couple orders coffee, which the girl behind the counter gives them in a diner-esque, glass cup. I settle on the prime rib sandwich and potato bacon soup, figuring it’s impossible to screw up either prime rib or bacon. The woman who takes my order is named Janet, looks 40-ish and stuck in life.
This Culver’s is in the middle of lunch rush of old people and odd families. I sit at a table for two. There’s a girl with a chocolate shake sitting at the table to my right, probably high school age, with a man who looks halfway between being her father and grandfather wearing a blue shirt and a St. Louis Cardinals cap. They eat fast and leave quickly. In their place sits a 50-something, power woman (first generation by the look of her short, gelled blond hair) in a pink suit jacket with a pink phone to match. She uses the phone all through lunch.
Across from me, a girl sits in 4-person booth by herself. Both she and the first girl are wearing gray shirts. She plays with her phone a while after she finishes eating, then leaves and is replaced by a group of three: a young professional man and woman who are suited up, and one hipster guy with an earring, backwards white ball cap, and shorts black and white plaid shorts. I can’t tell who the hipster is more associated with, the man or the woman.
Two tables to my left, two old guys are sitting together like they are at the coffee shop; one wears a shrine bowl t-shirt, the other wears a polo and discusses how long the Yankees game takes and other baseball topics
Directly in front of me, a pudgy woman is sitting with her kid who strews fries all over a burger wrapper. The woman leaves her garish purse in the booth when she takes her daughter to the restroom. Girl wears a shirt two sizes too big that seems to advertise a pumpkin patch. After they leave, a couple who looks like their our for their athletic weekend walk in a make-shift suburban forest sit at the table with their daughter. The daughter is to engrossed in her phone.
Two tables to my right, two women with lots of eyeliner wearing scrubs (nurses, probably) eat slowly and seem to be having a conversation about the men in their lives.
In the booth to the left of the one with the woman and her daughter, are two women who look like sisters with a daughter with a white and black spotted skirt way too short. They are not as classy as the nurses. Girl has brown hair that could look sly red at the right angle. When they leave, the woman and her daughter get into a car with TCU decals and Texas plates. Figures.
A couple sits next to me, my age and as Iowan as American Gothic. The redhead girl sits first, then asks her man to watch her purse when she goes to the restroom. He leaves his red fox racing hat on while he eats and wears the black t-shirt of a guy who goes out to the bar every Friday and Saturday night cause he doesn’t put his energy into anything else. She seems classy-nice jeans, nicer purse, decent sandals, toe nails done. Probably a bit out of his league, but she seems to have affection for him.

These are my lunch breaks when I’m on the road.

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