Some years ago, I found myself in an IHOP on the north side of Chicago. I was drunk, alone, and dejected after a night out that saw me completely blow it with a girl who was rumored to be interested in me.
How I got to this IHOP is still a mystery to me – as I said I was incredibly drunk. It was close to 3:00 a.m. and I had stumbled into this fine dining establishment after walking aimlessly around a few well lit Chicago neighborhoods that I didn’t know too well.
Sitting there ball cap in hand I stared blankly at the options on the menu. Short stack? Na, I don’t even like pancakes. Waffles didn’t sound great in that moment either, and I had settled on three eggs over easy with some hash browns and toast when the waitress came by to take my drink order.
“Cup of black coffee and a water, please.”
“You know what you want to eat?”
“Uhhh no, could I have a few minutes?”
Why I told her that I needed a few minutes to decide what I wanted is beyond me. But I did, and my coffee was delivered in under thirty seconds.
It wasn’t great coffee. Probably GFS or Costco brand, but I was trying to sober up. My hat returned to my head at this point, a white old english D adorning the front in support of the hometown Detroit Tigers.
I could feel eyes on me as I scrolled my phone and sipped coffee, and finally I looked up in the direction of whomever it was that was staring lasers through me.
“Tigers?” he asked.
I nodded and without thinking waved him over to my table while simultaneously saying “come sit down.”
He sidled over to my table with a pair of bootcut jeans and a plaid shirt on. Something was off about him, but I felt like some company on this night when absolutely nothing had gone my way.
“I’m John, man, nice to meet you.”
“Alexander. Good to meet you too. You American?”
“….uhhh yeah. Why, aren’t you?”
“I’m Canadian. I’m here on business for a few weeks.”
“Oh, well listen man I gotta tell you the food here isn’t great. If you’re looking for a dank spot to get something to eat you may have to wait til morning.”
“Dank? I hear you guys talking about how funny we talk and then I hear shit phrases like those and I really start to wonder…But yeah, no, I had to be up for a business call an hour ago.”
“On a motherfucking Saturday?” I said in an almost too loud voice.
“Yes. Oil and natural gas. I make my own hours and sometimes they get a little funky.”
“What’d you get into tonight?”
“Sleep. I’ll be working until 10:00 a.m. or so and then I’m going to go check out Wrigleyville. What are you doing here?”
“AH! I was just at a party with some friends. Blew it with some chick I thought wanted to fuck me—-yeah, I’ll have three eggs over easy and some hash browns. White toast. Thanks.—-And now I’m in this IHOP having breakfast with you, you beautiful Canadian bastard.”
The next half hour went on in a bit of a haze. I ate my eggs, he picked at a tall stack of pancakes, and we talked of work, girls, and how much we preferred Tim Hortons to IHOP.
I enjoy talking to strangers. They’re usually a hell of a lot more interesting to talk to than the friends I have whom I know everything about, and most of the time you’ll come away with a good story.
Alexander didn’t have any stories worth noting, but he was a good breakfast companion and sometimes all you can ask for is a little generic small talk over mediocre coffee and shitty eggs.
I appreciated him coming to sit down with me while I ate those eggs. However, about halfway through my third cup of coffee I told Alexander I’d be right back- “I have to use the men’s.” I was gone for all of three minutes tops.
When I came back there was a crisp one dollar bill USD on the table. On top of that were two Canadian one dollar coins.
The nerve. The audacity. I would have been less offended had he left the one dollar bill in his pocket. A dollar? A DOLLAR??? What am I supposed to do with a dollar, wipe my ass?
Alexander had left without saying goodbye, but more importantly he had stiffed me on the bill.
On top of the tall stack of pancakes he had gotten, he had also ordered a coffee, an orange juice, and a fucking large tomato juice. Ordering that many beverages at one time should be a federal offense, but I didn’t care because like I said I appreciated the company.
His bill was something like twelve dollars, so I paid for him and myself and left the IHOP cursing Alexander and the entire country of Canada. If you’re reading this, Alex (I know you prefer Alexander so this is my way of throwing you a little shade), I hope you enjoyed all of those beverages and the tall stack. I’m no longer mad at you, I’m just disappointed..
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