Some days are Diner Days. Usually, Diner Days are the ones when you sleep in a little bit late, get moving a little too slowly, and make pathetically feeble efforts at doing something productive or workout-related before giving up. The purpose of a Diner Day is to reinforce the laziness with which you began it, so that for the remainder you can feel comfortably vindicated about doing not much, even if that means you sit on the couch for several hours watching movie trailers over your husband’s shoulder.
Possibly the most intriguing benefit of Diner Days is the freedom to be a completely vile and judgmental human being without observation, a freedom afforded to sneaky listeners like myself by the glorious invention of plastic, fern-like restaurant foliage. These beauties line the booths and the open windowsills between “smoking” and “nonsmoking” sections, and while they offer absolutely no protection from secondhand smoke or of sound insulation, they deliver something even more magical: the illusion of privacy.
Restaurant ferns impart upon Diner Day-ers all the forbidden appeal of skulking about behind corners and listening with an ear pressed against a glass at walls without having to leave the comfort of your own sticky, pleather booth! Also, it’s impossible for someone to accuse you of eavesdropping (or fern-dropping, for that matter) in a diner, as long as you don’t stare and are wise about your uncontrollable guffawing at the speaker’s expense.
Alas, restaurant ferns bring with them a cost. Never dusted, they drop particles made of other people’s skin and ash into your food, unbeknownst to you. They allow crawly things, with too many legs for comfort, to scurry in and out carrying bits of your horridly delicious meal. Worst of all, restaurant ferns have absolutely no sense of personal space!
I was taught, by an obsessive-compulsive germaphobe at 6th grade summer camp, that one’s full wingspan in diameter around one’s entire body is one’s Psychological Circle and that no one must ever infringe upon this space without invitation. Having slept on the bunk above this girl, and having had to climb the access ladder next to her face, I was constantly wreaking her wrath in compulsive multiples of three.
Therefore, I learned at an early age to be conscientious of people’s space. So when a grimy, spider filled restaurant fern pokes me in the cheek with its plastic-sheathed wire skeleton, I am unhappy. I get a little uncomfortable when I witness vapors of leftover Marlboro breath floating Burton-like from between the false-spore-dotted fronds, too close to my clothing. I dislike their oily sheen and faintly eye-stinging aroma left over from too many Tabasco splashes and greasy, prodding fingers. Restaurant ferns are jostled by passers-by and shift to teetering precariousness, threatening at any moment to drop full into my omelet.
Thus, the joy of exploding into wheezing shush-laughter at a neighboring diner is cut off savagely by the hacking coughs wrought from too quickly inhaling puffs of unknown entities loosed from the pot by your last attempt to surreptitiously move the fern just half an inch that way. (These coughs, however, can typically be quelled by great gulps of back-burner coffee, against which nothing stands a chance.)
All in all, Diner Days must be revered as the luxury of childless couples, since people blessed with children are regularly awakened by them at ungodly hours because of loud suspicious noises, long suspicious silences, or hair raising perceptions of being watched, the latter of which are generally met with the heart-stopping shock of opening eyes to a child no more than two inches away, who is grinning suspiciously. Furthermore, couples with children have to think about things like health, growing bodies, and feeding young bellies before crankiness sets in. (Sometimes wives have to think about that last one, too.) So don’t chastise yourself the next time you struggle out of bed, creaking and groaning like an oak in high wind. Treat yourself to a Diner Day and be prepared to feel a whole lot better about yourself.