In A Diner Far, Far Away

A Crazy Tale That’s Not So Crazy After All

“Huh? Where the hell am I?”

I nervously looked around right after I came to. My vision was blurry, but I recognized that I was in a medium-sized diner packed with customers. People were eating, talking, laughing, waiters and waitresses were running around like flies, tacky music was bursting out of the loud speakers, everything you would expect from a third-rate diner during busy hours. I was sitting all by myself by the window, with worn-out green leather sofas and an outrageously greasy table. It was breakfast time by the look of it. How did I get here?

“Ugh, this grease is all over my face! And my arms!” I exclaimed in disgust. Apparently I was lying face-down on the table when I was unconscious. What a lousy place.

“Welcome to Fish-head Diner, the best diner on the planet. Would you like to place an order, sir?” A waiter who was walking by noticed me and asked.

“What’s with all the grease on my table? Aren’t you supposed to clean it? It’s all over my face, damn it!”

“Sorry sir, but you should be grateful that you even have a table. If it weren’t for us, you’d be sitting on the floor. People in other diners would kill for the kind of service you are having now, and we have been working hard to improve the conditions, so please stop badmouthing our diner. It’s immoral.” The waiter calmly replied.

“…Wha-what? Look, forget it, just get me some tissue paper. Also, I’d like a slice of apple pie with fried egg on top, and a cup of coffee.” I realized that I was starving, so I didn’t really pay any attention to the mumbo-jumbo he was saying.

“Right away, sir.”

About a century later, the waiter came back with my order and tissue paper.

“Here you go, sir.”

“Uh, thanks.” I wiped myself clean and began eating. The food was barely tolerable, and the coffee was cold already, but I finished them all up as I didn’t want to waste anything. Children are starving in Africa, you know.

“Waiter, I’d like to take my bill, please.” I signed for the waiter.

“Very well, sir. That will be 110 dollars.”

“Um, are you mad or something? A hundred bucks for pie and coffee that tasted like crap? You might as well rob me. I won’t accept such an unreasonable bill.” Restaurants these days. Always treat customers like halfwitted cash cows.

“Sorry sir, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Firstly, you should be grateful that we gave you the food you just had. You would have starved to death if it weren’t for us, so it is only right for you to pay the bill, no matter how much. Secondly, you should never criticize our diner or our service. You are here in our diner, so you belong to our diner, you are an inalienable member of this community. Therefore, you should always wholeheartedly believe that our diner is the best in the world, and our competitors are evil lunatics who despise you. You should devote yourself to the development of our diner, and sacrifice your personal interests for the good of our diner upon request. Criticism is detrimental to our diner’s reputation and harmonious atmosphere, so you must avoid it at all costs.”

“What? That made no sense whatsoever. I would NOT starve to death just because I don’t eat at your place, I can easily find someplace else or whip up something myself. I am not one bit grateful for your food, and no one ever should, because customers already PAY you, and it is your obligation to fulfill your side of the deal. It’s not like I chose to be here, I only woke up here, so who on earth gave you the right to say that I BELONG to your diner?” What’s wrong with this guy?

“EVERYONE woke up here. You are no exception. You cannot change the fact that you woke up in OUR diner, not our competitors’. Thus, your argument is meaningless. You’re already here, so you must abide by the rules of this diner. You must adopt our beliefs, traditions, and values. If you continue questioning the validity of the status quo, your punishment will be swift and merciless.”

“You’re being ridiculous. OK, look, I only arrived here due to forces beyond my control, I don’t want to be here, I don’t want to follow your rules, I don’t give a damn about your values and beliefs, and your service is not remotely worth the price. I’ll give you ten bucks at most, and I’m outta here.”

“TRAITOR!” screamed the waiter, “TRAITOR! People of the Fish-head Diner, listen up! This man here doesn’t think he belongs to our community, he despises our traditions and beliefs, he thinks our food is disgusting and overpriced, he refuses to sacrifice his own selfish needs for the good of the many, and he wants to leave and cancel his membership, because he thinks he’s better than all of us! He has been fiercely criticizing our establishment, but has not for one second worked towards improving the situation! His kind is despicable, selfish, and pernicious to the harmony and prosperity of our diner!”

“Well, I tell you sir,” the waiter continued, pointing his index finger straight at my nose, ”We don’t need you! We can and will make our diner great again all by ourselves! And I can promise you that you won’t be better off at any of our competitors’ restaurants, for they will discriminate against you! They will recognize that you come from our diner, charge hefty entrance fees and give you the worst tables and dishes! They will deplore your treachery, your giving up your roots! You will never rid yourself of your identity — member of the Fish-head Diner! Now pay your bill and leave! And never come back!”

All of the customers stood up, all of the waiters and waitresses stopped running, and glared at me in silence. I thought that if I didn’t leave immediately, the angry mob would not hesitate to tear me into pieces, so I paid my bill and left as fast as I could.

At lunch time, I entered another diner. I took a seat, and a waitress came by.

“Welcome to our diner, sir, would you like to place an order now?”

“Yes, I’d like a steak, medium rare, some spaghetti, some salad, and a bottle of beer, please. Say, have you heard of the Fish-head Diner?”

“Oh, I certainly have. It’s filled with obnoxious weirdos from what I’ve heard. I wouldn’t want to deal with those folks.”

“Alright, thanks. Just asking.”

Thank heavens I escaped from that crazy place. Lady Luck was smiling upon me, I suppose.