Grilled Cheese / No Fries

In 1971, I hitchhiked to Boulder,CO and Santa Fe,NM to visit seminary classmates. I was in the middle of Missouri, stuck on the interstate for a few hours. I decided to walk down the exit ramp to the diner just off the freeway and get the cheapest thing on their menu. I may have had about $40 (or half that) to get me through the 2 weeks out and back. The waitress and the cook were the only ones in the place when I walked in. The waitress was within a year or 2 of my age. I sat at the counter and we talked a bit while I scoured the menu. I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich. I think she could tell I was being over-frugal. I heard her give the cook my order and then she added, “& give him some fries.” We talked more and then she stepped outside for several minutes. When the cook brought my sandwich, he set the fries down too. I looked at him and said, I’m sorry I didn’t order the fries. I hoped she would walk back in in time to explain they were on the house or that he would say something along those lines. But the cook just said “Oh, ok,” and took them back. I felt like a bum, worrying about not being able to pay for something I hadn’t ordered, but knowing that the sweet, kind waitress had wanted to give them to me.

Unlike the characters in Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure, she didn’t come running after me to join my quest.

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