In the tiny town of Cumming, Georgia, only fattened by urban sprawl, sits the local KRYSTAL. It could just as well have been any other chain drive thru, all small towns have their local hangouts, and this one is certainly no different.
I have been coming to Krystal’s
infrequently since I moved to Sugar Hill a few years ago. Most times I
have business in the area, if not I invent some just to stop in and have
a favorite breakfast of mine; 3 eggs, grits, wheat toast, bacon, with
extra bacon, and a reasonably good cup of coffee. I order, sit down,
and the clerk of the day brings it to my table, usually quickly, and
usually correctly, if not I eat what they bring. That is my way of
dealing with life’s little challenges.
I have never tried to
interact with the locals, although through unintended eavesdropping I
have learned much about this same little cluster of community life. Ole
Walter quit selling Fords at the dealership and spends more time fixin’
up the old home place, his Daddy would be proud. Arnold should quit his
job, he is the danged best fiddler this side of Nashville, maybe
further. Shorty is in the hospital again with a tumor; hope it ain’t as
bad as the last one.
All the daily matters that are important to that click, but
foreign to anyone more than 10 feet away.
Hal is probably the one I
noticed most. One reason is that in error I parked in “HIS” spot once
and heard about it in tones louder than usual and meant for me to hear.
‘His’ spot was the best parking place on the lot, right next to the
door, with a low curbing, making it easy and quick for him to help his
Mamma out of the car and into the comforts of the restaurant. For some
reason the Handicap parking was a good 6 spaces away from the door. The
particular morning that I arrived before Hal and parked in that space, I
could feel the eyes of the group on me. I just figured my pants were
unzipped again (something that happens more often than I want to admit).
“He’s in Hal’s spot. His Mamma is gonna have to walk A MILE.”
“He’s that new fella that comes around every so often. Guess he don’t know the parking arrangements here.”
“He don’t know no better, wonder what he does with all that JUNK on the back of his truck?”
That was sort of the way it went that morning. So for the first time I
paid attention to this Hal when he entered, lovingly assisting his
Mother in every way as he directed her to their tables, made the rounds
of ‘Good Mornings” and went back to order their meals. I paid attention
because Hal mentioned that he was a few minutes late and somebody’s old
truck was in his spot. This was accentuated by the heat of the stares
that I knew were being sent my way. From then on I made sure to park far
enough away as not to be in the way of the 'old folks.'
starting paying attention to Hal and his Mamma. I am in my mid 60’s, but
she seemed to be ancient. I think I heard 95 or 96 at one time
referring to her. She was frail but full of life. She always greeted
each of the group by name, asked about their kin, and when asked about
her health, “She was still kicking, just not as high!” I do not recall
ever hearing about her aches or pains, just local gossip. If she had any
pains, she already knew about those, she wanted to hear what she didn’t
Being this outside observer let me absorb the local
culture without having to learn names, birth dates, addresses, and all
that other stuff that goes along with it. They are a kind bunch and when
Hal walked in that morning alone and dropped that load on us, there was
not a person there who did not shed a tear, including me, and I do not
even know Mamma’s name.
I think I might introduce myself next time I drop in.