As steam swirled above a coffee cup on the counter, the Main Street Diner serves breakfast like always for the past 18 years. Remnants from the past feel like Mayberry. A retro clock on the wall reflects the analog time, as well as a place in time where life was simple and slow. You’ll find the owner, Mark, balancing between cooking eggs for his customers and talking with them as they eat. You can tell, these people don’t just come for good tasting food; they come to be surrounded momentarily in nostalgia, friendliness and easy conversation.
There’s a finely choreographed dance going on in the kitchen. Space is tight. Mark prefers it that way. He and Katie move back and forth at the griddle. One of them breaks the eggs, while the other flips sausage. You can tell this dance has been practiced many mornings in a row. Mark states proudly that anyone can get breakfast at any time at his diner. “It’s not like McDonalds,” he says.
While Katie prefers not to have her picture taken, it’s evident she’s a vital force behind making sure breakfast is on the plates. I think to myself that her image must be made. She’s a quiet lady. I get the sense that she’s studying me, pondering why I would find her role in the diner so fascinating. Deeply immersed in her tasks, she barely looks up as she moves rhythmically from a stack of plates to the toaster and then to the griddle.
Shirley has her own quiet nook carved out of a busy diner. Perfect for washing the dishes. The walls are white and bare, making the red dish drainer stand out even more. She moves in a methodical way with the plate. From the wash bin, into the rinsing bin, then to the drainer, until all the dishes are clean. If she minds me being there, she doesn’t say.
It occurs to me that the diner functions on each worker knowing his or her part of the dance. And knowing that part brings a sense of comfort that is passed on to the customers.
(For more photos of the diner, go to my web site under Current Projects. Image #1 in this gallery was one of the top ten images selected in the ’06 Whitewater Valley Annual Art Competition.)