Lloyd would have to be my all-time favorite customer at the Diner. Not only because he faithfully sat in my section the longest, but because I also had a little crush on him.
When I first started working at the Diner, he and his wife would come in every morning for the “Early Bird Breakfast Special,” we served from 5:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. every weekday. You could get two eggs, toast, and coffee for $2.10. He and his wife would share one meal and rotate who got the coffee each day. Odd man out drank water. They did this five days a week. Sure, they could easily afford to order two meals, but one was more than enough to fill them up, and it was their morning routine.
You would think that after a lifetime of waking up early every day to go to work and raise their family that when they finally did get a chance to retire they would have slowed down a bit. But no, not these two. They each had to be at least 90 years old, yet they were two of the most active people I had ever met. Plus, who am I to judge them for choosing to wake up every day before the rooster crowed, just to come to visit me. I didn’t mind. They were friendly and easygoing, and although he always complained about us not having orange marmalade, he regularly brought me jokes (mainly the same ones over and over again, but I didn’t mind), and even though their tab with tax only totaled $2.25, he always left me five bucks.
I really thought that they were the cutest and coolest couple I had ever met, and something about just serving them each day made me feel better.
Lloyd was a mess though. He was a lanky man, tall and thin. He wore round, wireframe eyeglasses and odd hats. An avid golfer, he was known for his wild shoes and crazy-colored pants. You could say he liked to mix it up a bit. His wardrobe wouldn’t have been so bad if he didn’t pair up his funky pants and loud shoes with crazy-designed shirts, which never matched. Then, to top it all off, even though we live in the Sunshine State, where the average temperature is above 80° he would add a heavy, hand-knitted vest on top, which also never matched his ensemble.
He was like the “King of the Clowns.” However, his little misses of over 70 years, was more like a Dutches. They were happy, healthy, and still deeply in love. Again, I thought they looked adorable, and his wife obviously didn’t mind the attention her husband drew. They inspired me and made me hope that I could share half as many wonderful years with my husband as they had already shared, especially seeing they had been married longer than Joey and I combined had been on the planet.
Over the years, we shared our stories. They got to hear all my tales and meet my family during their occasional run-ins with them at the Diner, and I learned all about their fascinating adventures. How they both came from large families, sharing 30 siblings combined, 12 on his side and 18 on hers. Also, how they both worked hard in rough times, when modern technology was still considered science fiction, as he would put it. Not to mention, they raised 10 children of their own, which created a family tree that then (20-years ago) branched out to 32 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren.
The first time I met the couple, they had come into the Diner, but they were not sitting in my section. They were actually my coworker, Carol Ann’s regulars, for years, mainly because they liked to sit by the window and look out into the early morning darkness. As I walked past their table, his wife called out, “Janice.”
I didn’t respond. I had no idea she was even speaking to me. My name is not Janice, so I kept going along my way. A little while later, when the couple was leaving, again we crossed paths, but this time she reached out and touched my arm before saying, “Janice.”
“Sweetie, are you asking me if my name is Janice?”I asked.
“No, Sugar Pie, but you sure do look a lot like my Janice,” she said with a smile.
Looking at my co-worker, Carol Ann, in confusion, I repeated, “You’re Janice?”
“My Janice,” she said again as she reached for a large, gold locket that hung from a chain around her neck. Inside the beautiful charm was a rather old photograph of a young woman that very much did resemble me.
It was a picture of her baby sister. She had died in her early 20’s, the only child of all her 17 siblings born after her, and unfortunately passed first. But she took pleasure in keeping her near, and I now took pride in knowing we shared physical features. It was an instant BFF moment for both of us, and from that day on, even if my section wasn’t against the windows, they still sat with me, and I always had a jar of orange marmalade hidden at the restaurant.
Laugh on. Peace out!
Lisa DeMarco is a waitress at Billy’s Cafe and a columnist for Villages-News.com.