On Saturday I was waiting tables at my favorite restaurant. It was late afternoon so it was slow. A woman came in the front door and I stopped counting the register to greet her. She had a accent and seemed maybe a little lost. I asked her if she wanted a table and she asked me if we had wifi. I said yes, but it’s slow. She said that was okay and she sat down at the bar.
I could tell she wasn’t really here for the food. When I asked her what she wanted she looked up from her phone, and back at the menu, a little bewildered, but she quickly recovered. She asked me, what is your favorite for lunch? Well, I said, the chicken cutlet is really popular but I think I like the grilled cheese best.
She looked at the menu to read the description. So…it just has cheese in it? It’s just bread and cheese?
She looked a little disgusted and I laughed because I realized that a sandwich with just cheese on it does sound a little ridiculous. I said, I know it sounds weird but it’s good I promise. I paused. I asked her, are you visiting? She said yes. I asked her where she was from. She said Argentina. I smiled a little.
I lived in Argentina for a year and I thought about mentioning this to her, but I hesitated. I thought about a few weeks ago when I saw a guy at a bar wearing a Kansas City hat and I asked if he was from there. And he said yeah! I said me too! He said what part? I said Leawood. He said oh, a bit dejected. I’m from north of the river, he said. I nodded my head, trying to be understanding, but now I knew why he was dejected. North of the river is so far from Leawood it might as well be a different city. We smiled awkwardly at each other trying to figure out what to talk about next.
I could mention to this woman that I had lived in Argentina. And my hope would be that she would give something back to me. Perhaps she would assuage my nostalgia for a moment by speaking warmly of places I had been. But, instead of asking something of this woman, what if I gave her something? Something…like…the experience of a grilled cheese.
I told her, you should get the grilled cheese. Get it with fries on the side and dip the crust in ketchup. It’s like the most American thing ever.
She got it and she tried it with ketchup liked I told her to and I think she liked it. She ate the whole thing at least…