Two customers were en route to lunch at Ellen's recently and found themselves being unexpectedly turned away before they even arrived.
For more than a month, Luther Pedigo and his wife Wylene had been looking forward to their trip into town for a nice getaway: just the two of them sharing a meatloaf sandwich, one Dr. Pepper with two straws, and two waters with extra lemon. They had done the calculation and knew that with their $1.50-off coupon and their usual 6% tip, their bill should be right at $20.
Wylene had long since tucked the cash into her unmentionables, where she knew it would be safe. She had hidden things from Luther there for decades.
Wylene always seems to mess things up
Despite all the planning, a reckless move by Wylene thrust their whole agenda into peril. I was the one who took the dreaded call.
"Good morning, Ellen's!" I answered breathlessly on the seventh ring. I was already annoyed that the hostess was not at her station at the moment, choosing instead to seat a guest in the dining room. I would deal with that later.
"Yeah, hi, this is Luther. Me and my wife Wylene are on our way there for lunch," Luther began, "and her shoes just flew out the dern window!"
"I'm sorry, what?" I asked, befuddled.
"We are on our way to Ellen's," Luther said again, this time pausing between phrases for emphasis.
"And my wife's shoes just flew out the window of my truck."
"Right here on the highway."
"And we're going too fast and there's too many cars for me to stop and get them."
I could empathize, having once seen this very thing happen in a Kenny Chesney music video. I knew those shoes were toast. "How can I help you?" I asked.
"She really wants to eat there. She's barefoot now. Can we come anyway?" Luther pleaded.
"She has no shoes?" I asked, just for clarification, although I already knew the answer. I have often lamented my fellow man's lack of preparedness in not having a spare pair of shoes with them at all times.
"I JUST TOLD YOU THEY FLEW OUT THE DERN WINDOW!" Luther belted, obviously frustrated and, I imagined, embarrassed at having to admit that he and his wife had planned so poorly.
I needed to defuse the situation if possible. By the sound of Wylene's cries in the background, Luther seemed to be on the verge of wrecking the Tahoe.
This calls for firm but gentle education
I took a deep breath, then calmly -- calmly, I tell you -- detailed the health code to Luther.
"Well, sir, the city health code requires that everyone must wear shoes inside the restaurant. We simply are not allowed to serve anyone that comes in barefoot, because --"
"We've been planning this lunch for weeks!" Luther interrupted.
"Because," I continued, undeterred, "it is a health issue AND a safety issue. You see, without protect--"
"Yes, without protection, your wife's feet could be injured by falling utens--"
"You're kidding me, right?"
"No, I'm not kidding you. As I was saying, utensils or plates or something else could fall and injure your wife, and neither of us wants that. Right?" I said with my usual helpful disposition.
It goes downhill fast
There was no reasoning with Luther. Wylene's wails had become louder as we spoke, and I could hardly hear Rush Limbaugh on the Tahoe's stereo any longer. That was perhaps the most annoying thing of all. Rush is the man.
"What am I supposed to tell her?" Luther demanded, as though it was my fault that Wylene had her flip-flop-clad feet on the dashboard with the window down all the way. Everyone knows you just have to crack the window to suck out the smoke.
"Again, I'm sorry. We simply cannot allow barefoot customers inside the restaurant," I reiterated, knowing fully well Luther was not listening. Between Rush and Wylene, he was just about to lose control.
Angrily, Luther blasted me where he knew it would hurt me the most: in my wallet.
"Well I guess y'all don't want our $20 then!" Then he hung up.
Let's hope they're ok
I often wonder about the rest of their day. Did they spend the $20 on a new pair of flip-flops? Or was her cash yet another casualty of Wylene's careless placement of sundry articles of clothing? I have seen more than my share of stray shoes abandoned along the road, but so far, no unmentionables.