Hashbrowns & Jukeboxes*

With the weekend sleepover drawing to a close, I had my nine year old daughter, Lexi, helping her best friend pack up for the long trip home to Sevierville.

Since I had been looking for an opportunity to tear into some hashbrowns, scattered, covered and smothered, I convinced my wife to join us so we could eat dinner at the new Waffle House on the way.

Upon on entering this Mecca for hashbrown lovers everywhere, I noticed two things.  They were busy with every table full and the music playing was not what I would have expected to hear in a waffle house.  Not anything obscene, mind you, just something I had heard on the station routinely listened to by my teenagers.

As a booth became available, I decided to offer the girls a last thrill to culminate the sleepover by letting them eat by themselves at the bar while the rest of us dined at a booth.  After placing our order and waiting only briefly, I was rewarded with the highly coveted hashbrowns which were the purpose of my pilgrimage.

From the booth, I realized that the aforementioned music was coming from a juke box in the corner.  That made a little more sense in that the song playing when I came in had been the choice of a patron as opposed to formal music selected by some corporate marketing person at the Waffle House headquarters.

As the girls finished eating, I noticed a sweet waitress in her early twenties, give Lexi a dollar and tell her to play any four songs she wanted.  Lexi and her friend were thrilled and hustled to the juke box.

I cautioned  my wife that, depending on the playlists,  we were probably about to be subjected to the likes of Justin Bieber or, even worse, One Direction, the latest boy band from the UK that my daughter just happened to absolutely love and adore with a passion seldom seen in any nine year old.

After several minutes, the girls returned and Lexi looked at me and grinned.  She held eye contact until the voice of Elvis Pressley ripped through the restaurant with a rip roaring, “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog!”  Seeing my smile and nod of appreciation, she returned her focus to the remaining chocolate milk in her glass.

I wondered out loud what else she played but since it was a school night and already dark, we needed to get everybody home and start preparing for bed.  I paid for the food and tipped our waitress while Elvis wailed about his lack of friendship with the accused crying hound dog/failed rabbit hunter.

As Elvis finished, I marched everyone to the door and paused to hear the next song in Lexi’s selections.  I held the door and Lexi walked by, again smiling, as Johnny Cash expressed his opinion that, “Love is a burning flame.”  I waited at the door until he reached the first chorus and paused only a little bit longer to thank God for that moment, the waitress and my little girl.

Then, I got the heck out of there, cause there was still a really good chance that songs three and four would fulfill my original prediction.

If you enjoyed this column and would like to see more, click here.

© Michael L. Collins

*Published under the same name in the November 4, 2013 edition of The Mountain Press

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