Diner coffee sits on the burner all day, so it has a particular taste consistent across the state; that is, of soaking ashes; you can tell the places where fewer folks pass through since the coffee is even less often refreshed and congealed into a piping hot black ball of carbon like sucking actual brimstone; the man in the black suit takes advantage of the free ‘refills’ after your first cup, while giving his goggling son a lecture about fiscal responsibility: rich people never pay more than they have to for the cheapest things, and expect a lot of things free. He tips the waitress at the precisely calculated rate that is enough to not appear cheap but low enough that she must maintain minimum wage without health care or a pension with a smile as bright as the sunburst breaking through clouds… expressive of the beautiful feminine eternal hope of just a little bit more. Back East folks seem to have forgotten God invented working as a punishment; the Puritans made a virtue of it, so they run around with their eyes cast down all day praising the Lord for their sixteen hour days. In Texas they maintain that work is God’s punishment for folks who are poor, and too cynical to share the American Dream, the American Dream being roughly analogous to having been born wealthy and stoking your shares in oil companies while bemoaning the laziness of single parents in two casual or part-time jobs. For some reason, the poorer folks like to imagine that they belong to this club and echo said economic sentiments.
The man in the red cap, engaged in sucking the shells off complimentary pistachio nuts, called to me across the speckled linoleum: “Say, what do you do?” and when I told him, “Art? Like pictures and stuff? You actually expect to get paid for that?”
“Some people get paid for playing football,” said I. “Does that bother you as much?”
“Footballers are all good god-fearing folks and they train real hard. And they make a lotta people happy. I won’t hear nothing said against them.”
“I see,” said I and asked for more coffee. You get the taste for it after a while, especially when there’s nothing else on offer. A universal truth is that it doesn’t pay to argue with idiots, wherever you are.