Friday, December 5, 2014

Thanksgiving at Otto's Diner...pray you get out alive

Thanksgiving has come and passed and, dang, if I'm not exhausted.

My wife and I spent it in Oklahoma with her family, an enjoyable time. But the trip there was anything but.

Somewhere in the middle of Oklahoma we needed lunch. Inspiration struck me (usually not a good thing) and I suggested we find a "good ol'-fashioned diner." I told my wife it'll be an adventure. Which was really dumb of me because our "adventures" are tantamount to trauma.

Lo, and behold, "Otto's Diner" reared its little dingy head along a strip of dilapidated stores on Main Street in Woebegone, Oklahoma.

I knew we were in trouble as soon as we stepped inside. An aqua, orange and brown motif burned my eyes, all the colors of the Scooby Gang Mystery Machine. Squiggly lava lamp burps covered the laminated table tops. Some sorta cryptic type-written code filled the menu, clearly designed as an inside joke that unfortunate tourists weren't privy to. No one in Otto's appeared to be under sixty years old.The Twilight ("years?") Zone of diners.

Immediately, we were thrust into the nebulous world of
surrealistic dining experiences, hustled to a table before we could beat feet. I asked the very tired waitress if they had Coke Zero which totally stumped her. She hemmed, hawed, looked at me as if I'd shot a president or something. Tossing up her arms, she said, "we got Pepsi."

My wife asked if they had a low-fat salad dressing. Again, the waitress was mystified, clearly having never heard of such a strange beast. She turned around, opened a small refrigerator. Like a game-show model (except, not), she waved her hand over a grocery store selection of four bottles of Kraft dressings. "Got Ranch, honey."

Remarkably still in the spirit of the holiday, I ordered chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes. Because everyone knows small towns do those sort of things right. Right? Wrong. Straight out of a box and tossed into a microwave. Who knows what kinda' animal sacrificed their life posing as a "chicken fried steak." (Um, come to think of it, is chicken fried steak cow or chicken? Spam, maybe?)

I knew we'd entered "Children of the Corn" territory when the elderly regulars started bleating loud jokes about "Spaghetti Red," using it as a taunt, perhaps a challenge. Maybe a death threat. Brrr. Chilling. I'm still wondering what was so funny about "Spaghetti Red." The color connotation alone is the stuff of nightmares.

You know, the old guy who kept coming by to ask how everything was (presumably Otto) seemed nice, obviously taking pride in his culinary masterworks. I didn't have the heart to tell him everything sucked.

Worst of all, our waitress hovered three feet behind us while we ate. Watching us. Very carefully. Waiting. Perhaps for a tip? Or...waiting to grab us in an alley as we left.

My poor, full bladder had to wait. I didn't want to end up on someone's plate as "Spaghetti Red."

I do have to say, however, the wall photo of the ghost dog was kinda' cool. Oh, sure, a "ghost dog" they all take for granted, no big deal. But ask 'em about "Coke Zero?" Pure lunacy.


  1. I enjoy your almost true tall tales, Stuart. I've been in diners like this. Good for an season of American Horror Story.

  2. "Almost true," nothing, Marva! I'm a dang journalist, telling the truth about the Midwest. Gah.

  3. In Texas I learned the truth about chicken fried steak. You know those cows who keep lobbying us to eat chicken at Chick-fil-A? The evil chickens capture them and take revenge by frying them in breaded batter. So you are actually eating cows who can't spell worth shucks if you eat a chicken fried steak. (This is one of the best kept secrets from Bubba-land.)