jayellebee's Blog

October 4, 2011

People Watching

Filed under: Musings — Joanne @ 11:36 am
Tags: , ,

     My second born lives outside Seattle.  If you bump into this magnificent man, no maternal pride here, don’t tell him I had lunch at IN-N-OUT.  California’s legendary fast food chain is the only thing he misses about The Golden State.  Well, you know, besides me.

     Ken and I dropped our loving lab off at her best buddy’s house, descended the hills of home, and set a zig-zagging course to I-5 south on our way to meet long-time (notice I did not say “old”) friends in the central coast town of Cambria.  Ten minutes into the six-hour trek I asked, “Are we there yet?”  Poor Ken.

     Our growling guts, bulging bladders, grumbling gas gauge, and MapQuest all agreed we should exit the interstate at oasis-like Kettleman.  We rolled to a stop for the first time in 275 miles, and, what to our wondering eyes should appear?  IN-N-OUT’s familiar yellow, bent-arrow logo!  I glanced at the car’s clock as Ken pulled into the parking space furthest from every other vehicle in the lot.  12:40.  Peak lunch hour mob scene.

     The line to order ended, mercifully, just inside the Pushme-Pullyou doors.  Temperature outside:  92.  Inside:  Who cared?  Cooler air and clean rest rooms meant I was a happy camper.

     A young couple preceded us in line.  Both of them together required less floor space than a wadded tissue, so tightly were they entwined.  Several inches of his dingy grey boxers jeered at me over the waistband of baggy, baggy shorts.  The chartreuse Mohawk warned me not to even think about bestowing a wedgy on the unsuspecting Lothario.  A calligraphy tattoo at the nape of his sweetheart’s neck proclaimed, “Let it be.”  I suspect her nose ring may have been new bling. A black enameled fingernail toyed with the silver circle as if it were a novelty to which she had not yet grown accustomed.

     We snaked our way to the counter where a white-uniformed girl handed Ken our change and a receipt.

     “Your order is number 42,” she announced with the brightest of smiles.  I squinted at Ken, wondering if she had recognized the retired dentist residing in my husband. 

     “Order number 13 is ready,” her scrub-faced co-worker bellowed over the din of hungry humanity.

     A colony of cooks buzzed in the kitchen within full view of us patient patrons.  Their red aprons, held in place by lethal six-inch long safety pins, blurred from the frantic pace of their labors.  The lengthy wait for sustenance was not due to any lack of diligence on the staff’s part.

     Flip-flops flipped and flopped everywhere, leading my gaze around the room.  One customer accessorized his Disneyland t-shirt with oversized, purple, plastic glasses.  Mickey Mouse ears bobbled from the sides of the lenses.  Hours away from the Magic Kingdom, this guy still thought he was in The Happiest Place on Earth.  I returned his goofy grin. 

     A mother, looking so trim I couldn’t believe the trio of little boys gathered close were hers, led the pint-sized three pack to the soft drink dispensers.  The youngest son wasted no time spreading a layer of ice cubes across the floor, then splashed his brother with Coke for an encore.  Mops materialized from nowhere.  Mom ushered her brood to a booth relinquished by a nearby bemused pair who must’ve been somebody’s grandparents.

     Two men entered the premises sporting waist-length dread locks.  Years ago, someone told me the coif requires working straw and mud (or was it manure?) into one’s hair.  True or false, the memory wrinkles my nose whenever a Bob Marley look-alike appears.

     Ken and I spotted a vacant table for two.  We elbowed our way through the throng and slid in next to four twenty-something-year-olds.  The guys’ laughter was as contagious as the swine flu on a trans-oceanic flight and the volume rivaled twin turboprops on take-off.  I tried not to stare when one young man kissed another on the lips.

     Amost too soon, we heard, “Number 42!”

     Ken retrieved our double order of Double-Doubles while I warded off would-be table nappers.  We concentrated on our meal, blocking out all non-edible distractions.  Greasy napkins and bio-degradable wrappers hit the trash bin minutes later as we headed for the door, fully sated and ready to complete our journey.

     That’s when I saw the one person in the establishment who stood out.  This woman was so out-of-place, I sensed heads turning as she passed.  I’d like to say a hush fell over the crowd, but anyone who’s ever visited an IN-N-OUT knows that pushes the envelope of credibility.  Still, I may have heard a little girl being admonished not to point.

     I gave wide berth to what could only be described as (drum roll, please) a business woman, adorned in a black suit, silk blouse, and designer bag.  Her polished, four-inch stilettos clicked across the spotless white tile floor.  Where did she think she was?  Some posh place like Denny’s?  Or IHOP?  Man.  Just when you think you’ve seen it all.

     Our weekend on the coast was perfect: wonderful weather, exceptional accommodations, fabulous food, formidable friends, and a tour of Hearst Castle just to sweeten the pot.  All too soon, we repacked and retraced our steps home to the hills.  But, not before pausing for seconds at IN-N-OUT.




  1. Love your description of the sea of humanity encountered at the I-5 In-N-Out, Joanne. We’ve all seen it. And, since you brought it up, at what age did we exchange the term “old friends” for “long-time friends?” Sounds like an interesting survey question.

    Comment by Chris Pedersen — October 4, 2011 @ 12:04 pm | Reply

  2. Ad always, I loved it, Joanne. I was right there with you, and as glad to leave.

    Comment by Jil Plummer — October 4, 2011 @ 12:37 pm | Reply

  3. Hi Joanne, Thanks for sending your piece of writing. I always enjoy them. You tongue in cheek additions flavor it, and your metaphors are fresh and crisp. It sound like IN-N- OUT has stimulated my taste buds. Also I like to hear what you’re doing since moving away from the busy Bay Area. Fran

    Comment by Fran Wojnar — October 4, 2011 @ 12:55 pm | Reply

  4. Terrific details inside your great sense of humor as always!

    Comment by Liz Koehler-Pentacoff — October 4, 2011 @ 2:06 pm | Reply

  5. Ralph and I have been known to down an In-N-Out burger or two on occasion. In fact, the gals at the drive up window know him by name! After my first INO burger, I swore I would never eat another fast food burgher anywhere else. That was a little hard until a few years ago when “our” In-N-Out opened in Danville. I got hooked in the late 80’s when I visited my daughter who went to Palos Verde Junior College near Long Beach.

    You certainly see all types in “ours”, and the drive in window has a line that usually extends down San Ramon Valley Boulevard quite a way. The line moves swiftly thanks to the fresh-faced young men and women who knock gently on your window if you aren’t paying attention. Ralph calls them “Clowns.” (He doesn’t mean it as a perjorative. They are always smiling and dressed all in white with a few red touches, so the name isn’t too much of a stretch.) Mmmm! I’m starving! Ralph, let’s go visit the Clowns.

    Hope you are well, Joanne. Will we see you at the CWC meeting Saturday?


    Comment by Bee Hylinski - Author and Baseball Fan — October 4, 2011 @ 4:25 pm | Reply

  6. Nice piece….good subject and I gained a pound just reading about In and Out Burgers. So what is wrong with a guy kissing another guy!!!??? Maye they were sharing one burger between them. Who knows but it does sound like a great place to lunch it where the entertainment value exceeds quality of the food. Cannot get that kind of benefit just anywhere…and, I guess that you went back for the second act rather than for the food. Thanks. Al Swimmer

    Comment by Alan Swimmer — October 5, 2011 @ 11:47 am | Reply

  7. Now that’s good writing. Maybe In-n-Out should hire you as publicist … or maybe not.

    Comment by Janet Ann Collins — October 12, 2011 @ 2:07 pm | Reply

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