For a while now I planned on writing my last piece of the semester on something seasonal, like Pearl Harbor. That all changed last Thursday afternoon when a couple of my buddies and I decided to eat a late breakfast at Cracker Barrel.
I lost a little piece of me that afternoon … a big, little piece of me.
The night before dining at CB I consumed enough tequila to put three high school cheerleaders in the hospital. The next morning, when my friends asked if I’d like to join them for some old country-style grub, I immediately said, “Yes,” because I thought it’d be a great way to kick off what was sure to be a long day of recovery.
I was dehydrated, I was tired and maybe I was still a little drunk, but damn it, I’d never seen something as magical as the Cracker Barrel gift shop. I was overtaken with emotion just as I assume that fat kid was when he first walked into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
They had everything! Candy, games, freshly-baked pecan pie! I wanted it all! I NEEDED it all! Cracker Barrel was officially the greatest place on Earth.
We were seated almost immediately, and then — then she came. Emerging in slow motion from a sea of vibrant white light was a tall, blonde, beautiful woman with blue eyes and a million-dollar smile. She was sexy. She was serene. She was Sheryl.
For the sake of her anonymity I’ll spell her name with a “Ch.”
“Y’all just let me know when you’re ready to order,” she said in a pretty southern belle kind of way.
The Cracker Barrel menu was full of incredible combinations. Sweet and savory, healthy and indulgent, fried and bacon — the possibilities were endless!
I was the last of the group to place an order: “Two eggs, hash browns, pork chops and another water when you get a chance. Thanks, Cheryl.”
“Sure thang, sugar pie,” she answered.
She began to walk away, then turned back.
“You know, I don’t wanna be stickin’ ma’ pretty little nose where it isn’t welcome, but is there any way I can follow you on Twitter?” she asked.
“Yes,” I replied. “You can follow me on Twitter. @ohthatblackman.”
No more than 15 minutes later Cheryl had returned with our food. That’s when my day took a twist in the stylings of the great M. Night Shyamalan.
The eggs were bland, hash browns soggy, pork chops exactly what you’d expect from a sub-par chain restaurant. It became clear that the chef was no plump southern woman who loved grits and thought diabetes was a myth like I had previously thought.
With every bite my surroundings became more clear. Maybe we can chalk that up to the sobering effects of food; I’m not a scientist.
Suddenly, the once endearing country southern ambiance of the Barrel seemed tacky and overdone. My head started to spin, my stomach started to turn.
“I’ll just leave this check right here on the table,” I heard.
I looked up. Hovering over me was an older woman with messy hair, discolored eyes and a missing tooth. It was Cheryl.
“What the hell is going on?” I thought. “Where was the gorgeous southern belle who had so gracefully served us earlier? Did she even want to follow me on Twitter @ohthatblackman?”
In a whirlwind of negative energy, I blacked out.
At 4 p.m. I woke up in my bed, drenched in sweat and disoriented. The details of the previous few hours were hazy at best. As I laid under the covers, mouth dry and hardly able to open my eyes, I heard a voice. It was Cheryl’s.
“What did you say it was again? @ohthatblackman @ohthatblackman @ohthatblackman…?”
Her billowy voice floated around my room like a feather as I fell back to sleep.
Then I threw up.