Do you ever feel like you’re living in a fish bowl? Maybe you should; it’s more appropriate than you might think.
I mentioned the other day about life in the very small Midwestern town of Robinson, Illinois. Well, one drawback to living in a very small town is there are usually somewhat, um, limited dining choices. (One of the other major drawbacks is that pretty much EVERYBODY in town knows who you are! But that’s, as they say, another post.)
In fact, back in 1990, there were a grand total of seven eating establishments in town, including the Elk’s Lodge (open to everyone on certain days of the week), the country club’s dining room (mostly popular on Sundays after church) and a Dairy Queen (open only in the summer, but hey, who needs ice cream during a Midwest winter, right?)
Needless to say, we on the project team (there were four of us from the Houston office at the site) had to get a bit, well, creative when it came to finding places to eat for lunch. After checking with the locals, we made a list of places within reasonable driving distance.
Of them all, the most memorable was called Earl’s Supper Club, a local beanery located north of Robinson on Hiway 1, in the even smaller town of West Union (and we thought Robinson was small!) Although a bit farther than usual (it was about 20 miles up the road), the food was definitely worth the trip. And talk about bargain prices! Man, you could eat like a king (which unfortunately, we did) for very little cash.
But there were a few, um, eccentricities about the place that made dining there a real adventure. For instance, they didn’t have printed menus because everybody already knew what they had to eat. And, like many similar joints, certain dishes were featured each day of the week. You know: ham steaks on Mondays, fried river catfish (an area specialty, fresh from the nearby Wabash River) on Tuesdays – that sort of thing. Nothing unusual – we just had to learn what to ask for. In any case, the food was fantastically good.
The really weird part was that, although you could order the very same meal every day, the price was never exactly the same. Plus, for some reason the prices always ended with a “5″. For instance, one day the Ham steak cost $4.85; the next time, it was $5.05, or $4.95, or $5.15… I mean, you never knew. Pretty funny; imagine getting market pricing on your lunch!
I’ll tell ya, though, the helping sizes were amazing! The above mentioned ham steak was literally as big as the plate (heck, it was sometimes bigger than the plate, and usually about a half-inch thick). An order of fried catfish brought a pile of delicious filets two inches high that covered the plate. Once, one of the guys made the mistake of ordering a hamburger steak (which is simply a big hamburger with no bun, topped with gravy), and the waitress (who, true to form, called everybody “Honey”) plopped down one as big as a pie! No kidding, it was made from one pound of hamburger!
Well, suffice it to say that the place soon became our favorite lunch stop. Alas, we had to limit ourselves to just once a week, though (for obvious reasons).
But the thing I remember most about Earl’s isn’t the food. And believe you me, that’s really saying something! No, it’s just that every single time we opened the door and went into the place, literally everything stopped for a few seconds while all the locals inside checked us out. It was like one of those old E.F. Hutton commercials where everyone stops to listen while some bozo says those fateful words, “… but E.F. Hutton says…”
Ever been to a place like that? Well, ironically enough, you have!
The thing is, we all live in something of a fish bowl. Whether we like it or not, we live our lives surrounded by lots of other folks, right? And, just to sweeten the pot a bit, everybody is watching what we do, how we act, and listening to what we say. In a few cases they may even be carefully examining our words for content and meaning.
And, although we may not get the same kind of pause that E.F. Hutton used to command at the mere mention of their name, we’re still getting the same level of scrutiny (or more!) just the same.
Something to think about, wouldn’t you say?