We never saw Ron Howard or Cindy Williams there, but we went mostly for lunch.

I just had lunch at a diner–one that is a local institution. It’s been in business longer than I’ve been. I remember eating there on special occasions. Then, it was a drive-in diner. Perky “Car-Hop” Gals would come to the driver’s window, pass in a one-sided dog-eared menu and wait for us to make our not-very-complicated order, which always included a side of “fries.” She would trot to and from car window to diner window, where orders were placed orders, food was picked up, and trays filled with empty paper sploshed with ketchup and/or mustard were wisked away.

It took a special kind of gal to be a Car-Hop Gal. She had to be perky, precise, and pink.

My sisters and I would make a game of seeing if we could identify our order each time “our” Car-Hop Gal picked up a loaded tray. When our tray was “the tray,” Mom rolled her window up just enough to catch the hooks attached to the bottom of the tray. Our meal hung outside our car window and Mom was in charge of making we all got what we ordered. The tray came with real salt and pepper shakers and plastic squirt bottles: yellow for mustard and red for ketchup. They were always magically full when they arrived.

Like me, this gastronomic institution changed over time. Gone are the Car-Hop Gals and the simple menus. They are a “sit-down” restaurant now, but still have counter-stool-seating in a nod to the old days. Waitresses don’t wear uniforms and vary in age, shape, and appearance. They serve spaghetti. Imagine eating that in your car…

Well, Dear, they wouldn't have put spaghetti on the drive-in diner menu if they thought this would happen.

While waiting for my veggie burger and sweet potato fries–yeah, I know, they really have changed–I saw something that gave me pause the creeps. A young, pretty waitress was taking a burger platter from the cook’s holding shelf and placing it onto her serving tray, which was on a counter behind her. She was working quickly. The burger slide off the platter and onto the floor. She didn’t see it fly off the platter; she only saw a burger platter without a burger. Confused, she started looking around. Then she looked down.

Uh. On the floor with the lettuce, tomato and bun. Right next to the grimy footprints...

Then she picked up the burger, put it together (since the lettuce and other fixin’s apparently went flying as well), and placed it back on the original platter. She then stood waiting for the rest of the order.

La, de, da, de, da. I'm just waiting for the rest of my order to arrive. Seems to be taking a while. Aren't I cute?

She wasn’t our waitress; but our waitress was bringing our food seconds after this happened. I told her what I saw. I wasn’t interested in a Reality TV-type show-down between waitresses or customers and waitresses or any combination thereof. I just didn’t want some innocent customer eating a burger who didn’t also order a side of dirt.

Our waitress was, shall I say, "seasoned," and believed in serving food from the grill, not the floor.

Our waitress confronted Health-Code-Violation-Girl and told us the burger was replaced. I wanted to believe her.

Too late. My faith in the home-grown American Diner is shaken. As Phil was paying the bill, I noticed something dripping on my head. I looked up. An ancient in-the-ceiling air conditioner was leaking. What’s next? Legionnaire’s Disease?

Now I was more than shaken, I was downright alarmed!

I’ll be dining at home until I’m sure I’m not a walking biohazard.

NOTE: I’ll be traveling this week–good timing, huh? I should have internet access. But if you don’t hear anything from me until next weekend, either the hotel lied to me or I came down with a case of Legionnaire’s Disease. Wish me luck in either case!

I hope to see you in just a little while. But, trust me, you never know...