Off the Beat: Our Fucking Denny's

Nate Tabak covers crime for The Daily Californian. Respond at [email protected].





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EL CERRITO, Calif.-There are some things you just don't do. Actions that deserve not the slightest shred of tolerance, especially in Contra Costa County.

The line was crossed in the early hours of the morning at Denny's on San Pablo Avenue.

Like so many other times before, after a few rounds of bowling in neighboring Albany, I was sitting down with friendly company to a fine meal at the 24-hour family restaurant.

At our fucking Denny's.

The weekday witching-hour crowd is normally meager. Perhaps 10 patrons joined by a few Richmond police officers taking a Code 7.

Tonight was different. We could see by the look of our regular waiter Simon-a fusion of Lorenzo Lamas and Steven Seagal, with an Eastern Bloc accent-that unkosher shit was abound. Now Simon is a tolerant man, but he takes his vocation seriously, gliding from table to table, serving "Moons Over My Hammy" with cold efficiency.

This time it wasn't some unruly gangbanger nor an evangelical tongue-talker that sent this waiter over the edge. Instead, the supposed best and brightest unleashed the beast.

The Denny's had been invaded by rambunctious UC Berkeley students-apparently freshmen-looking to engage in some late-night midterm studying. Still, adhering to his professional ethic, Simon did not hesitate to serve.

When the waiter got to one student booth to take orders, the situation turned sour.

"We're not hungry," a young female student said smugly.

I almost choked on my iced tea. Girl, you do not fuck with this guy. He graduated with honors from the School of Hard Knocks with a B.A. in Regulation.

"This is not a library," Simon said with the utmost conviction. "If you're going to study here, you have to order something."

The students, instead of trembling in fear, looked puzzled and offended as if their civil rights had been violated.

Simon moved on to the next table, giving the students time to contemplate their dilemma. The table huddled amid laughter and intense discussion, which probably resembled something like this.

"What nerve-we have midterms."

"I bet this guy hasn't even studied once in his life."

"We don't have to buy food when we go to the dining commons."

"The food here is so greasy."

As Simon comes to our table, I look and nod, as if to apologize for those studious ones: "They're from Berkeley, sir. They aren't privy to the ways of this here county."

In a different time, such behavior would have brought a smack in return. In certain countries, perhaps lengthy imprisonment. Yet, we have to cut students at one of the most prestigious universities in the nation a generous amount of slack.

Simon nods back with a look of, "I can't be liable for this next time."

Word.

It's all smiles. See, we come to Denny's to eat the flavorful cuisine-and pay for it.

Simon returns, standing tall, towering above these amateurs, as if to say, "You will give me your order."

In a whisper, someone orders fries.

Oh dear! It seems a measly Denny's waiter regulated upon your asses.

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