Kim Keeps the Coffee Coming
None of the regulars are here yet. Like the Daves: Candy Man Dave and Home Depot Dave and Eyeglass Dave. None of the Riches, either. Except for one of them. He’s sitting at a window booth and is about to get a fresh cup of coffee and a plate filled with two eggs sunny side up that Kim is balancing on her palm behind the counter.
It’s eight o’clock on a Monday morning. Normally, by this time the usual crew is drinking something hot and caffeinated and waiting for their usual order; things that sizzle and pop and cook to a golden brown on the griddle that sits in front of the counter at Valliant’s Diner on Babcock Boulevard in Ross. But today’s just … weird. “I bet it’s because of daylight savings,” she says, before turning her attention to one of the booths. “Good morning! How are you?”
The older couple in the booth are fine, just fine; will take two orders of the blueberry French Toast that’s on special this morning; and Kim’s already dropped off the syrup before they’ve taken a sip of their coffee.
“Want your eggs heated or are you okay?” she asks a lady sitting at the counter, before heading back to the coffee maker.
The lady at the counter is waiting for her dad. “I’m pretty sure I know who he is,” Kim says, starting a pot of decaf. “He’s one of my regulars. And one of the only ones who likes decaf.”
Kim’s been waitressing for 40 years. She did it in high school and always figured she’d do something else. But the job just worked with her life. It worked when she was younger and worked when she had just gotten married and worked when she had to get her kids off to school. “A year or two ago, I realized that I actually like doing this. I like people and besides, I can’t sit still.” She’s been at Valliant’s for 13 years. Six a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Thursday, Friday and most recently, Saturday, because she picked up an extra shift.
And 13 years in one place is a long time, which is why she knows what everyone likes. She knows that the older couple who just walked in always orders two coffees, one with cream and one with water. She knows who likes three butters and two grape jellies for their toast. And she knows that Brian likes his iced tea with plenty of ice and so she has a glass ready for him by the time he sits down at the counter to order breakfast.
“Good morning!” she says, smiling as she takes out her pen.
Two hours into her shift, and while the Daves still haven’t made an appearance, the booths are starting to fill up, and thank God it’s not as crazy as Saturday was because Saturday was insane. “We opened at 6 and by 7:15 we ran out of silverware,” she says as an SUV pulls into the parking lot. She looks up from the counter and grabs the pot of decaf. “I thought that’s who her dad was,” she says, motioning to the woman at the counter.
“Hello! How are you?” she calls out as the door swings open and her decaf drinker walks in.
When the regulars go MIA, she worries. “I always tell them, ‘Hey, let me know when you’re going away.’” When the regulars do come in, she likes asking how they are and what they’re up to, knowing that there might not be anyone else who does.
“See you Thursday!” Rich says as he pays for his tab.
This place, just grew on her over the years. “It really has,” she says. Getting to know all the Daves and the Riches and seeing people come in and become friendly with one another and start sitting together instead of sitting alone. Watching people randomly pick up the tab for someone else’s blueberry French toast and seeing people praying over their hamburgers and homemade soup and eggs over easy.
“It’s just nice. I think it’s really nice,” she says before meeting Brian at the register. He asks how her daughter is doing, handing her 13 bucks and a few extra for a tip.
“See ya Thursday!” he says, giving her a wave.
“Alright Brian,” she replies, closing the register. “I’ll see ya.”