I was plowing through a most righteous bowl of banana pudding at one of those buffet places today, when I heard him.
"Channel 8! Channel 8! Where’s Channel 8? There’s a Channel 8 truck in da parkin’ lot . Where dey at?"
Looking up, I saw a bee-hived waitress escorting a man in bib overalls and scraggly white beard to a nearby table, in much the same way you’d make sure that scary uncle had a comfy, distant seat at the family picnic. But he wasn’t studyin' the salad bar.
"Where’s Dan Scranton? He’s my weather man! He’ll put me on Tee-Vee. Dan Scranton will, yes sir! Watch him ever’ night on the forecast. Where’s Channel 8?"
By now others were watching the old hillbilly. My waitress even glanced over her shoulder as she walked up to top off my Iced Tea. Scooping another exquisite lump of bananas and vanilla wafer into my mouth, I chewed slowly as I watched the man, trying to decide whether he was drunk, delusional or being paid to screw with me by an incredibly desperate Ashton Kutcher. Either way, he was just getting warmed up.
"Channel 8, by God! Why, they transmit from the capitol to the coast! Winstum-Salem, High Point, Randleman. Dey on ever’where!" Caught up in his soliloquy, the man seemed oblivious to everyone him, most who were cutting eyes back to their table-mates and whispering the old man’s chirpy mantra…
"Channel 8? Channel 8! Channel 8!?! Channel 8! CHANNEL 8!?!?!"
The sound of tumbling ice cubes brought me back to the Earth and I looked up to see my waitress still standing over me, slowly pouring tea in my glass. We locked gazes and her eyeballs flickered down to the table. Following her line of sight, I looked at the astronaut memoir beside my plate and noticed my bookmark, a worn business card bearing a bright red Channel 8! I locked eyes with the waitress again and cocked a desperate, pleading eyebrow. A glimmer of a grin flashed across her face and she sashayed off without a sound. I dug in my pocket for an extra dollar, took a long pull off my straw and waited for the dude from Deliverance to look away. When he did, I got up and slunk off, passing right by him as he directed the attention a curious diners to the slightly grimy Channel 8 truck sitting in the parking lot. Once outside I walked ever so casually toward another group of cars, before turning sharply and making a beeline for poor Unit Four. Hopping in, I cranked the engine hard and took off without ever looking back.
Only when safely on the highway did I chuckle to myself and quietly thank God for giving me something to write about.