It was the eighth day of a ten-day excursion into the Southwest. My wife and I were meandering our way towards Phoenix for a flight back to Indianapolis. We overnighted in Flagstaff, Arizona, staying in one of those roadside inns named by putting an adjective in front of their function, like Well-Being Motel or Amenity Inn. I awoke before my wife. The Happy Hotel had a complimentary breakfast. It was open from 6 am until 10 am. It was 5:40. I brushed my teeth, washed my face, and quietly headed to the lobby, leaving my wife resting peacefully. I’d bring back coffee.

The lobby/breakfast area was packed. There were folks everywhere. As I tried to make my way to the coffee, I was cut off, nudged, and ignored. I heard Excusez-Moi and guttural grunts. I believe some were directed at me.

The Eighth Day Breakfast

After grabbing a cup of joe, I found a seat in the lobby of this L-shaped breakfast hall. I had eyed a USA Today on the table next to a plush black leatherette lobby chair. I picked up the newspaper and read the news of the day.

As I quietly sat and read the paper, a man came over and, without saying a word or making eye contact, picked up the large foyer chair next to me and moved it alongside a couch where two companions sat. He didn’t know if I had a purpose for the chair. I could’ve been saving it for my wife. I wasn’t, but I could have been.

Across from me was a table of five friends speaking loudly, food dangling from their lips as they all chewed and talked simultaneously. The breakfast area was self-serve and self-clean, and although there was a trash receptacle next to the table of the full-mouth-talking clan, they left their mess of saliva-moistened crumbs for someone else to dispose of.

At another table, a young couple with a cute toddler ignored their son as he threw fistfuls of baby-squeezed scrambled eggs three feet in every direction.

Still, others jostled past people as if they weren’t there. They stood in front of the coffee, blocking access as they slowly deliberated which cream to use, French raspberry or vanilla grape.

Reading the Paper

I perused the paper. As I finished scanning each section, I placed them on the table perpendicular to each other. When I was done, I went for a second cup of coffee, grabbed one for my wife, and headed back to the room.

It was our tradition that I’d bring her coffee, and then we’d return together to eat. Not today. She’d had eight days of Cheerful Roadside Canteen breakfast and wasn’t prepared for the food or the crowd.

I returned for a breakfast of hard tater tots, greasy sausages, and what I hoped were scrambled eggs with at least a bit of warmth remaining. Hey, it was free. Don’t judge.

On My Return

At the dining hall, I saw the chair had been returned to its rightful place, the tables (and floors) were clean, and the USA Today I had left scattered on the table was neatly stacked. Maybe I shouldn’t be casting stones.

It was a lesson in humility. As I was judging those around me and smugly back-slapping myself for being superior, the truth was, I wasn’t much different. I was as selfish as the next person. I left the newspaper not as I had found it, but in disarray. You could argue that my offense was less intrusive than some of the others, but that’s not the point. The point is I was inconsiderate of my fellow human beings.

The eggs were cold, the sausage was hard, and the tater tots burnt, but only slightly. I finished my plate. Like I said, it was free.

Photo by Andrei J Castanha on Unsplash