The Dismal Tide

I was in a hurry for lunch. A member of my staff was out sick from work and I had just finished a presentation for some clients and missed my usual lunch hour. If I don’t eat sometime between 11:30 to 1:30, I turn into a raging lunatic, and a lot of work still needed to be done, so lunch was going to have to be quick.

Usually when I’m in a bind for time, I’ll swing by Jimbo’s BBQ and World Famous Hotdogs. It’s a family business, and they offer the standard light Southern fare—barbeque, potato salad, coleslaw, chips—but also homemade chilidogs. Jimbo’s is owned by a local guy and he employs his kids, nephews and nieces to work the grill and counter. It closes at 5:00 PM, but is filled throughout the day with older folks from the area.

The older folks drop in, grab a bite to eat, and then sit around and chat for several hours. I’ve noticed this behavior also on weekend mornings, at places like Hardee's or small-town restaurants. It’s a communal behavior. And it’s always all-White. Some of the Blacks do it, but their youth are so feral and dangerous, the older Blacks have to have this communal practice in heavily rural areas or White establishments.

My grandfather used to do it. He’d go to our local diner and “chew the fat” with the old-timers for hours. He’d have breakfast with them, go home, and repeat for lunch. They’d tell jokes, talk local and national politics and share war stories. If a friend was sitting by himself, they’d call him over and have him join the table. I’d remember sitting there and not being able to understand some of the older men, their country accents so thick, it practically required an interpreter. But, I loved the idea of local men and women sharing common cause, no one was a stranger and everyone was welcoming.

Anyway, I drive over to Jimbo’s. I walk briskly to the door, but wait to hold open the door for an elderly and frail woman using a walker. She thanks me and I follow her inside. She waits at the counter, unsure what to order and appears a little confused, maybe the lettering was hard for her to read. I ask her if she’s in line and if I may go in front of her, she smiles and says “Of course, darling, you go ahead.”

A normie SWPL is working the counter. He’s wearing a soft V-neck t-shirt and cheap jeans. He’s got an untrimmed blond beard and his hair is uncombed. I place my order and he repeats it aloud with feminine uptalk. Everything about him is indecisive and jerky. The SWPL is probably in his mid-twenties and the nearest college is thirty miles away. And it’s a Wednesday. This will be his profession, working a chilidog counter and handing out plastic cups.

I sit down at a stretched long counter with single seats, it overlooks the parking lot. Half a century ago likely a “Whites Only” placard would have been displayed. It doesn’t matter though, I’ve only ever seen a handful of Blacks in Jimbo’s and they’ve always been “country Blacks.” Country Blacks for Southerners are similar to the Magic Negro. They’re respectful (for the most part) and share more in common with White rednecks—hunting, fishing and camouflage—than their animal cousins in the cities. Although I’ve seen less of them throughout the years.

I crane my neck and glance at the other folks in Jimbo’s. They’re all White older folks. The men wear ironed khakis or clean blue jeans, button-down shirts, leather shoes and one or two are wearing a VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) baseball cap, nothing newer than the Vietnam War. Their wives are with them and they’re all wearing make-up, dresses or nice slacks. The men pull out chairs for their women and go to the soda fountain for their refills. They remind me of my grandparents.

I turnaround and look back out the window. A dilapidated and discolored Hondo Civic pulls in the parking lot. It probably hasn’t been hand washed and waxed in months, or years, and the rear quarter panel has a massive dent in it. A couple lazily get out of the car and amble to Jimbo’s. In an instant, I know they represent everything wrong with White Millennials.

They were likely in their mid-twenties, but I wouldn’t call them adults, so I won’t use the terms “man” or “woman.” They were, for all intents and purposes, children. The girl walks to the door first and opens it for the boy, as I suspected she would. The natural world turned on its head, chivalry be damned—a term completely alien to them and unfortunately, probably their Boomer parents.

She is a natural beauty. Beautiful face, red hair and green eyes. She wore no make-up, sported a nose piercing and had her hair pulled into a ponytail. She wore a tie-dye t-shirt, raggedy jean shorts and boat shoes (Sperry). I spotted a faded Chinese script tattooed on the back of her neck when she walked in.

The boy shuffled in next. He had a grungy dark beard and wore a gray flat brim DC United cap. No one over thirty even knows what DC United is around here. He’s wearing Ray Band sunglasses and baggy sweatpants, even though it’s in the low 70s outside. He’s also wearing dirty dark tennis shoes, with neon green trim—it looks like something small children wear.

He doesn’t take his sunglasses or baseball cap off after he walks in. My grandfather, a Marine, would have slapped me upside my head; a man always takes his cover off when indoors. The boy also has his hands deep in his pockets, another no-no. As a kid, my grandfather would have pulled them out and said, “How are you going to protect yourself if you fall or need your hands?”

I swing around in my stool and pretend to watch the baseball game on a TV in the corner to keep observing them. Naturally, the girl orders and pays for both of their meals, she pays in cash. She also fills both of their drinks and carries their trays to a table. The boy takes his hands out of his pockets and now has them clasped behind his back. When he goes to sit down in his chair, he sits Indian-style in his seat.

I glance at one of the older men, sitting by himself sipping coffee, he cringes at the sight. We look at each other and we know. Is this the future? A weak, undisciplined and unworthy future. I see it daily. Something has to change.

Jimbo’s got quiet when the boy and girl sat down. The twenty-something boy, sitting like a Kindergartener, sucked the life out of the diner. It allowed me to eavesdrop on the couple’s conversation. The girl had vocal fry and the boy, like the counter SWPL, used uptalk. They talked fast, faster than any local, but I got the impression they were from the area. They chatted about meaningless gossip.

I slipped on my light jacket and dumped my tray. On my way out, I held open the door for an elderly couple and they thanked me.

As I was walking to my truck, I started thinking about a line from No Country for Old Men.

“It's the tide. It's the dismal tide. It’s not the one thing.”