“There’s A New Girl In Town”

In the late 70s, one of my favorite TV sitcoms debuted, “Alice”. It told the tale of a wise crackin’ NYC single Mom who moves with her teenage son to the middle of nowhere Arizona and gets a job waitressing at Mel’s Diner. I loved the premise of the “fish out of water”. Amongst the characters was another waitress with a heavy Southern accent named Flo. She would get frustrated with Mel, the cook and diner owner, and eventually scream, “Kiss My Grits!” As a young teen, I LIVED for this moment. At the time, I was working weekends with My Dad at the ARCO gas station and flower shop. I was often sent to the Palmyra Diner, long gone by now, to grab my lunch, mostly to get out of My Dad’s hair for a while. I secretly loved this 10 minute walk up the often deserted roadside of Route 73 and imagined my own Mom working at the Palmyra Diner. Lucky for me, there was a waitress with a Southern accent working there who took a shine to me. Her name was Betty. Now, Betty didn’t fight with her boss like Alice did, but she did occasionally get mad if the food wasn’t being prepared quickly enough. I would sit at the counter and play my 5 selections for a quarter, usually Donna Summer or Crystal Gayle. One time, a trucker came in and was giving Betty a hard time. I think he had a thing for her and showed it by being annoying. Well, this time, he had liquor on his breath and Betty was having none of it. “Go on now, Slim, you got your meal, now, get on your way!”, Betty would say. “Not til I get one kiss….come on now….” “Geez, Slim, not in front of the kid!! Get movin, buster!” Little did Betty know how vicariously I was living through these flirtations, I was so attention starved. As the conflict grew, Betty seemed to genuinely lose her cool and asked him to leave. In an odd moment of daring, I stood up to defend Betty, all of 13 years old with my skinny frame and screamed at Slim, “KISS MY GRITS!!!” There was a moment of silence. Both of them looked at me perplexed. Then, mountains of laughter followed and Slim was on his way. Betty winked at me, handed me my food and said, “it’s on the house, precious”.