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Lost Journal

Humor Column
by Tim Mollen

Comedy Blackout at Friendly’s

Journal Entry:  July 8, 1989 (age 20)

Today was the hottest day of the summer, and the Friendly’s Restaurant on the Vestal Parkway was jammed.  I manned my usual station at the cash register, where I act as head cashier and host.  I say “manned,” despite the fact that I am forced to stand in front of a large sign that says, “Welcome!  Hostess will seat you.”

The heat of a summer Saturday night brought out a surly mob of Fribble addicts.  Our maximum capacity is 75 people, so the line at the door took on the character of the entrance to Studio 54, circa 1978.  Outfits were judged, names were dropped, and money was exchanged.  This was the place to be tonight.

But the wait in the buggy dampness soured the customers’ moods before they sat down.  As I seated each party, my corporate pleasantries were met with a stony silence.  Occasionally, I caught a muttered “wassup,” but most people just dispensed with formalities and started wordlessly pointing at pictures of brownie sundaes, their mouths open in a state of heat-exhausted anticipation.

Suddenly, the lights went out.

The entire parkway was lost in a blackout.  It was 9:30 p.m., so the restaurant was now completely dark.  For several minutes, a hush fell over the patrons.  People whispered, as though they were up past their bedtime at a sleepover.  One patron was enjoying his hot fudge sundae a bit too audibly, leading to murmurs about manners, barnyards, and feedbags.  But the prevailing sound was silence.  No one seemed to know what the proper etiquette is when you are in a crowded public place that has unexpectedly gone completely black.

When the lights finally came back on, the silence held.  Realizing that I was the only person in the room who was standing, I suddenly felt very conspicuous.  With the eyes of a hundred strangers on me, I instinctively looked down at my chest, threw up my arms, and yelled, “MY JEWELS!  They’ve been stolen!”

Having seen many Batman episodes and Charlie Chan movies, it seemed like the thing to do.  But the deepening silence in the room told me otherwise.  A few people looked at me quizzically, and slowly everyone turned their attention back to their waffle cones.  Hot fudge guy returned his face to the bottom of his ice cream trough.

I looked to my co-worker and friend, Gretchen Phelps, for some kind of support.  If ever a guy needed a sympathy laugh, it was then.  She walked past, with her eyebrows raised archly, and said, “Nice one, Tim.”

I was alone in a crowded room, wearing a nametag.  It’s going to be a long summer.


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