It’d be hard to imagine a more generic joint. More generic than a hospital waiting room. More generic than a 70’s bus station. More generic than an underfunded rural elementary school. More generic than hundreds of cookie cutter houses along tracks of a former dairy farm.
The color palette is unremarkable. The tables are a blond shellacked wood. The red brown chairs look like they were purchased at a hotel overstock sale. The walls are a yellowy cream. The lighting does nothing to enhance the color. It is neither bright nor dull. There is a maroon border around the wall. It’s almost the same color as the chairs. Almost. Must be a standard issue. No color matching.
Even more generic are the walls. There is nothing on them. No posters. No velvet paintings. No year at a glance calendars. No neon. No Christmas lights. No tchotchkes. Not even an official occupancy sign. There was, however, a fire alarm. A generic one.
There’s a shellacked table that’s pulled up next to the counter. It has a row of tabasco bottles, a row of yellow mustard bottles and a row of ketchup bottles. There is also a pile of napkins. No napkin holder, just a pile of napkins. There is a plain sign with the menu. It’s not even hung. It sits on top of the shelacked table next to the counter and leans on the yellowy cream wall. On the other side of the counter is a soda fridge. Like at 7-11. Or at a 7-11 knock off.
Oh, and that counter? It is more like a small bar in someone’s basement. It’s maybe four feet long with a cash register. It’s all yellowy cream colored. It disappears into the walls. If there wasn’t a very big man in a black shirt behind it, you likely would not see it. You’d just think a cash register was levitating.
And another thing, this is a hamburger shoppe. They sell hamburgers and fries and shakes (and half liter sodas from the self-serve cooler). But it doesn’t smell like meat or grease or grill or onions. It really doesn’t emit any smells of food or of cooking. It smells of nothing. Do they even cook here?
Maybe I should have left, but I decided to get a burger. To see if this place was real or if it was like the fake town set up for the bad guys to raid in Blazing Saddles. I picked a soda out of the cooler, paid my money, took my number and sat down in front of the window at the generic table with a generic roll of plain white paper towels and a bottle of ketchup.
The big man in the black shirt brought out my hamburger in his hand. It was in a nondescript gray–or is that an ugly khaki?–clamshell box that was good for composting. I thought that maybe this same guy also cooked the food.
Anyway, the moment of truth came as I opened the box to see a good looking sandwich. The bottom bun was soaked and soggy from the beef juices. And the burger itself tasted fine. Not amazing, but a few steps above generic. But evaluating the entire experience, and adding the $7.99 before tax for the burger to the calculations (I am not including the soda price), I’m left without anything to draw me back.
In fact, the memory is becoming less clear, duller and fading. I hope that I remember to remember that this place isn’t memorable. But I bet that I’ll forget and stumble back into this unremarkable scene.