I have been eating at my local Denny’s now since it opened back in 1995 (I think). It’s never closed since then since they run 24/7. But I’m not there that often any more. Maybe once every 2-3 weeks. Usually after a night shift. Often meeting with a friend or coworker. I order the same meal every time. Coffee and Moons Over My Hammy with a side of fries instead of hash browns.
Since my early 20’s I associate many experiences here. I also had a few really drunk nights here as well. Most of my first few years were fun. At least the ones I remember. It started with walks from my home at 3am to Denny’s and watching the sunrise with my fellow night owls. A few years later it was 2am late nights after an evening working at the movie theater with a large group of us. This is when my friend Jeremy and I would have some of the most fun. We had a favorite waitress whom everyone started calling “Mum”.
Post pub nights ended at Denny’s. Late night videogames ended with a walk to Denny’s. Star Wars marathons (before prequels) ended at Denny’s. Evenings on the beach or friendly hacky-sack tournaments ended at Denny’s. It was always the last stop. The final journey as the evening winds down and turns to dawn. One night I walked to Denny’s just to see if anyone I knew was there. I joined a group of friends at one of their tables. A few minutes later, my father walked in looking for me. No reason at all, he just wanted to see why I went here. He smiled at me and said hello to my friends. He randomly handed me $20 and told me to have a good night. He had never done that before. He would never do that again. This was during his final year of being alive. I’m not sure if he wanted to stay. Perhaps I should have invited him to. But it never crossed my mind.
Early in the year 2000, I met a girl in Denny’s and we dated for a short time. It was Valentine’s Day night and I had bought a blank Valentine’s Day Card earlier. Maybe it was post Feb.14th, more into Feb 15th- you know how late nights go. The day isn’t over until you go to bed.
That night, I sat in a booth with some friends, when this cute girl walked in with some of her friends. It was a post night of fun for them. You could tell by the way they laughed and seemed not at all bummed out about Valentine’s Day. But I couldn’t stop looking at her. I pulled out my blank card and wrote a simple message in it. Something along the lines of how pretty she was and how she brightened my day just walking in. I ended it with Happy Valentine’s Day. It was short and sappy, but genuine. Ok, maybe more drunk genuine, since I wrote it while sitting at the booth. I slipped it into the envelope and waited for the right time. The right time was when she got up to leave. I walked over to her as she paid the cashier, handed her the envelope and disappeared into the restroom.
I came out and she was gone. I sat back at the table with my friends and we continued our night. A few minutes later a guy walked up to me, said he was with the girl and asked me to step outside. Nervous as hell, I followed him outside. He wasn’t intimidating by any means. He was like a cuddly, chubby teddy bear with glasses. He had been sitting with the girl earlier. Turns out he was the token gay friend.
So I opened the door and was greeted with a huge hug. Turns out I made her night. She thanked me for the card and gave me her number. We dated for a couple of months after that. She was super sweet, but we just weren’t right for each other. We have remained friends and I’m glad to have met her. Fun fact: she shares the same birthdate as my ex girlfriend whom I had dated just before her.
A couple months later, I was still single and was hanging out with a different ex-girlfriend at a bar called “City Limits”. Fun fact: I have remained friends with all of my ex-girlfriends- two of whom even attended my wedding. While at the bar with my ex, another girl showed up with some of our other friends. I went up to the DJ and requested “2 Live Crew”. When it began playing, I got everyone onto the dance floor. I then snuck back to the table and began talking with this cute lady. I asked her to come up to the bar so that I could buy her a drink. She asked for tequila and I said no. I bought her a Broken Down Golf Cart instead.
At the end of the night, we all decided we would go to Denny’s. It was a large group of drunks all having greasy food and laughing. As the night went on, I talked with this lovely lady and a spark ignited. The warm night had turned into a cool morning and I offered her my jacket and a ride home. As I dropped her off, she gave me her phone number. I went home and called her a couple of days later and asked if I could call her back in a few hours. She still had my jacket. That night I stopped by her place and we talked. We set a wedding date in jest. Within two weeks we would be living together. Shortly after a year we would be married on the day we set on our first date. This year we will be celebrating sixteen years of marriage. Every year has been amazing.
My wife and I rarely go to a Denny’s together. It has become a place for me to unwind after a long night at work. It’s the place that I continue to make memories with friends. I don’t think I’ll ever change what I order. Even though I show up only every few weeks, the waitresses know exactly what I want.
In an unlikely place that I have made many memories- I’ll take The Usual.