Breakfast of Champions

“I’ll have the $2 breakfast. I’d like my eggs over hard, hash browns extra crispy and no toast. Thanks!”

As the server walks away, I pour a little cream into my coffee, give it a stir, and take a sip. It’s good. I wrap my hands around the tacky flower print mug and look around the room. Other students are eating breakfast. Books and papers are spread out on their tables, the light from the circular fireplace in the center of the room providing a warm glow. Regulars are at the bar joking with the wait staff and each other. A slim man in a jean jacket walks in and is greeted with cheers; “Wow, you look so different without all that hair!” I overhear someone order a screwdriver as 90’s rocks pours out of the speakers overhead.

I dig into my black leather messenger bag and haul out my physics textbook. I notice that another student from my class is across the room doing the same. We exchange a nod. A dive bar might seem like an unlikely place to prepare for an exam, but I love it here. The food is cheap, the service is slow enough so I don’t feel rushed to leave and I can drink all the coffee I can handle.

A young woman at the table in front of me puts aside her book as the server sets down her plate. I notice the book is an anatomy and physiology textbook. At the bar, two middle-aged men dressed in greasy overalls complain about not getting paid their overtime. It occurs to me that the variety of people occupying the Cheerful Tortoise this morning is a direct result of PSU being an urban campus. My classmate gets up to pay his bill. He high-fives our server, who knows him by name. I realize that he’s a regular, too.

My food arrives. I pour hot sauce over the entire plate and dig in.