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NO SUBSTITUTIONS


We had been living in New Jersey for about three weeks and were wanting to try out different things to get the "East Coast" experience. We both grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and honestly, New Jersey was a complete mystery to us. Some friends recommended that we eat at a diner, for diners are a real East Coast experience. We had never even heard of a diner, much less eaten at one.


One of the best in the state was just down the street from where we lived, so we walked hand in hand until we came to this large chrome covered building with large neon letters proclaiming. "The Princetonian Diner."


We were immediately greeted at the door and escorted in to the beautiful dining area and were seated at a small table right in front of the electric fireplace. The hostess was very professional and very proper. She pulled out our chairs for us, unfolded and gave us our napkins, handed us each a menu and gave us a rundown on the breakfast specials. Wow, this was a very nice place. So this is the East Coast experience...


And, then what happened is hard to describe, but I will try. All I can say is, perhaps, if you have lived in certain parts of New Jersey, this will make sense to you.


We were sitting next to a party of four. A waiter appeared at their table and asked, "So wadda yah have today?" Three of the four guests gave their breakfast orders, but the fourth had a question about one of the items on the menu and apparently wanted to make some sort of a substitution, one menu item for another menu item.


The waiter suddenly, and out of nowhere, went ballistic. He yelled at the guest, "Don’t give me any of your blankety blank blank blank (I’ll let you use your imagination there) just give me your blankety blank order!"


The response of the man giving the order was, "Blankety blank blank blank!" (Again, I’ll let you use your imagination) In a moment the two men were standing nose to nose screaming obscenities at each other. The man trying to order turned over his chair, the waiter threw down his order pad, a few more obscenities were exchanged and the waiter stomped off to the kitchen.


Katie and I were aghast. Even more astonishing was the fact that when we looked around at the other patrons in the diner, no one else had taken any notice of what had just occurred. They were going on with their meals and their conversations as if nothing had happened. It was absolutely amazing.


To our surprise, a woman immediately appeared at the table next to us, picked up the pad off the floor, calmly took the breakfast order, the offended man picked up his chair gave his order - and that was that. We both thought, "What kind of place have we moved to?"


As Katie and I were marveling at what had just happened right in front of our eyes, we heard a voice say, "So, wadda yah have today?" And standing at our little table, was the same waiter who just a few moments before had the loud confrontation with the table of four next to us.


We stared at each other, completely at a loss of how to respond. Then we both blurted out at the same time, "I’ll have a number one, and a cup of coffee." No harm came to us that day.


We were strangers in a strange land.

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