Ken and I ate at the Cracker Barrel restaurant last night so I could use my coupon for two free dinners. If you’re not familiar with this restaurant chain, let me begin by saying that Cracker Barrel enjoys a cult following with the RV set; there are people who actually plan their vacation stops only in places where there is a Cracker Barrel restaurant nearby. In fact, Cracker Barrel provides special E-Z Find Cracker Barrel US road maps in their Old Country Store showing all their locations so you won’t miss any opportuninty to have some Hash-Brown Chicken, in case you get a hankerin’ on the road.
The interior decor is “Old Time Country”, meaning there are dozens of displays of old-timey do-dads like lanterns and farm implements and button hooks and linament bottles. The display next to our table seemed to have a theme of “Things With Which Folks Used To Use To Get Dressed”. An old man shuffling by our table stopped and pointed to the curling iron in the display and said to me “Know what that there thing is missy? That’s what girls used to use to curl their hair!” He seemed really pleased to be able to pass on this ancient knowledge to me and I didn’t have the heart to tell him that curling iron technology hadn’t really changed much in 75 years, except for the advent of electricity so you could now plug it in instead of holding it over an open flame, thus avoiding a nasty 3rd degree burn. The only other artifact of any interest to me was a tin of Shoe Dressing, which I imagine was some sort of flavor enhancer for shoe leather. I can imagine really poor Dust-Bowl families sitting around an open fire, cooking up shoe leather. Mom would pass around the Shoe Dressing, saying “Here you go Mandy Sue, put you some of this here on your piece of leather and it’ll be reeeeal tasty!”
The ambience of our dining experience was further enhanced by the piped in music which was a combination of Old Country Hits interspersed with Old Rock & Roll Hits, so you could hear Walkin’ The Floor (Over You), followed by Rock Around the Clock, which I found a bit disturbing. The decibel level was up there around Disco Level, probably for the benefit of the clientele which appeared to be in the Old Geezer age group. One Old Geezer was having a birthday, and the waitresses all gathered around his table and sang Happy Birthday to him. The nice thing was that it was the ACTUAL birthday song, sung in a nice, respectful way; not the hyped-up bizarro version sung at other restaurants by a frantically clapping waitstaff who all appear to be buzzed-out on crystal meth. I have often threatend Ken with permanent disfigurement if he EVER arranged to have Happy Birthday sung to me at a restaurant, but I probably woudn’t mind having the nice folks at Cracker Barrel do it.
The food was pretty good, and afterwards we browsed around in the Old Country Store where Ken became enraptured by a John Deere clock that makes a different tractor sound every hour. I found myself examining the display of Precious Moments collectibles. You know, the teardrop-eyed angel children in cutesy poses,with captions like Blooming in God’s Love or Some Bunny Loves You. I personally dislike this kind of diabetic coma-inducing sweetness and would prefer to see something different. Perhaps a figurine of a desperate-looking child looking skyward, with a caption that reads Don’t worry, God loves you even if your mom is a crack whore!
A quick check of my watch told me that I was about to miss Sex in the City – which I didn’t want to miss because it was going to be the episode where Samantha dyes her pubic hair, but she leaves the dye on too long and it ends up looking like a bright red clown’s wig – so I went to find Ken. He had found the 1:18 die cast car display and had EVERY SINGLE BOX pulled out so he could examine the cars individually. I could tell he wasn’t even close to being finished and could probably have spent another couple of hours marveling over each one, but I made him put them up anyway cause I wanted to see my TV show, dammit. We finally made it out of there but then Ken was distracted by the row of rocking chairs on the “front porch” of the restaurant, so he had to sit and rock a spell. “Boy, there’s just nothing like a wood rocker, eh?” he said wistfully. On the way home, we talked about rocking our kids to sleep when they were babies, and I realized that we’re not too far from Old Geezerville ourselves. Then I slapped myself a couple of times and took a silent vow never to become the kind of old lady who plans a vacation around the locations of a chain restaurant that features Hash Brown Chicken on its menu.