I eat breakfast two or three times a week at Mel’s Country Cafe. Nothing fancy about Mel’s and the menu never changes. It’s the kind of place where you can get mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and a piece of banana cream pie. (If you’re from Kennett, think Palace Cafe or McCormick’s)
And you can have a cigarette with your meal at Mel’s. And lots of folks do. They made the back room smoke-free a few years ago but you have to walk through a cloud of smoke to get there and back through it when you’re done.
When I walked into Mel’s on Tuesday, one of the servers informed me that the smaller room in back is now the smoking room and the larger, front room is smoke free. Whoa. I took a seat and looked around and noticed most of the same faces, sitting in their usual places. All the smokers sitting in the smoke-free room.
I asked my server how the new policy was going over. “Not so good,” he admitted. “A couple of them have gone back to the smoking room long enough to have a cigarette, and then came back to their usual spot.”
I grew up in a smoking family. I understand smokers and the power of their addiction. I’ve known smokers that would get a divorce or quit a good job rather than give up the habit. Family members who no longer speak as a result of long-ago arguments about smoking. These are the same people that stand hunched in the freezing rain to get their fix. What force could make them stop smoking long enough to have some ham and eggs? And it hit me.
Routine. It would be more shocking to their nicotine-soaked nerve endings to sit in a different chair…at a different table…IN A DIFFERENT ROOM! I’m told this is a common phenomenon among regular church goers who have their regular pew. We dedicate this song to all the men and women jonesing through breakfast at Mel’s.