In the Suburbs: Acknowledging the folks who make my day

OK! I admit it. I’m a breakfast “dinerholic” and the only 12-step program that has succeeded with me was last year’s pandemic when we could only order take out. Otherwise, I am at one of my favorite diners at the crack of dawn almost every day of the week, chowing down on whatever my WW point counts will tolerate and savoring delicious flavors of eggs, pancakes or oatmeal.

But what makes my diner experiences really enjoyable are the special waitstaff folks, who put up with my quirky ordering style, share conversation and really make my day. Without them, I’d be doomed to be miserable in my classroom or after a WW meeting when I’ve gained.

Over the years that we’ve lived in Fairfield and now Stratford, I’ve frequented Penney’s, Circle Diner and more recently Colony Diner and Frankie’s in Bridgeport and Flyer Diner in Devon. And I’ve identified many favorite waitresses or waiters. Each has been part of my life events, happy and sad — jobs I’ve had or lost or breakfasts with friends. And they have all been part of my holiday gift lifts for the amazing service they’ve provided.

Take Burt, for instance, from Penney’s. Over the five-plus years, I substituted in Fairfield Schools, Burt patiently listened to stories about family and students and knew my breakfast routine inside and out. Aside from being a terrific waiter, he was and still is a caring human being. Sadly, I don’t get to Penney’s that often these days unless I have an early appointment at Massage Envy nearby, and I rarely see Burt, who had some health issues and comes in a bit later.

Because of my work at Fairfield University Bookstore, I usually get to Circle Diner in Fairfield on Sundays. I was so glad when Circle re-opened for eating late last spring because I reconnected with several favorite wait staff. If I arrive very early, Jimmy is my go-to guy and eventually he could read me like a book. He is quick and responsive and pretty much gives me the choices of what I might be ordering. He is a super guy.

Karen and I go way back to days when she was working in Stamford at a diner I used to frequent and over the years I’ve been coming to Circle, we’ve become good friends. In addition to being a wonderful waitress, she’s a great person, loves our grandkids and always makes my eating experience enjoyable.

What I really appreciated was when Karen shared the sad news, soon after Circle reopened about the passing of another favorite wait staffer, Angel, who succumbed to COVID early in the pandemic. She told me she wished she had my contact information so I wouldn’t have found out so late. Whenever I’m in, we always find extra time for catch-up conversation about the family and the dog — she’s a dog owner and she’s asked to get copies of the column.

Juan, another super waiter at Circle, took to our first grandson Lucas right away when we returned with him from China. And he is thrilled whenever we bring Lucas and Caleb, our second miracle, into the diner.

Sadly, one of the casualties of the pandemic was another favorite diner, Colony in Bridgeport. From the time I started teaching at Bridge Academy nearly eight years ago, I was at my favorite booth, second from the front, behind the manager Dina. But, as Dina told me, her nephew, thought it best to close.

I had two favorites at Colony. Julio was truly the best. Every morning, my coffee was waiting and he had even memorized my daily entrees, except on mornings when I opted to change things up. Julio was also a great listener and, even at 6 a.m., he was always happy to chat.

Over the years, I learned that Julio was also a terrific handyman and painter and he completed many projects in our new home, including helping us move in many of the heavy boxes and painting our sewing room and alcove after a flood and restoration.

Candy was my other favorite and she was also terrific about making great conversation or sharing stories. She was also very supportive throughout our daughter’s adoption process and her pregnancy with Caleb. Ironically, I discovered through Dina from Colony that Candy had moved over to Frankie’s Diner near Bridgeport Hospital after Colony closed. My wife and I finally saw her one Saturday when we went to Frankie’s for breakfast.

My friend and amazing dentist, Mark, had taken me to Frankie’s several years before I started going there for breakfast. But when Colony closed and I realized Frankie’s was right on my way to work at school, I started eating breakfast there everyday. Since I had to be in our school building everyday by 6:30 to handle the desk, my two favorite wait staff people, Elsa and Mr. Ray were kind enough to let me in before the diner actually opened. They’ve been great to me ever since.

Brenda at Flyer Diner in Devon and one of the best waitresses I’ve come to know, waited on me one morning about three years ago and she was a breath of fresh air — upbeat, chatty and all about great customer service. At first, we chatted occasionally, but we didn’t really start longer conversations until she shared that her destination wedding, someplace warm, had to be postponed due to the hurricane in Puerto Rico, I believe.

After that, I saw Brenda periodically during school vacations and over the summers, but she waited on me the morning our daughter Stacey went into labor and I got the call at the diner. That morning broke the ice and it’s been super conversation ever since. I learned when I was having breakfast with a friend that she and her husband have houses here and in the Finger Lakes Region of New York.

More recently we’ve talked about her sisters, mom and grandkids. But most of all, Brenda continues to be a bright spot in my morning breakfast and really makes me feel that she’s glad I came in.

And I have to say that all my other favorite waitstaff people have meant the same to me over the years. And as long as I remain a “dinerholic,” I will continue to appreciate the great waitstaffers who always make my day.

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at stevengaynes44@gmail.com.