Breakups, blowjobs and Boom-Boom sauce — not the standard topics of conversations at meal time. But then again, late night weekend dining in Athens, OH, is anything but standard. It is midnight on Friday, Nov. 8, 2014, as I enter the Union Street Diner. This particular Friday is the first night of Dad’s Weekend at Ohio University, and the start of my eavesdropping experiment.
Come along as I see what really happens when diners think no one is paying attention.
12:03 a.m. I arrive and order an unsweetened iced tea and onion rings from Molly, my server.
12:04: Iced Tea arrives
Four Girls sit across from me. All order water.
— “If I keep looking (at the menu), I’m going to stress myself out.”
— “We can’t get onion rings and pickles.”
— “I’m going to get breakfast, but I’m also going to get chili.”
— “Boom-Boom sauce is amazing.”
12:08: Onion rings arrive, Four Girl table still contemplating the menu
12:14: Four Girl table places order.
— “I’m so glad we were like, ‘Let’s leave this place and go eat.’”
12:15: I’m four (very large) onion rings deep and ready for a nap. I may have overcommitted.
12:16: Make that five onion rings.
12:19: Chili arrives at Four Girl table.
— “Josie is probably like, ‘This bitch ordered breakfast and chili like what the fuck.”
Not sure who Josie is or how she feels about breakfast/chili combos.
12:22: They are talking about someone named Brad. They say his name six times.
12:23: Two Guys seated behind me.
12:24: Four Girls’ food arrives. I wish I would’ve ordered French toast.
12:27: Two Guys contemplate the menu – and life.
— “Dude what the fuck? Get your life together. Should I get the frisco melt?”
12:28: From Two Guys table:
— “I only have four dollars.”
12:32: Chile-for-Breakfast Girl at Four Girls table makes a discovery.
— “Oh my god! They gave me four eggs. They were only supposed to give me three.”
12:35: Two Guys table orders. Four Dollar Guy orders a steak dinner.
12:37: Four Girl table is getting quieter; Two Guys table is getting louder.
12:40: Guy #1 and Guy #2 are now exchanging blow job stories. Loudly.
12:41: The term “food-coma” had been thrown down at the Four Girl table. The two girls on the inside of the booth are now leaning against the wall.
12:43: At this point, I now know too much about the Two Guys’ sex lives. I will not make eye contact with them when they leave.
12:46: Table of Three arrives and is seated diagonally from me. They single handedly increase the volume of the entire restaurant.
12:46: Two Guys are discussing hookup etiquette.
— “Kicking girls out in the morning sucks. I feel like such a douchebag. ” (sidebar: you are)
— “Why do you have to kick them out?”
— “Because it’s just what you do.”
12:48: Two Guys’ food arrives
12:49: Five Guys are now seated across from me. (I’m praying for no more sex stories.)
— “Should I get ‘food’ food or just get dessert?”
— “I’ve got a hankering for breakfast.”
12:51: Molly the server is now taking care of Four Girls, Two Guys, Five Guys, and me.
12:52: Four Girls get their checks and leave.
12:52: Five Guys get out of the booth and rearrange their seats.
12:53: Two Girls arrive and land diagonally from me. Molly is also serving them now.
12:56: Molly gave the guy at the Table of Three a high five. I don’t know why.
12:58: A couple is seated where the Four Girls were. The guy touches the table. Looks at his hand. He then pulls out a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer.
1:00: The table of Five Guys has ordered. The kid contemplating just getting dessert did in fact get just dessert. (Apple pie a la mode)
1:01: Five Guys are creating a Russian-roulette inspired game with sugar and salt.
1:02: Game over. Someone named Jake lost.
— “I say we make this a thing every time we come to USD.”
— “What was the point of that game?”
1:05: I order a chicken salad sandwich and a side of fruit.
1:06: From Five Guys:
— “Wait guys. Look at each other very lovingly.”
1:08: The diner seems to be at its peak. I’m starting to get a few awkward looks from customers. #LonelySyd
It has come to the point where I can’t hear any table’s full conversation.
1:11: Something smells amazing, and I hate myself for not ordering whatever it is.
1:12: Fruit arrives. I’ve decided honeydew is a completely underrated fruit.
1:15: Five Guys table is now coming up with Tom Hank’s greatest films. Everyone seems pretty excited about Castaway.
1:15: Two Guys get their bills.
1:16: Two Guys leave. It’s been a little too real.
1:17: Someone at the Five Guys table is attempting to snort sugar. Possibly just for a picture. I’m too afraid to look.
1:18 Chicken salad arrives.
1:19: From Five Guys table:
— “Whenever I am drunk, I want to start an emo band.”
— “Did you just fall asleep?”
1:21: I have not heard a single conversation between the couple at the table Four Girls vacated.
1:23: A member of Five Guys table is having an internal struggle with his drunk cravings.
— “I haven’t eaten meat in 10 years, but whenever I’m drunk I want chicken.”
1:25: I’m hitting the wall and in desperate need of a rally nap.
1:27: I think a couple in the corner is breaking up. I‘m debating live-tweeting it.
1:28: Girl in the Breakup Couple is doing lots of dramatic head nods and has a lip quiver.
1:29: Boy in Breakup Couple just walked away.
1:31: Boy in Breakup Couple returns.
1:33: A large group arrives and blocks my view of the Breakup Couple
1:34: All of the conversations seem to be slowing down. The Five Guys table is now talking about feminism.
1:35: Actually, it’s one guy talking about feminism with no response from the other four.
1:35: — “The whole point of the movement is to end the movement.”
1:36: Waitress brought me my check without me asking for it. I got the hint. I’m going to see if I can stretch this out until 2.
1:37: Actual quote from Five Guys table:
— “There’s less opportunity for him to get pregnant.”
1:40: Three people are now in the booth the non-talking couple vacated. Two of them are making out.
1:41: Feminism talk is still going. Other guys have begun to chime in.
1:43: From the guy at the table with Makeout Couple:
— “How do you feel about Ray Rice.”
— “No, that was Jay-Z.” (Not sure where that came from.)
1:44: From Five Guys table:
— “The one with the megaphone isn’t always right.”
1:45: Quitting time.
While I pack up my things and make my way through the maze of waiting patrons and waiters, it is clear that the almost two hours I spent at the Union Street Diner is just a small slice of what goes on during any given weekend. The place is still packed and hungry groups continue to get their fill of diner classics. The conversations might change, but the atmosphere stays the same. The blast of cold that hits me as I exit shocks me out of the food coma that comes with a meal at the diner. Luckily, I know that feeling will always come with a trip to Union Street Diner. See you next weekend, USD.
Sydney Gardner is a junior strategic communications major at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. She hopes to one day pursue a career in public relations, but until then you can find her on looking at cat videos online or on LinkedIn.