I’m a sucker for the stereotypical American diner at night — there’s something almost spiritual in watching a big slice of a city’s insomniacs gather to gorge on unhealthy food and too much caffeine.
So, a few weeks after moving to Middletown, I’m delighted to discover the Colonial Diner, just a few blocks from my house.
With fake leather seats and flowered upholstery, wood paneling, a bar that snakes around the kitchen and a paper Jesus watching over the cash register, it fits all my expectations.
But it goes above and beyond with Betty O’Rourke.
Five nights a week, from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m., the tiny 63-year-old is there, serving up the diner’s infamous cheese fries and gravy.
Without a smile.
In fact, during 13 years of working at the diner, Betty’s become something of a legend, a fact that seems to make her proud.
“I have a reputation,” she says simply as she wipes the counter during a lull in the early hours of a Wednesday morning. “I’m that mean old lady in the diner.”