July 27, 2007

Bushwackers (8200 SW Tonka, Tualatin)

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Eating alone is a familiar experience for me. I exercised my nerves deliberately years ago when I moved to Portland and wanted to go out to eat, but didn't know anyone to invite. So I braved it alone. And now I am pretty good at it.

The place that I practiced the most at was Bushwackers, in Tualatin. I worked up the street and Bushwackers provided a dark, smoky respite where I could hide from the intensity of payroll and customer service for an hour in the middle of the day and eat whatever I wanted without anyone knowing.

At first I went there once a week, then twice a week, then several times a week. Terri was always my waitress and after only a couple of weeks, she would see me walk in the door at 11:30 and bring me a diet Coke before I even had a chance to think about it. I could read a book or do my homework, just barely in the dimly lit dance hall. And often I attempted it. But truthfully, I really just liked to people watch.

There was one man who liked to dance, even when he was the only one on the dance floor in the middle of the day. Then there was Mr. Smokes. He came in every day for lunch with his wife and adult son and the three of them ate their lunch, smoking, chatting and coughing. One time I went in and there was a woman with her child sitting at the bar, even though there are plenty of signs saying no minors allowed at any time. Immediately my head went to that terrible Reese Witherspoon movie Sweet Home Alabama, where she sees her friend and says "Oh! You have a baby. In a bar." The best line of the movie.

Anyway, the thing about Terri. She could almost always guess what I was going to order. I went in phases. First it was the chili dog, which was a huge beef hot dog, smothered with hearty chili (from a can, I'm sure) and cheese and onions. Then they discontinued that and I went into the chili burger phase. For a while, Terri would just bring me the chili burger, without me even ordering it. Which was nice. But when I realized that I might die from chili burger poisioning (a.k.a. a heart attack), I started ordering food that I imagined was more healthy - like the tuna melt. That was a long phase, too and not really that healthy. Then I had the chinese salad. A bit too sweet for me. Then there was the BLT. Probably my best choice.

"How ya doing, hon?" Terri always said. And sometimes when she asked me what I wanted, I would say, "It's been a bad day. Give me a chili burger." She would wink and say, "with cheese and onions, right?" Like somehow that little extra cheese and onions was going to fix me right up. Maybe it wasn't the cheese and onions. Maybe it was her smile, her wink, her calling me hon that fixed me right up.

At Christmas time, I always meant to bring her cookies or bread or some type of confection to acknowledge that she was the best damn waitress I ever had. But I never did. It's been a while since I've been back to Bushwackers and I don't work in Tualatin anymore, so it will be a while longer, I imagine.

But Terri, if you're reading - you are the best damn waitress I ever had.


Sara McOllie said...

I used to go to a cafe by my work; one of those places where you would order at the counter. Well, I always ordered the same thing and it got to the point that I would walk in, he would place the order and then I would pay. Given that there was always a long line, I it would save me quite a bit of time. When the manager would help me, I would always get a free soda out of the deal.

There is something to be said for Cheers. It feels good to find a place where they know your name and what you want to eat.