For all their bulges, rolls and jowls, the staff is constantly in motion--cracking a joke here, refilling a coffee there, and even pointing out the napkin dispenser, with its never-ending supply of thin, papery, slightly absorbent tissues, to the uninitiated.
The dishes are without fail fried on the grill. The walls may be grimy, the menu frayed at the edges where the lamination is coming apart and the photographs on the wall might be faded and sun bleached, but by God that flat silver surface will be pristine and perfect. Usually with a whole mess of bacon or potatoes slowly crackling in mounded waves at the far corner of the grill.
Every dish comes with toast in either white or wheat. It's ubiquitous. Accompanying either are vegetable spreads that glow a brilliant white-yellow that to the bleary-eyed and lazy tongued could be mistaken for real butter. There is also the option to shimmy out a perfectly rectangular mixed berry globule, usually some combination of grape, strawberry or raspberry, from a plastic container to be smashed and smeared across the toast's surface.
The coffee is instant, but black and hearty enough to cut through the grease from the fried foods. The ketchup is called catsup, but still glows a robust red. You can cover pretty much any dish in chili, except for Gladys (who I'm told was once quite the dish).
The patrons are polite, but respectful, which is as it should be.They still read newspapers the old fashioned way, which is also as it should be.
If all this sounds like your local diner, chances are it is the very same one. The name outside may vary and the box scores might relate to a different team, but once those eggs-over-easy break open and ooze into the hash browns, brother, you know you're home in the heartland of America.