Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Lane Lady

Monday morning – 8:30 AM

“Hey YOU! GIRL! Why are you yawning, EH why are you yawning? You think you have the right to yawn? I’ve been working my whole life and YOU’RE yawning! YOU have no right to be tired. IM TIRED!”

“Morning Martha, how are you today?”

“I’m going to call the labour division on you, you know, they will straighten you out! YOU are a bad worker, I’ve seen you. I’m going to call the boss and get you fired! I’m going to tell your husband you are a terrible waitress!”

“Martha, I’m not married...I don’t have a husband.”

“Yes you do, his name is Hank and he works at Tbaytel...and I’m calling him today to tell him how badly you do your job. He will not be happy, no he won’t.”

“Would you like some more coffee Martha?”

“WHY WOULD I want more coffee? You are so .... terrible service....” Her berating rant becomes muffled as I walk towards the back of the restaurant.

I would never marry someone named Hank.

Mornings with the Lane Lady are always tiring.

I slam the coffee pot down on the heater, and upon hearing the satisfying sizzle of evaporating water, let out a deep sigh that I feel will be the first of many. I jab my fingers into my temples: it’s going to be a long day.

Although I didn’t know her real name until I came to work at this small breakfast place this summer, the Lane Lady has been a figure in my life ever since I was a kid.

There is no complicated story behind her nickname, given that children were the ones to bestow it. Her “house”, a sad wreck of twisting weeds and garbage, backs onto a sundrenched, verdant lane, which would have been an ideal place to play, had one not been besieged by a surprisingly fast old woman, heaving brooms and profanities in your general direction. Thus: The Lane Lady.

The Lane Lady, when not guarding her lane, was also a prominent and popular figure on the side of two major intersections near my childhood home, as well as the restaurant I eventually came to work for. Here, one of her daily past times was, and still is, to hurl upraised, enraged fists at the passing cars. Although I don’t know her reasons in particular, it is clear if you watch her that there is method and technique to what she is an art form. For any common vehicle that passes, one can expect to receive a simple but effective close fisted jab indicating her pointed outrage, reminiscent of a revolutionary speaker or perhaps dictator of a fascist country (either way it is very opinionated). Particular vehicles though, which mine was, would receive a special signal. She would first turn herself completely away from the road, showing the oncoming offensive object her back, and then in a feat of impressively swift and flexible manoeuvring, twist her fisted arm backwards and towards the vehicle, shaking aggressively without missing a beat.

So it came to be that when I arrived to work for my third waitressing shift: fresh faced, trained and ready to please, I was shocked to see the lane lady hunched at counter seat number 4, sporting the same grimy over sized blue trench coat I had seen her in for the past 12 years. Her grey hair matted around her face: etched with deep angry lines, which I imagine were the result of years of scowling.

“Wow she is really small close up”

That was my first thought.

Then I was sharply nudged by my supervisor.

“Have you served her before?”


She smiled broadly, obviously amused, “Have fun”.

This brings me to now, five weeks later, 8:30 am on a Monday morning: the beginning of a long shift. Martha’s sharp grumbling voice breaks through the rest of the murmuring early morning breakfast crowd.

I stand in the kitchen taking deep breaths, sweating from the humidity of the August weather, the hot grill, and the lack of a good air conditioning system. The frustration that usually subsides after being on the receiving end of a Lane Lady tirade does not dissipate and begins to form the hint of a migraine behind my eyes. I turn to glare at her from behind the shelves of the back kitchen. She has absurdly arched herself over the surface of the counter, straining to reach the garbage can meant for staff on the other side. As she reaches across the space she tosses each of her used creamers in, childlike, one at a time, watching them fall. These are then followed by her used napkin and her dirty paper place mat. Afterwards she picks up her grocery bags and begins to button up her coat, despite the balmy air.

I have never seen another customer throw out their own garbage and in the lacklustre dregs of a summer job this is a marvel.

As she shuffles away towards the exit, I am reminded of how, upon first seeing her up close, she had seemed so impossibly small and breakable. The frustration slips away then and I hurry to the front cash.

“Have a good morning Martha; it’s a nice day out today”

She turns to me with no spark of recognition in her eyes, and I think for a moment she is going to tell me to “Go get a job you lazy bum!” (one of her favourites). But instead the deep angry lines at the edges of her mouth appear to turn upwards “Yes, yes, yes, yes... very nice day out today, goodbye”.

When I drive home six hours later, reeking of eggs and greasy bacon, I roll to a stop at a red light. I wave to the dirty blue back and angry waiving fist of the figure resolutely positioned away from my car on the grassy knoll a few feet away. I laugh and then breathe out a long sigh, for what is probably the 42nd time that day.


  1. Great stuff and funny. I like the title At Your Service. Joan

  2. When I began reading, I will admit, the dialogue at the beginning made me a little confused. However, when you then changed tone and style, I realized that the conversation served as a type of scene to set up the story. I really liked the rest. I don't know how to describe it, butc certain phrases that you used just sounded really great and made me want to keep reading, because the words just flowed together really well and made a perfect image in my mind. One part that stuck out was "to hurl upraised, enraged fists at the passing cars." Not only is this descriptive, but your word choice sounds good too and I am compelled to read on.
    Lastly, I especially liked how you set up conflict, yet didn't completely resolve it. The Lane Lady smiled. Why? Is she actually nice? Is she not what you expected? But then why was she still back in her lane at the end of your shift? I liked that ambiguous ending. Thanks for posting this!

  3. Meghan, I loved your intro conversation. I felt like I was reading a script to a movie, I just kept wanting to read the dialog between you and the lane lady. I felt this was a very effective way to catch the reader’s attention. I also felt that that changing your style helped with the tone and flow of the blog. You made the conversation long enough to have a fluent conversation between two people but short enough that the reader did not get board and stop reading. I liked how you changed the style to later clarify the beginning conversation. The blog was fun to read and most of all I loved the humor in your title; it was what first made me want to read the blog. Great Job!

  4. I loved the dialogue parts of the story. Each character had their own voice, and you gave the Lane Lady a rich character. I have the worst attention span, but even your long paragraphs were fun to read. I liked how you described her at the end. It was almost cartoon like thinking of the lady shaking her fist. Very fun post.

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  6. Wow, Meghan! I want to make a larger comment than this, but for now, a small note should suffice until I have more time: Fantastic stuff! I really enjoyed the ebb and flow of it, the dialogue, as others have said, and just the general believability of it! It's really a great bit of work! I'm quite intrigued!

    *hits the follow button*

    Be well, seeyou in class!

    (PS I spelt your name incorrectly the first time, so I figured I'd do a bit of justice and delete and repost my comment Hahaha!)

  7. Little late but I finally am able to post! I really enjoyed this story it is very humerous and I really enjoyed the beginning of the story. I really liked your use of diction in some parts but especially when you are describing her hands "upraised, enraged fists". Good job! Excellent read.

  8. Hello Meghan!

    You have a great sense of humor and timing. I actually chuckled out loud several times, funny stuff! There are a lot of great moments in your piece, but the parts concerning childhood memories with the lane lady are really a step above. Excellent imagery and you skillfully created a believable larger than life character in the Lane Lady.

    Awesome job, I look forward to the next one!

    - Jeremy