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She held the phone in front of her face and yelled into it, “The windshield wiper motor is done gone bad and they want $300 to replace it and to fix up some other stuff. I ain’t got no $300 to spend on my car. I guess I’ll just hafta stop drivin’ in the rain.”

The phone was on speaker so we all got to hear a bit of her friend’s attempts to console her. The consolation included exclamations of sorrow, some commiserations regarding her situation, and a scathing rebuke of the auto repair industry.

“I don’t need no sympathy!” our fellow diner loudly retorted. “I can take care of my business. I ain’t no charity case.”

The friend’s response got lost in the clatter of dishes and the clang of clean silverware being dumped in a container at a nearby server station.

“I don’t need you all up in my bizness,” she roared into the phone. “You just need to keep yer nose on yer face.”

Of course, we were all up in her business. We couldn’t help but be. Everyone within 50 yards was all up in her business. She sat in the far corner of the Cozy Corner Cafe, her grinding voice echoing in every nook and cranny of the restaurant.

Despite being upset at her friend’s nosiness, the conversation raged on. The auto industry was bad. The government was pure evil. The church, since Pastor Bill had gone, was not doing well, either. Friends and family members were worthless in times of trouble. “Ain’t nobody gives a hoot ’bout no poor old lady.” She shouted, and we heard it all.

A couple in the next booth complained to our server about the noise. The server shrugged her shoulders and went and whispered something to the manager, who grimaced and made the trek over to our loud friend. She whispered softly to the woman. I couldn’t make out what she said. “Wait a minute!” the woman hollered into her phone. “The waitress is tryin’ to tell me somethin’ … .”

The owner repeated what she’d said. The woman responded, “Yer gonna hafta speak up, darlin’, I’m deaf as a stump!”

The third repetition was louder and firmer. “Would you please turn down the volume. You’re being so loud it’s disturbing our other customers.”

“They’re tellin’ me I’m bein’ too loud,” she bellowed into the phone. “I gotta go.” She scanned her phone, searching for which button to hit. She finally found it and hit it with a vengeance. She looked up, glaring at us, slowly going table by table around the room. Lots of eyes were suddenly looking at the floor.

“Sorry, everybody!” she shouted to nobody in particular. “Didn’t mean no harm.” She sopped a slice of sourdough toast into the runny, sunny-side-up eggs and devoured it in two large bites. She sat in silence. We all did.

The folks who had complained about her noise waved our server over and asked to pay her bill. The server looked confused, but eventually produced the check. “Please don’t tell her it was us,” the man said. “Just tell her it’s a gift from a stranger.”

Fifteen minutes later, her plate cleaned, she called out for her check. The server quietly said something and the lady looked up at her sharply. “Ya mean somebody just paid it outta kindness? Hmm. Maybe people ain’t so bad after all.”

She gathered up a large cloth bag and her oversized black purse and tottered to the door. She turned back and waved, “Thank y’all. Have a good day now.”

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