2007-11-03

Amber and Nerds

Around noon on Friday my cell phone rang. Being a pretty slow day, I decided to answer it even though I was at work. It was Grandpa. His computer was on the fritz. I get these kind of phone calls all the time from family, but this is the first time from Grandpa. Most people have to endure a little needling from me when they call for computer help: "Sounds like a PBKAC error", "Are you sure it's plugged in?", "Computers only do what you TELL them to do." But I spared Grandpa; anyone who's 82 years old and uses a computer is pretty savvy in my book.

So, I went out to see them this afternoon. When I arrived, the computer seemed to be behaving itself. False alarm. This also happens a lot. Infernal contraption. Once the computer figures out that I'm coming, it decides to behave itself, just like a child that's no longer sick one you suggest that they have to see the doctor. But, for my trouble, Grandpa and Grandma took me out to one of their favorite places, the restaurant Amber.

See, I know what you're thinking. "Amber? That sounds posh." Well, let's clear that misconception right away. My grandma explained that Amber is probably a step below the Chuck-A-Rama. As we walked up, Grandma said, "This is where your parents had their wedding luncheon." Eying the drab brown exterior I asked, "Has it changed much since then?" Grandpa butted in, "I don't think it's changed AT ALL."

Amber is the antithesis of dining today. No rowdy mixed drink menu, no trendy decorations, no overpriced signature dishes. Here, the flatware is from Wal-mart, the mashed potatoes are still instant, and the only lettuce is iceberg. As Grandma put it, "We like this place because it's just ordinary. Ordinary people eating ordinary food." Grandpa then added, "Well, the clientèle does border on geriatric, but we're okay with that."

Anyplace that offers 10 dollar prime rib is okay in my book. I had mine with the instant mashed potatoes, doused in gravy from a mix, and a vegetable medley that I'm guessing made it's journey to the restaurant in a frozen bag. And you know what? It was all deeply satisfying, both the company and the cuisine.

During dinner, Grandma asked me about work. She said that she had tried to explain to one of her neighbors what I do but ended up saying that I was a "computer nerd." She said she thought "computer genius" was a little boastful and hoped that computer nerd was okay. I told her it was just fine by me. It's both a badge of honor and the simplest way to explain my job.

And that's quintessential Grandpa and Grandma. They don't mince words, and in a very complex world, they remind me of how simple life can be. Grandma explained: "Every day, I wake up and say 'Good morning Old Man', and your grandfather says, 'Good morning Old Woman'... Every night, it's 'Good night Old Man' and 'Good night Old Woman.'" Way to tell it like it is, Grandma.

And as I watched them walk out of the restaurant Amber, I watched those two 82 year-olds hold hands. That's them -- food and life: uncomplicated.