The wife and I dined at Shoney’s for Sunday brunch, both because we were very hungry, but also because I’d been suffering from a bit of constipation. Shoney’s buffet, we knew, would cure both.
Shortly after we were seated, a family consisting of a grandmother and four children–two boys and two girls of the age range of 7ish to 15ish–were seated at the table next to us. Eavesdropping on their conversations quickly became our mealtime entertainment. For instance, when the waitress explained that Shoney’s Sunday buffet contained both lunch and breakfast items, the youngest girl beamed with amazement and proclaimed “I like lunch and breakfast!”
“Yeah, I think she’s my favorite human, now,” I told my wife. For I also like lunch and breakfast.
We got some lunch and breakfast for ourselves from the buffet and a few minutes later the family members filtered up for their own grub. When the kids returned to the table, they were all atwitter about something. It was hard to determine what exactly they were excited about, but eventually we got enough clues to start piecing things together.
“Who is Tiger Woods?” the younger brother said.
“You don’t know who Tiger Woods is?” the older brother replied.
“No,” younger brother said. “Who is Tiger Woods?”
“He plays golf,” the older sister said. “Professionally,” she added. “At the Greenbrier,” she finished.
Oh, I thought. maybe they had watched some of the PGA Open a few weeks back. I assume he played in it, but I didn’t go and didn’t even watch any of it on TV, since my sports intake is pretty much limited to the Olympics and American Ninja Warrior. Then the older sister threw a wrench into my theory.
“He looks really young. I can’t believe I was standing right next to him,” she said. At first I thought she meant that she’d attended the PGA and must have somehow stood beside him there. Why this would come up again so long later, I wasn’t sure, but that was my working theory. My alternate theory was that he was in town again and was playing golf at the Greenbrier and the family had somehow seen him there. However, the way the two sisters on the opposite side of the table kept craning their necks to look toward the buffet in the room behind me gave me pause. I knew it was possible that Tiger was in the area, but was it somehow also possible that he was dining at Shoney’s? The girls kept craning to see.
“Do they mean Tiger Woods is here?” I whispered to the wife.
“No,” she said. “Tiger Woods would never eat at Shoney’s.”
“I dunno,” I said. “I think he’s demonstrated something of a taste for diner waitresses.”
The wife was not amused by this. She added that if Tiger Woods was really in the restaurant there would be far more excitement and whispering and craning among all the other tables.
A few minutes later, the waitress returned to the other table and the Tiger topic was still going strong.
“Did you know Tiger Woods is here?” the youngest girl asked the waitress.
“Oh, is he playing at the Greenbrier?” the waitress asked.
“No. I mean he’s here! He’s in Shoney’s!” the younger sister replied excitedly.
“We stood beside him in line,” the older sister confirmed.
“You did?” the waitress said in a confused tone. She looked around, but didn’t seem to see him.
My wife shook her head. “See, if Tiger was here the staff would have been told in advance about it.”
I wasn’t convinced they would, but I was also far from convinced Tiger Woods was breathing the same air as me. I finished my last bite of cheese grits and decided to go back to the bar, both for round two and for a scouting expedition to see if I could figure out who it was in the restaurant that those girls thought was Tiger Woods. I looked all around, scanning the horseshoe of booths near the bar, the double rows of booths stretching toward the cash register and front door, and the back room where gatherings are sometimes held. They were all full but I didn’t see any customers who could remotely be mistaken for Tiger Woods. In fact, the only African American male I could see in the place was a waiter, who in no way resembled Tiger Woods. Maybe these kids were racist and couldn’t distinguish between different black people.
Throughout the rest of our meal, the kids continued to talk about Tiger Woods, and crane their necks, and go back to the bar. Each time they returned they seemed to have a new story about seeing him again. I was on the verge of asking where he was, but decided that it would just lead to the kids’ illusions being shattered when I pointed out that whoever it was they thought was Tiger Woods was not really him, which was the most likely scenario to me. Let the kids keep their story. It was time for us to leave. Shoney’s had done it’s job.
The coda to this tale is that days later, while attending a public event in town, I was SHOCKED to my core to see a dude at the same event who was the spitting image of Tiger Woods. The guy was clearly 20 years younger than Tiger Woods himself, so I knew he wasn’t the genuine article. But he was dressed in a collared golf shirt and was wearing a ball cap much like ones Tiger might wear, and looked to all appearances like a long-lost Woods son. Just to make sure I wasn’t crazy, I asked a friend to take a peek for confirmation that the guy really did look like Tiger Woods. He confirmed it. Now, I don’t know for certain that this was the guy the kids saw during lunch and breakfast that Sunday, as I didn’t see him myself, but now I have to think it was highly probable. Of course the only way to know for sure would be to ask him, or to subtly inquire as to the regularity of his bathroom habits over the previous week. But I didn’t want to have that conversation. And so it will remain something of a mystery.