For the last ten years, I've enjoyed picking my sons up from school at lunchtime and taking them to the nearby Pizza Hut for the lunch buffet there. My schedule this semester doesn't permit me to do that as often as I'd like now, but I was able to fit it in yesterday. It was only my second time there this school year, and the first in over a month.
I was surprised to see only two cars in the parking lot when I pulled into the restaurant at about 11:25. In the recent past, the joint would be jumping at that hour, full of high school students, healthcare workers, tradesmen, and the obese. I had the fleeting thought: are they closed? Was there a botulism outbreak I didn't hear about?
But no: the Pizza Hut was open, though no food was on the buffet yet, which was also unusual. Apart from my son and me, there were only two customers in the place.
I talked with Cindy, the waitress who has served us for a decade or more. "It's been like this," she shrugged. "People are just staying home more, not spending money if they don't have to." Another fleeting thought crossed my mind: how long will they survive with so few lunchtime customers?
By the time we left the restaurant at 11:45, there were more people there. I felt somewhat relieved--until I recalled that we used to pass by people lined up to come in at that hour as we exited. They just weren't there.
OK, it was Monday--but I couldn't help but read the relative quiet of the Pizza Hut as evidence that our economy is in serious trouble.