The Young Man and the Diner

Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Sleep

| Senior Scene Editor

“in a room full of peacocks
i am now an ostrich
and i don’t know if any of you know how it feels to be a splash of grey in a room full of brilliant blues and greens
it’s like being a lonely, pitiful cloud against a blue sky with leafy trim” —Kate Lion

“Bed is my friend. Just bed, he thought. Bed will be a great thing.” —Ernest Hemingway

Sometimes in the course of human events, people have controversial ideas that are dangerous and should be heavily analyzed before being acted upon. Human cloning, genetically modified food and Uggs are a few of these. Spending 24 hours at the Peacock Diner is another.

The diner, which opened in 2014, is the most elegantly designed 24-hour diner you’ll find this side of a Norman Rockwell painting. After conceiving the idea last semester, thinking through it, solving some logistical problems and setting up ground rules, I decided to act upon it. With the Peacock general manager’s blessing, I began my journey.

The rules:

• I will arrive at the diner at approximately 8 p.m. Thursday night and leave at 8 p.m. the next day.
• I must not fall asleep. Doing so will result in me being kicked out of the restaurant. This is what the manager told me and I respect her decision.
• I cannot watch Netflix, a movie or anything else that would be “un-diner-like.”
• I can eat and drink whatever I want from the restaurant.
• Friends are allowed visitation rights.
• Wi-Fi, books and magazines are acceptable. (This may be controversial for some readers, but the decision was made that, since I will be spending 24 hours in the same place, concessions toward my overall sanity must be made.)
• I will tweet, write and sketch my experience as often as possible.

The materials:

• Camera
• Sketchbook
• Various pens, pencils
• Deodorant (unused during my stay)
• Fresh shirt, underwear (also unused)
• “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway
• Magazines (GQ, Wired and the New Yorker)
• Laptop/charger (unused for the majority of time)

8:10 p.m.
I, along with a small group of supporters, am seated at a table (the Carousel of Love). “Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who is playing. Pete Townshend, cleanse my soul before this endeavor. The gang’s all here! The last supper. I order a Salmon Club (my favorite here) and fries. Joe Edwards enters soon after. We have similar shoes, but different. I must analyze this further.


9:25 p.m.
The gang’s all gone! I sit in silence. Approximately 23 hours left. There are two occupied booths next to mine. Both lonely men like myself.

9:38 p.m.
One of the two men leaves. The other guy (I will call him Business Guy) has a Dell laptop, possibly signifying he has time traveled from 2005.

9:41 p.m.
I have my first discussion with the waitstaff about why I’m doing this. My waitress is confused but enthusiastic. I have also begun experimenting with the camera. I will master the beast ye’ I am done.

10 p.m.
Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose” just came on. I wish a rose would kiss me right now but without the thorns. The couple at the table next to me is telling ghost stories. I don’t need this right now as I am slowly becoming a ghost myself.

10:08 p.m.
I notice that one of the two ketchup bottles on my table has the Trivial Pursuit logo on it. There is a QR code on the back, which allows one to play an online Heinz/Hasbro Trivial Pursuit game. This is the same bottle that Caity Weaver encountered in her Gawker piece “My 14-Hour Search for the End of TGI Friday’s Endless Appetizers.” I had previously read her piece as inspiration, and I plan on playing the game later as a tribute to her heroism.

10:19 p.m.
I’ve made an important observation. Peacock’s U-shaped bars have lights that slowly change color. At some point in the rotation the lights turn red, dousing the entire room like the inside of some maraschino cherry. Also, there is a point at which the cycle restarts and the lights very clearly change color completely.

10:30 p.m.
My confidence is at its highest point so far. I feel surprisingly normal. Business Guy is still here. He has begun pacing the restaurant, talking on his phone as if to say, “Hey, I’m all about the business, buddy.”

10:46 p.m.
Business Guy is nowhere to be seen. He has become pure synergy and dissipated into the Business Sphere.

10:52 p.m.
I have ordered a cup of tea, “Gunpowder Green” flavored. I contemplate the possibility that the tea company is colorblind but then decide that I have never seen gunpowder in person and it could very well be green.

“Smooth Criminal” by Michael Jackson comes on. Most of this song is just Michael asking, “Annie, are you walking?” I’m glad to see he is concerned about environmentally friendly transportation modes. (Note: I later found out that the actual lyrics are “Annie, are you OK?” In retrospect, this may have been a sign that I was not OK.)

11:01 p.m.
I am looking forward to 11:11. What will I wish for? Deliverance? On Blu-ray? With commentary by Burt Reynolds and the creepy banjo kid?
My new waiter kind of looks like James Franco, and there is an 87-percent chance that it is James Franco. He does not know of my purpose here. I will not tell him.

11:13 p.m.
Missed 11:11.

11:24 p.m.
Fozzie Bear just got stabbed on TV (during an episode of “Robot Chicken”). Late-night Peacock Diner is not for the kids.


11:37 p.m.
Reading a Pharrell interview in GQ. Key Pharrell quote: “You have seven holes in your face.” I spend a few seconds cataloguing my face holes. Do eyes count as holes? They shouldn’t. They’re filled with eyes.

12:00 a.m.
TGIF! Circus music is playing, which downplays the excitement of making it to Friday.

12:13 a.m.
The writer of the Pharrell article used the word “rips—.” This is my new favorite word. A sample sentence I just thought of: “I would go rips— on some Cuban cigars.”

12:25 a.m.
I have begun writing a one-act play entitled “Rips—”.

12:52 a.m.
Neil Young’s “Like A Hurricane” is playing. Neil Young is soloing and it is bada–. Neil Young has recently become one of my favorite guitar soloists.

12:54 a.m.
Guitar solo ends.

12:55 a.m.
Second guitar solo begins. This is a joyous occasion.

12:58 a.m.
Second guitar solo ends. Most would say this is too long for a solo. But in Neil’s hands, it is always just right. He lets the solo breathe where it needs to so that it is never overwrought. He is the master of the one-note solo.

1:12 a.m.
Order apple pie with whipped cream. Review: 3 out of 5 stars. Maybe it had too much cinnamon. Not enough Cinnabon. This apple pie would be better if it was Cinnabon. Peacock Diner would be better if it had a Cinnabon or at least an Auntie Anne’s. How can you call yourself a restaurant without having at least one auxiliary mall food service?

1:37 a.m.
I send an email to one of my writers regarding content. I am feeling productive. A friend texts me mentioning he just experienced deja vu. It is an interesting sensation and one that I should further explore while I have the time.

On deja vu—When we experience deja vu, we are actually experiencing dual universes. It is well established that there are an infinite number of alternate universes (see Futurama “The Farnsworth Parabox” as evidence). Each has its own unique timeline. But chance is a coy mistress and she oft streamlines her workload by combining parts of these universes. Deja vu is the effect. We briefly experience having “been here before,” except that “here” is hardly near and “before” is now. We are living dual lives. It is a true blessing—to see across space —if there ever was one.

1:45 a.m.
“Wonderwall” by Oasis is playing. I love the Breetels and this is their best song. I wish Rick had never married Bono and broken up the band.

Sometime around 2 a.m.
My friend Rima appears out of nowhere from the back of the restaurant. I have no idea how she got here, but she promises that I can eat some of her Red Velvet Waffle when it arrives.

2:34 a.m.
I eat a packet of honey, just straight up eat it. I am surprised at the volume and viscosity of the honey. 5 out of 5 stars.

3:50 a.m.
I have scanned the QR code on the back of the ketchup bottle. The Trivial Pursuit questions are mildly difficult. Rima leaves, possibly because I am too much of a trivia pro and she is jealous.

4 a.m.
I finish the game of Trivial Pursuit and receive the Heinz/Hasbro coupons I was told I would receive by Gawker’s Caity Weaver. Thank you, Caity, for your guidance. Notably, there is still one customer left in the diner.

4:10 a.m.
I just imagined a faraway group of ketchup bottles was a familiar face. What’s worse is I was more excited to realize they were just ketchup bottles.

4:15 a.m.
Now, a brief attempt at non-existential journalism: I’m actually surprised at the Peacock Diner’s number of late-night patrons, even on a Thursday. Several groups came in past 1 a.m. The staff is mostly cleaning at this point, but they are still friendly. My new waiter (the third) spends some time talking to me about my plan. He is kind and this keeps my spirits up. He mentions that he will be leaving soon but that he will be back at 7 p.m. tomorrow. I assure him that I, sadly, will be here then as well.

4:20 a.m.
Blaze it! By “blaze” I mean “read” because I have started reading “The Old Man and the Sea.” Will Hemingway’s sparse prose affect mine? Is he the Ginsberg to my Dylan? The Peacock to my Joe Edwards? Only time will tell.

4:27 a.m.
The last customer besides me leaves.


4:48 a.m.
The jukebox shuts down, but the radio is still playing. “Wonderwall” somehow plays again, bringing me fresh madness. I wonder if Jim really is dead. Is he the egg-guy in that song? Then who wrote “Maybe I’m a Maze”? A fake Jim, I suppose. I miss the Breetels. Listening to “Wonderwall,” I wonder who will be the one that saves me? Will it be Praul or Jim or Rinse or Jam? Or will I—must I—save myself?

5:13 a.m.
I have noticed slight discrepancies between the tiles in the main restaurant and those in the bathroom. The center tiles in the restaurant are blue while those in the bathroom are white.

5:23 a.m.
Consistently good classic rhythm and blues is playing. “Let’s Stay Together,” “My Girl,” “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.”

6:26 a.m.
The old man is far out at sea, with little food or water, and yet the fish pulls on.

6:28 a.m.
One of the employees shoots me a peace sign as he walks out. I haven’t spoken to him at all, but I wave back, confirming our unspoken bond. The fish pulls on.

6:30 a.m.
The first customer of the day arrives.

6:45 a.m.
I go outside to take pictures of the daylight. This will be my only excursion outside the restaurant until the end of my journey. I justify it because, hey, my article needs photos, doesn’t it? I wear my peacoat and imagine I am James Dean. The pictures are pretty bad.


7:08 a.m.
I order breakfast. The Loop Sling with bacon and potatoes. My mom sends me several pictures of my dog, which are extremely comforting in my fragile mental state.

7:38 a.m.
Jackie Wilson’s “Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher” plays for the third time, beating out “Wonderwall” as the most-played song at Peacock Diner.

8:08 a.m.
I realize that the lack of blue tiles on the bathroom floor is likely because of the large blue tiles on the bathroom wall. This is what is known as cohesive design.

8:10 a.m.
Twelve hours I have been here. Well, I guess my date stood me up. I should have known when she said, “I’d never go on a date with you.” All this waiting has been for naught.

8:52 a.m.
I go very quickly from being completely awake to “I want to sleep right now.” Twelve hours is enough, right? Is this even that interesting of an idea? People stay awake all the time. This whole endeavor is selfish and egocentric and dumb.

9:05 a.m.
My thigh just involuntarily twitched as if my body is telling me something. What could it be? Leave! I want to leave. All the waiters are confused by my presence. This whole thing is unnecessary.

9:24 a.m.
I am more awake now, but my mind is drifting to and fro.

9:57 a.m.
So far “The Old Man and the Sea” has accurately matched the narrative arc of my journey, except with fewer fish and baseball references. I recommend the book if you want to more fully understand my experience.

11:12 a.m.
I missed 11:11 again. I will have to wait for my Blu-ray edition of “Deliverance.” I haven’t talked to a waiter since the post-breakfast check pickup. Have I become a ghost?

11:35 a.m.
I finish “The Old Man and the Sea.” It is clear that the Peacock Diner is my fish. The sharks will devour it. No, it is clear that the article is the fish. I am the old man. The peacocks are the sharks. The boy is also me. I have much to learn from myself. I am closer now to enlightenment than before.


12:02 p.m.
Fewer than eight hours left. The 12-hour mark was by far the most difficult, and my self-doubt is now dissipating.

12:07 p.m.
Joe Returns. The Return of Joe. Joe 2: The Joe-ening.

12:57 p.m.
I have carefully portioned out a basket of fries so that they last about 45 minutes. This will be my lunch. My editor, Zach Kram, has promised that he will visit me for lunch, thus re-establishing my contact with the outside world.

1:22 p.m.
Zach arrives. We discuss literature and other fancy topics. I order the Olive You Cracker (a Triscuit topped with Cheez Whiz and an olive). So much Cheez Whiz overwhelms my every taste bud and gums up my mouth.

2:30 p.m.
My friends Maddie and Becca arrive with gifts of frankincense and myrrh. They mention that I am speaking about 30 percent slower than normal and have been laughing at things more than usual. They assure me I am most certainly not OK. Zach departs sometime after, his shift keeping me sane complete.

3:20 p.m.
Another friend, Megan, arrives. I still don’t know how to tell my new waiter (the fifth) why I am here, so Megan explains for me. He is understanding and supportive. I order my first cup of coffee ever. My waiter, Eldridge, says he will give it to me free because of my bravery. He recommends two creams and two sugars in the coffee.


The coffee is sweet, bearable and kind of bitter. I don’t think this will be an addiction. Becca mentions that I have a vein popping out of my forehead that’s not usually there. I spend the next 15 minutes inspecting my veins, making sure they aren’t doing anything crazy.

3:59 p.m.
“Badlands” by my musical savoir Bruce Springsteen comes on the jukebox. Key lyric: “I believe in the faith and I pray that someday it may raise me above these badlands.”

4:20 p.m.
Maddie and Megan have left. Becca stays, working on schoolwork. I begin working on my other StudLife article for the week, a comprehensive ranking of the Matthew McConaughey Lincoln car commercials (check out my article in Cadenza).

4:37-5:13 p.m.
I have been drawing various things in my sketchbook, including a megaphone, a wiener-dog-alligator hybrid and, not surprisingly, a peacock. I wonder whether these have any meaning. I will consult my analyst at a later date.

5:04 p.m.
My dad texts me to inform me that I have 177 minutes left. This is both disheartening and encouraging. My time left here can be expressed in triple digits.


5:50 p.m.
My friends have all departed, promising to return at 8 p.m. to bring me home. I must decide whether to eat my final meal at Peacock or not. I will likely cave to salad. The “Simpsons” quote database in my mind reminds me, “You don’t win friends with salad.”

6:30 p.m.
A surprise visit from Phil (of the fabled Philippe sandwich). We have dinner together (I order a salad) and discuss music, life, friends and other important matters.

7:55 p.m.
Maddie and Becca return, signifying that I will leave soon. I go to the jukebox to select my final song: “Time” by Tom Waits. It’s a slow, elegiac look at the downcast outskirts of American culture that seems entirely appropriate. The Friday night crowd looks around confused while I smile maniacally in appreciation of Waits’ lyricism. Key lyric: “And it’s time, time, time, and it’s time, time, time that you love, and it’s time, time, time.”

8 p.m.


If I have one regret, it is that I did not spend exactly 24 hours at the Peacock. In my rush to leave, I forgot my original arrival time of 8:10 p.m., making my stay only 23 hours and 50 minutes. This fact does not delegitimize my experience. When you don’t sleep, the divisions of days, hours and minutes are insignificant. Time stretches out before us endlessly and we are doomed and blessed to move through it.

If I have two regrets, the second would be that after leaving, I agreed to go to a friend’s apartment to eat cookies. During the hour I was there, I experienced memory dissociation, slight blackouts and nausea. Also, I said the words “Obama and a skull full of biblical locusts” at some point.


One thing I noticed over my visit is the beauty in the duality of loneliness and companionship that a diner provides. I was both completely alone (save for the employees) and kept company by friends and family through texts, calls and visits. There is something essentially American about the all-night diner, something integral in the mix of milkshakes and fries, pop standards branded in your brain, slouching drunkards and reconciling lovers. No wonder our artists from all modes have spent years depicting diners. We never truly leave the diner. I’m not sure I ever can.

Final Statistics:

Waiters: 6
Trips to the bathroom: 8-plus (I stopped counting at some point)
Meals eaten: 4 square meals, plus snacks
Times I heard “Wonderwall”: 2
Times I heard “Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher”: 3
Money spent: $32.34 plus tips
Free food: 1 cup of coffee, 1 salad
Hours awake: 26 and a half (7 p.m. Thursday to 9:30 p.m. Friday)
Number of Peacocks: Infinite

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