The Ovaltine Cafe: the Eavesdropping Part


 Wednesday, September 25, 2002


Let me preface today's entry with the warning: never, ever, no matter how good the idea seems at the time, put your computer in your bedroom. I saw the sunrise this morning before I got to sleep, and checked email before getting out of bed today.


And now back to our regularly scheduled writing…


Good service, good food, great sleazy and desperate atmosphere, and absolutely outstanding eavesdropping. Yup, that's the Ovaltine. What more could you ask for except that they'd put a few more fries on the plate? And I would ask that, as if it would do me any good.


Once I was sitting there in a booth, not my accustomed booth, as that one was occupied; I may say it was beyond its safe capacity and was in fact dangerously overloaded, like a freight elevator with a pod of orcas in it. Yes, that's the metaphor, for sure.


They were all mightly fine looking fellows, and healthy, too, not a skinny or craggy junkie among them, so I immediately assumed they were mid-level dealers. Turns out I was wrong.


Twelve eyes gave me a very critical look when I came in, and an even more critical one when I sat down directly across the aisle, but I don't take crap from any dealers, however buff. Besides, they were, to a man, wearing cheap plaid shirts and jeans. I mean really; who takes attitude from a lumberjack, at least if he doesn't have the saw right handy? So there they were, in my booth, the six of them, all fit, all in their twenties or early thirties, all with nice short haircuts, the kind your mother likes to see on your boyfriend, white as Wonderbread, and all in plaidrags; it was like a uniform or something. Or something…


And they were all leaning in, listening very intently as one of them whispered into a cellphone:


"He's right outside. Is he smoking up? Well, walk by him and smell it…
Can you get him to sell you some?
Well then go inside! I don't know, make something up!"


A stakeout. Cool.


At this point one of the undercovers squirmed around in his seat and started filming with a camcorder, focusing on the Savoy Hotel across the street. Must be a pretty good lens to film anything useful through a dirty window and across six lanes, but what do I know? I was keeping my head down and pretending to be mesmerized by my fries, a difficult assignment indeed, given that my serving only contained about twelve fries to begin with. Even stretching it out, I was eventually going to run out of reasons to stay in the booth. It was kind of challenging: every time the cops did something interesting, like whip out a cellphone or a GPS or a camcorder, they'd swivel their heads in unison, like some six-headed monster, and stare at me a long moment. I would look at my fries, dum-de-dum, dum-de-dum, just look at them fries! Sure are fried up real good. Then they would go ahead and do whatever it was they were going to do, resigning themselves either to my apparent stupidity or to the limitations of peripheral vision. But I have very good peripheral vision.


After about six of these cellphone confabs, GPS trackings, surreptitious filmings, and after they saw me order a bonus round of fries so I could hang around longer, they gave up and just let it all hang out, popping right out of the booth to stand in the aisle for a better camera angle, or walking to the back room for better reception. One went to the men's room, but I think he was just going for the regular reason. Don't know what he saw there, but he came back scared. Another guy was going to go and he stopped him.


"Believe me, you want to hold it. You really want to hold it."


About ten minutes later they got a call on the cell (yes, it had a cute ring, I think it was Beethoven's Ninth, though O Canada would have been an appropriate choice, or maybe something from the musical ride…wait, don't they use Beethoven on the musical ride…so there you go) and their leader, Grey Plaid Shirt Boy, actually used the words, "Let's roll!" and they did.


If I'd had my bill I'd have rolled right on out with them, but I had to hang behind and pay. Damn!

6 thoughts on “The Ovaltine Cafe: the Eavesdropping Part

  1. I would NEVER use the bathroom at the Ovaltine. Ack. (and the fry orders seem smaller — must be the new owners?)

    But man, that’s funny.

    “Let’s roll!”

  2. The new owners have cheaped out on a number of things, I must say. At least they’re not serving customers themselves anymore: They truly, truly sucked at it.

    I’ve never seen the bathrooms at the Ovaltine. Too scared of the possibilities to even look. Perhaps I should go, but take a camera and some Raid.

  3. By the way, are you shitting us? Did these undercover cops really say “Let’s roll!”??? Man, they must watch too much TV!

  4. hi does anyone remember the rissoles on the ovaltine menue in the 60s best ever, i can still taste them .mmmm

  5. No, but now I’m hungry. Thanks so much, I think.

    The burgers are getting a bit smaller, I must say. They no longer actually come out to the edges of the buns. It’s okay with me, since I’m on a diet and basically take the “official” calorie count for baconcheesemushroomburger and fries and divide by half. Yay! I can still “afford” the Ovaltine on my diet!

    I went in there the other day and they actually asked where I’d been, since they hadn’t seen me in a few weeks. Alas, dieting but still fat. So now every time I rollerblade I promise myself half a House burger and fries. Two skates = one order. Yay! I only hope I keep up the income to afford this, cuz that’s a helluvan incentive.

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