First Watch


by Ed Chasteen

The sun is out. The sky is blue. My car themometer on the way here said 3 degrees.

8:30! And here I sit at the community table, just inside the front door at First Watch. Facing the door. Waiting..

No one I know comes. Hardly ever have I been here without unexpectedly seeing someone I know. I’m tempted to say I’ll stay here until I see a familiar face.

Five other folks come to sit with me. We say hello. Nothing more. What stories could they tell? I wonder. Maybe if we sat across from one another. Just the two of us.

It’s 9:15 now! No one I know in the place. Except Kai. She has been our waitress for years. Makes everyone at home. Gives this chain restaurant the feel of a mon and pop small towm cafe.

Now comes a daughter and father to sit across from me. After they have settled themselves and a few minutes have passed, he sees me writing. He comments on what I’m doing.

Kevin Perry, he tells me is his name. This information coming after I explain that we had been planning to bike here to breakfast and he tells me he has seen us here before. Lives in Gladstone, he says. Next door to Terry Sharp, one of our riders, I learn a little later. “I call Terry F-111 because he goes real fast real far.” Kevin says.

Kevin is a retired Air Force pilot, teaching now at Fort Leavenworth. Grew up in Wyoming. Graduated from the Air Force Academy. His daughter, Sydney, is a student at North Kansas City High.

Listening to someone’s story is what I hope happens every time my bike brings me to breakfast. My bike today is in my car, outside in the parking lot. I brought it today. On more congenial days, it has brought me. Years ago, though, I discoved that listening is a process I must wait for another to begin. So without knowing who it might be, or even if that person would appear, I was, in fact, awaiting Kevin.

And going back 30 years in my mind, I’m riding down a street in Eugene, Oregon and, passing a vegetarian restaurant, feel this overpowering urge to go inside. I prop my bike just inside the door and take a seat near the only other people in the place. These people must be my reason for coming here. This thought won’t leave me. But I have no right to intrude. I say nothing. Time passes. I feel defeated.

I pay my bill. And prepare to roll my bike out the front door. “I’m sorry. We’re closed now. You’ll need to take your bike out the back door.”

To do so, I roll past the five folks sitting at the one table. “That’s a good looking bike,” she says. A short time later I’m sitting in her living room with all five, listening to Norma Corr tell her life story when, out of nowhere she asks, “Do you know Peace Pilgrim?” In that instant, I know why I had to stop in that restaurant. This cross-country bike ride of mine had been inspired by two meetings years ago and years apart by two meetings with Peace Pilgrim.

Showing up. Listening. Wondorus things happen. Sounds too simple to sell.


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