I had retired from the life of an over the road truck driver, and I moved to a small city in Arizona that was located on the interstate not too far from the California state line. After a couple of months I found I was a bit bored, so I took up golf as a hobby, and, although I was a lousy golfer, the guys I played with 2 mornings a week tolerated my company. Since we played in the morning, we generally got together for lunch.
One Tuesday morning as we sat in a restaurant watching the truck traffic roll by on the interstate, our conversation ran to investments. Fortunately, none of my companions were doing any better than I was with the money we had socked away to provide for our declining years. Of course I only mean this in the sense that I didn’t feel as badly about my lousy investments, because we were all in the same boat.
“But, I don’t want to go back to work full time.” Jim, a former doctor said. “ And I can’t get hospital privileges unless I work more than 30 hours a week.
“Well, that’s not a problem with me, but I signed a no competition clause with the chap who bought my practice.” Cal, the former optometrist said.
“I have all my equipment in storage.” Ed, the retired dentist told us. “ I couldn’t give my practice away, and used dental equipment is only good for third world countries.”
“How would any of you feel about setting up a part time practice outside of town?” I asked. “ And, if you wanted to, how would you feel about investing in a truck stop business?”
“Explain yourself.” Cal said.
“Well, that run down old truck stop on old route 66 is for sale. It could probably be purchased fairly reasonably, because I think the former owner’s widow is going to get it back. The folks who bought it when the owner passed away are East Indian, and while I think they thought that there are enough of their fellow country men out here driving truck, they failed to realize that their fellow countrymen are also having a pretty tough time making it in the trucking business these days. The restaurant was offering East Indian Cuisine, and in doing this they lost all the regular food customers. Their own countrymen are doing most of their cooking in the trucks they drive, so business has been pretty bad. I used to go there with Bill once in a while to have breakfast, but we quit that because neither one of us could stand the smell of curry powder. And, so did every other former regular from the nearby trailer park.” I told the others.
“How would you do it?” Ed asked.
So, I spent some time explaining my thoughts to them. Route 66 is a pretty significant piece of American history, so the first thing to do would be to capitalize on the name. The second thing would be to drive off all the motor home customers. I told them that nothing aggravated a truck driver more than to have to stand in line behind a tourist buying a knick-knack. Or even worse, for a truck driver, was them having to fight with a motor home for a parking spot. Then, a complete remodel of the place, with clean rest rooms, and refurbished showers for the drivers, along with new fuel pumps, with covered islands, and automated card readers would help immensely. Also, the restaurant would have a late 50’s early 60’s theme, and would be extremely authentic in its décor. The menu would be restricted to good wholesome home cooked American food, with generous portions, and lots of healthy choices for salads and vegetables. But the actual menu would be very simple. Steak, hamburg steak, pork chops, chicken and pot roast would be all the offerings, except for broiled fish on Fridays. Then we would offer a Doctor, a Dentist and an Optometrist on site on specific days for specific hours. The doctor would do the required medicals, and random drug tests. The Dentist probably wouldn’t be all that busy, but could set specific hours for walk in trade, and the Optometrist could do the same. There would also be a fully stocked chrome shop, as well as a small tire repair and maintenance shop, and possibly a truck wash.
The other 3 thought that my idea had possibilities. Cal, who had been watching out the window at the highway, told us that there had been 4 trucks a minute pass by for the last 15 minutes, so as long as we could draw them in, the market was out there.
We decided to bide our time, and as I suspected within a few months the truck stop was on the market again. We made an offer that seemed ridiculously low compared to the asking price, but we were the only offer on the block, so the widow that owned the place signed it back for a lot more money than we had been prepared to pay. We advised our realtor that we were not interested, and we just waited her out. Sure enough, we received a counter offer that was more in line with what we were willing to pay. Naturally we cut a little more off this price, and the 4 of us ended up owning an old rundown truck stop.
We were trying to do as much of the work ourselves as we could, so the 4 of us practically gutted the buildings. The walls and roof were structurally sound so we ended up hiring some professional help, and within a couple of months we had everything shaping up nicely. Ed, Cal and Jim laid out their own offices, and they decided to have a common reception area, so they could save the expense of additional help. I wondered where they would find someone who could act as an assistant to all three of them, but that was their problem.
I was going to be the manager of the complex. I set up the fuel desk, and the small retail store so that one cashier could handle everything if need be. We left a large vacant room open for the chrome shop, and I found a local trucker who had been selling chrome and accessories out of his garage at home. He was ready to come off the road, so we rented him the vacant room, and soon he had a fully stocked chrome shop set up. He was even the first one to open up. Soon Jim, Cal, and Ed were ready, and we got the fuel desk and the new pumps up and running so we decided to open the place back up. I still needed a couple more weeks on the restaurant part.
Finally I had everything ready to go. I was interviewing a number of ladies for the job of restaurant manager, but one lady stuck out ahead of all the rest. She was a bit heavy, but she had a nice manner and a friendly appearance. Best of all, she wore quite a strong minus prescription in her old fashioned large plastic framed glasses. I thought about this for a while. I am a glasses nut. I like ladies who wear glasses. Heck, I just plain like glasses. I love the different frame styles throughout the years, and I really like the appearance of lenses, especially strong minus lenses. So, finally I decided that not only would I give this lady the job, I would have Cal put her prescription into one of the many frames I had in my collection from the 50’s. This would fit perfectly along with the 50’s and early 60’s music that would play constantly.
The more I thought of this, the better I liked it. So I contacted Marie, and hired her. Cal tested her eyes, and I selected a nice pair of 50’s specs for Marie to wear. When she put on the glasses she fit right into the part of a late 50’s restaurant manager. I had hired a couple of other girls as well. One I knew wore glasses, and the other one wore contact lenses. So I arranged for them to both be fitted with 50’s frames in their correct prescription. I hired a cook, and a busboy that both wore glasses, and they both got new old frames. Then I started actually looking for girls wearing glasses to hire as waitresses. And I found them. Most of the girls wore low minus prescriptions. A couple of really good waitresses had plus prescriptions. But they all looked fabulous in their 50’s glasses. I had patterned the restaurant and the theme after a California restaurant that I had often visited outside of Barstow on the way to Las Vegas. There was one waitress there that had a decent minus prescription, and she wore early 80’s style drop temple plastic frames. This destroyed the theme to me, so I was thrilled that I had now corrected that mistake. Of course, I was probably the only one who ever noticed that her glasses looked out of place. With my waitresses suitably attired, we opened the restaurant.
It was hard to attract the truck driver’s back into our restaurant. But, we kept plugging away, and soon word of mouth had gotten around that the Stop 66 Diner was one heck of a good place to stop for grub. Very shortly the restaurant was busy all the time. Good food, good value, and a friendly staff kept them coming back. Ed, Jim and Cal began picking up business as well. And the ex driver who set up the chrome shop was selling out of most of his stock before he could reorder. We then set up another office for a chiropractor friend of ours who was also bored with retirement.
As with any business in which you deal with the public we had more than our share of waitress turnover. One day I was sitting in the office going over some paperwork, and I looked up to see a young, attractive lady approaching. I invited her in, and she told me that her name was Gayle, and she wanted a job as a waitress. I asked her if she wore glasses, and she told me that she didn’t, but she was willing to wear a pair of glasses if it meant that I would hire her. I sadly explained that I wanted authentic glasses wearers.
“Well, I have tried my older sisters glasses, and I can see out of them pretty well.” Gayle told me. “My sister worked here for about 6 months until a couple of weeks ago.”
When she told me her sister’s name, I remembered Helen, one of the first girls I had hired, a pretty young lady with a prescription of around –2.75D. I opened the drawer that I kept my 50’s glasses in, and took out a silver frame with lenses that were about –2.00D. I handed them to Gayle, and told her that if she could wear these glasses I would hire her, but I advised her that wearing these glasses all the time might make her own eyes get to the point where she really needed glasses.
Gayle put them on. “ I can see fairly well through these glasses. I guess I really don’t care if my eyes reach a point where I really need them.”
So, I hired Gayle. She was younger than the girls I normally hired, but she was eager to learn, and was a great waitress. I think her tips were much better than some of the other girls. She had been there about 6 months, and I knew that today was her 17th birthday, so when I spotted her passing the door of my office I called her in and wished her a happy birthday. Lying on my desk was a silver-blue framed pair of 50’s cats’ eyeglasses. I had just bought them at a thrift store, and I took them to Cal to see if he could put new lenses in them for one of the girls. Since the frame was actually plastic, with aluminum temples and aluminum pieces over the top, Cal told me that no lens lab would even touch that job. I had sort of thought that this was what he would say, but I loved the glasses. I had estimated the lenses to be about –5D, and they had a flat top bifocal segment that probably was about a +2D add. I was disappointed that I wasn’t going to be able to use them for one of the girls.
Gayle looked at the glasses. “ Those are a neat pair. Can I try them on?”
“They will be pretty strong for you Gayle, but go ahead.” I replied.
“Oh, they are not too bad. And I like the fact that I can use the lower part to see clearer up close. Do you mind if I wear them?” Gayle said.
“Are they not quite a bit too strong? They look great on you, and I don’t mind you wearing them, but I wouldn’t want to have you destroy your eyesight. How much have you been wearing your glasses?” I asked.
“Oh, I have been wearing them all the time at work, and I have been wearing Helen’s old glasses all day in school. Now though, I can’t really see as clearly through the original glasses that you gave me as I can with my sister’s old ones.” Gayle told me.
I knew Helen’s glasses were stronger than the pair I had first given Gayle. So, it was obvious to me that Gayle had probably induced a bit of myopia in her own eyes.
“Well, if you wear this stronger pair of glasses, I know that you won’t be able to wear Helen’s old glasses to school anymore. What will you do then?” I asked.
“Well, Helen has had another prescription change, so maybe I can wear one of her other pairs to school. And if that doesn’t work, these glasses look pretty cool, so I wouldn’t mind wearing them all the time.” Gayle said.
“What will your parent’s think?” I asked.
“Our parent’s died in a car accident 2 years ago.” Gayle said.
So, Gayle started wearing those glasses all the time. I was quite pleased with her appearance in them, and I noticed that she never seemed to take them off, except to clean the lenses. I can’t really remember how much time had passed since Gayle started wearing them before I began to notice Gayle squinting at things that were off in the near distance, but it excited me to watch her narrow her eyes and squint to see who it might be when the door to the restaurant opened. As the customer came closer, her eyes would relax, and I could tell when she was able to focus clearly on their face. I did some rough calculations and my figures showed that Gayle was likely about -2D under corrected with these glasses. She had only been wearing them for about 9 months by this time. I then selected another frame from my collection, and I called Gayle into my office. She looked at the frame I had selected, a metal silver one, and approved of my choice. So we had Cal examine her eyes.
I had been mistaken. When Cal checked the lenses in the glasses that Gayle had been wearing he discovered that they were actually –5.75D in each eye. And, when Cal checked Gayle’s eyes he discovered that her new glasses were going to have to be –8.25D. I was concerned that Gayle’s prescription had increased by –2.50D in less than a year, but Cal reassured me that this was a fairly normal occurrence for a young lady of Gayle’s age. And Gayle didn’t seem to express any concern about the fact that her eyes had gone from needing no correction to requiring over –8D in less than 2 years. By this time I actually suspected that when Gayle had originally tried on the –2D glasses I had given her to wear when she started work they might have been pretty close to what she really needed.
Gayle was such a good waitress that Marie put her in charge of the evening shift. We were open from 5 am until 1 am, and the girls worked 10-hour shifts. Business was pretty dead from 1 am through 5 am, so we shut down and used this time to have a cleaning crew scrub everything down. Everyone worked 4 days on and then had 4 days off, so I actually had 2 crews for each shift. The system worked, and our turnover was low.
Marie came to me one day, and complained that someone was wearing her glasses at night. I did ask her how she knew, but I realized that that was a foolish question. She couldn’t tell me, she just knew. Some of the waitresses wore modern glasses, or contact lenses to and from work, and Marie had a very nice pair of oval framed glasses with high index lenses to wear when she was not working. Marie had a prescription of around –10D, and I couldn’t imagine who might possibly be able to see through Marie’s glasses.
I hadn’t been back to the restaurant in the evening for many months. Gayle, and Kelsey, the other night shift supervisor had been doing a wonderful job. But the question of who was wearing Marie’s glasses at night was bothering me, and I had a funny suspicion that the only other person with a strong enough prescription to be able to tolerate Marie’s prescription would be Gayle. I had to know, so I went back to the restaurant that evening. I made sure that no one could see me, and I slipped inside. Sure enough, Gayle was waiting on a table in the far corner. I walked up behind her, and told her that I would like to see her in my office as soon as she could get her duties under control.
“Oh, and since you like wearing them so much, you might as well keep Marie’s glasses on Gayle.” I said.
Gayle came to the office a few minutes’ later, still wearing Marie’s glasses.
“So, has your prescription gotten worse Gayle? Do you need to see Cal, and have him prescribe you new glasses?” I asked.
Gayle mumbled something.
“Speak up Gayle, I couldn’t hear you. Has your prescription gotten worse?” I asked a second time.
“No.” Gayle replied.
“So, why have you been wearing Marie’s glasses? They are quite a bit stronger than your own.” I said, and then it hit me. “Are you trying to increase your prescription?”
“Yes.” Gayle gave another one word answer.
“Why didn’t you talk to me Gayle? I would have helped you if I had been sure that this is what you wanted.” I said.
“I wasn’t sure that I wanted to wear stronger glasses myself, so I have just been trying to wear Marie’s at work all evening. But, I like the feeling of wearing the stronger prescription a lot, and I would really like to have stronger lenses in my glasses. Don’t ask me why, I can’t explain.” Gayle said.
Well, Marie noticed that someone else was wearing her glasses, and I figured it might possibly be you. So, since Marie doesn’t like it, we will have to get you stronger lenses. When did you last have an exam with Cal?” I said.
“Just last week. I had been wearing Marie’s glasses for a month, and I wanted to see if my eyes had gotten any worse. But Dr. Cal said there was no change in prescription from the lenses in my glasses.” Gayle told me.
What do you want to accomplish here Gayle? Your prescription is already a pretty reasonable –8 D.” I said.
Gayle blushed. “I really would like to be able to wear your special glasses one day.”
I was a bit taken aback. I had shown Gayle a pair of glasses last year that were the most treasured pair of glasses I owned. They were an early 60’s style cats eye frame, and the prescription was a whopping –21 D. The lenses were glass myodiscs, and the myodisc bowl was a 20 mm circle. The day I had shown them to Gayle I had told her that I would will all of my money to anyone who could wear these glasses. And, since I had no family to leave my money to, I really would have done this.
“Gayle, I don’t think you will ever be able to train your eyes to see through those glasses. And I don’t want to see you ruin your eyes. I was just kidding that day.” I said.
“No you weren’t. You were dead serious. Anyway, they are my eyes, and I want to see if I can wear those glasses someday, even if you don’t leave me your money.” Gayle said.
“Well, if you are positive that this is what you want to do, I will help you out.” I told her.
That evening I slipped into Cal’s office and checked Gayle’s file. Cal hadn’t told Gayle the truth, as his notes indicated that she actually needed another -0.25 D added to her present prescription. So, the following day I took a pair of frames that Gayle had selected last evening, and asked Cal to put a –10.50D prescription into them. Cal did things like this for me without even questioning me as to who they were for.
By now Gayle was just 19, and she wore the –10.50D glasses continuously. After about 6 months Gayle came to me and asked if I could get her stronger lenses for her glasses, as she felt that she had grown into these lenses. So, I asked Cal to make me up a pair with a –12D prescription, and Gayle graduated into them.
I interviewed a pretty young lady one afternoon for a waitressing job, and when I asked her if she wore glasses, she told me that she had very poor eyesight, and she wore contact lenses, because they gave her better vision. However, she knew that the waitresses here had to wear 50’s styled glasses, and she was prepared to do so for the job.
Libby and I selected a pair of glasses that she thought she would like to wear, and when she handed me her prescription, I was indeed surprised to see that she was –23.00D in her right eye, and –22.50D with –0.50 D of astigmatism in her left eye. Just for the fun of it, I showed her my special pair of myodiscs, and I told her that the prescription was just a little weaker than she needed, but if she wanted to try to wear them until her own glasses were ready, I could put her to work that evening. I just wasn’t thinking straight.
Gayle was the supervisor that evening. When she came on at 4 o’clock she was introduced to Libby, who had decided that she could see well enough with the –21D myodiscs to start training that evening. She took one look at the glasses on Libby’s face, and came storming into my office.
“What the H__l’s she doing wearing MY glasses?” Gayle almost shouted.
With that I realized my mistake. “ Calm down Gayle, those are still your glasses. Libby needs even stronger lenses, but she tried those glasses on and feels that they work well enough that she can begin training.” I said quietly.
“And when she gets her own stronger glasses is she going to replace me?” Gayle asked angrily.
“No, she is not going to replace you. Not now, not ever. I have already made sure of that.” I said.
“How?” Gayle asked.
I opened my desk drawer, and took out a legal document. I was so pleased that I had just gotten my will back from my lawyer yesterday, and had not had time to put it in a safe place. “ Read this.” I said as I handed Gayle my will.
She glanced at it, and began to read. When she reached the part where it said that I left everything to her, she glanced up at me and I saw tears in her eyes behind her strong glasses.
“I shouldn’t have doubted you. I am sorry.” Gayle said, and she went back to work.
Gayle and Libby went on to become best friends. And, just a few months ago, I was asked to stand in as Father of The Bride in the wedding between Libby’s older brother John, and Gayle. She had met him while hanging around with Libby. Gayle refused to wear contact lenses for the wedding, but John, whose eyesight is even worse than Libby’s, refused to wear his myodiscs. But, I don’t think Gayle really cared, since she told me that they both wear their glasses when they make love, and Gayle thinks he is so hot looking wearing them.
By the time the four partners reached the age of 70 we all decided that we had made enough money to supplement our retirement income, so we placed the truck stop on the market, and one of the large chains purchased it. Marie chose this time to retire as well, and Gayle, who just turned 26, is now the manager. Unfortunately, so far she has only been able to increase her prescription to –19D. She is still trying though, and she feels that another couple of years might have her to a point where she can wear my special myodiscs, which I have given to her to wear whenever she feels like it. I sold my house and moved into an assisted living home. Gayle either comes to see me almost every day, or I drive over to visit with John and Gayle, and have supper at their house. Gayle has just told me that she is pregnant, and she was thrilled when I told her that sometimes, high myopes might experience an increase in their prescription during pregnancy. Even if she never reaches the point where she can wear my special –21D myodiscs, she is still the daughter I never had, and I am being very careful with my investments so there will still be some money left for me to leave her.