My love for the roadside drive-in is well-documented. I first learned of the Weenie Beenie in Arlington, Virginia while watching the Foo Fighters’ Sonic Highways on HBO. And then, I remembered the song. I think it was a track I would skip over to get to hits like “Big Me.” Either way, something compelled me to wake up with the sun and drive to this place in the Foo Fighter’s Dave Grohl’s home town.
A few friends familiar with the place told me to get the half smoke, to go for breakfast, to get a coffee, and to say “hi” to Jamaican John, which I did. But I messed up when ordering, and I forgot to get chili on my half smoke, egg, and cheese sandwich.
When I sat down with my breakfast at one of the picnic tables alongside the restaurant, a group of five or six men were gathered around their styrofoam cups of coffee and dirty backpacks or Igloo coolerssc. One of them, a tall African-American man with a mustache and a pack of Salems said, “I don’t want my picture in no Rolling Stone.” I assured him I was no Annie Leibovitz. He lamented aloud several times, “Man, I just hope I get a job today.” Looking across the street at a gas station’s parking lot where trucks would pull up, and one-by-one, the men sitting at the picnic tables would get picked off, hopping into the passenger side of a truck, an F-150 or a Silverado or a Tacoma, and heading to a job site of one kind or another.
“Man, last week, I loaded up carts of stuff for nine hours every day, all of them going to China.”
As I laid into my half smoke, egg, and cheese, he explained how happy he was to “retire to Louisiana. Gonna put a sign on my door that just says, ‘We gone.’ I gotta get my son through Virginia Tech. He’s in his last year for a Masters in Engineering. Then, I’m done.”
And just as I was enjoying my last bite, he grabbed a grocery bag filled with his lunch, we said our goodbyes and “good lucks,” and with the march of a soldier, he made his way across the street and into the passenger side of a green GMC truck.
I would’ve surely taken this man for granted had it not been for the Weenie Beenie.