Whose bright idea was it to advertise pancakes on a squinty poster placed above the urinals? This was one of the many daft questions I wanted to ask when I was in that roadside cafe on the A9 on Friday. Now I don't want to mention brand names, but it's that place between Dunblane and Perth which has a small man in a cook's hat as its logo. In fact there are two such cafes, one on each side of the busy dual carriageway. That prompted another question.
"How do you get across the road?"
The waiter was a young man who wore his spectacles on his face in jauntily askew style. I'm guessing that might explain the angled poster in the toilet. He seemed more interested in taking my order than in indulging my curiosity. Funny, that.
"We just walk across the road, " he told me, "have you had a look at the menu?"
I let my eye run past the photographs of all-day breakfasts and juicy cheeseburgers and opted instead for the grilled salmon. I'm still on the diet, you see. I've lost five pounds since last Monday. Alert the media.
The waiter took my order and left me supping a hot cup of coffee, but he returned a few moments later to tell me there was no salmon left. I ordered the vegetable soup and looked longingly at the cafe across the road, wondering if they had the salmon over there and whether or not I should make a dash for the door.
But there was no need. The short-sighted waiter had returned again.
"The chef has just told me that we do have the salmon after all, would you like that instead of the soup?"
I nodded, thanked him and, ten minutes later, the actual chef appeared with with my food. He looked much taller than in the logo and he wasn't wearing one of those big hats, but I didn't quibble. I was too shocked by the mountain of chips sitting next to my fish.
"Oh...I actually wanted the jacket potato, " I told him. His eyes took on a look of panic, but I tried to explain that this wasn't his fault. My potato preference had not actually been articulated and the waiter couldn't be blamed for his lack of psychic ability. Nevertheless,
five minutes later, another member of staff - a waitress - appeared with my baked spud.
I began to suspect they were all talking about me in the kitchen. Perhaps they were drawing straws to decide who spoke to me next.
The waitress, in fact, answered all my dopey questions. Turns out those two cafes are run as separate businesses. I got the impression there was even a bit of rivarly between them. Sometimes the staff cross the road to borrow some stock, but that isn't as risky as I had imagined.
"It's safer than crossing a road in Stirling, " she told me, "you can see a mile in both directions."
I left satisfied. I even left a tip.
But I still wasn't tempted to have a pancake.