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The After-Church Crowd
Sudie Crouch

I am about to make myself sound really, really old, and maybe I am.

But I can remember it being the norm for businesses to be closed on Sundays.

Most even closed at noon on Wednesday, presumably so folks could get ready for the middle of the week service.

The closest we came to eating out after church was driving to town to get Pop his post-church dipped cone at Dairy Queen.

“Your grandfather is the only grown man I know who thinks he needs a reward for sleeping through church,” Granny commented one day.

I didn’t fall asleep; didn’t that count for something like a cone?

Never, not ever, did we go out to eat.

Granny would have found it sacrilegious – she took Sunday dinner quiet seriously.

Besides, she wouldn’t have had the golden opportunity to tell us that not even on the Lord’s day did she get to rest as she had to slave over a hot stove for us ungrateful heathens.

“She wouldn’t know what to do if she wasn’t slaving over that hot stove,” Pop would whisper to me.

“Can we go back to Dairy Queen when she gets done?” was my response.

According to Granny, Sundays were spent doing two things: going to church and spending time with family.

As I got older, eating out after church became more common. To the point, everyone was doing it.

“Well, there goes the dadblamed society,” Granny muttered.

“Is Madonna naked again?” my grandfather wanted to know.

“Probably, Bob, but don’t you worry about it,” she said, giving him a hard sideways glance. “Peoples a-going out to eat after church instead of eating together as a family.”
“Ain’t they still eating together at a restaurant?” Pop asked.

It was truly a logical question.

“That ain’t my cussed point!” she said. “My point is sitting at a restaurant is not the same as being at home around your own table. It just doesn’t feel right.”

“Well, you don’t have to worry, Chicken; I am not a big fan of eating out as it is, so you just keep on cooking Sunday dinner.”

Pop was probably relieved Granny thought eating out after church was terrible. His deciding factors on a restaurant were if they had a drive through and if they served hot dogs. None of this table service nonsense.

I spent about a year or so waiting tables at a small restaurant after I graduated high school that just happened to be opened on Sundays. I was hoping I would make some decent tips since everyone in the world but us ate out after church.

The restaurant was only open for lunch, but I felt like I had been beat when Mama picked me up on my first Sunday.

I barely mumbled hello to her as I crawled in the car.

“Were you busy?” she asked. “How many people came in?”

“All the people,” I said.

“All the people?”

“All the people,” I repeated. “From Social Circle to Monroe; from Winder, and Loganville. Can’t those people stay home and eat?”

“Did you at least get good tips?”

“No!” I exclaimed. “One big table had about 15 people – fifteen people, Mama. And I worked my tater off. They left me three dollars and told me I had earned it.”

Three dollars. Don’t get me wrong, back then, minimum wage was probably not much more than that, but waitress pay was much, much less.

“If that’s all they can tip they should have stayed home,” Mama stated matter of factly. “Well, maybe next week will be better.”

It wasn’t. I got to where I hated working on Sundays.

The people were rude, and their paltry tips added insult to injury.

How could people leave church after singing “Amazing Grace” or “Just As I Am” and go to a restaurant and be bullies and jerks?

Did the Holy Spirit get left behind in the parking lot?

When I worked in retail, it was more of the same.

People who were probably the nicest person on their pew would come into the store looking for a fight.

One lady was particularly ornery when she was told she could not return a pair of britches just because her son had outgrown them, never mind the fact she had bought them a year ago. 

When I pointed this out to her, she was quick to hand down some judgement, telling me I needed to maybe go to church instead of being a slave to the almighty dollar.

I smiled sweetly. My mother-in-law has always said you can say anything with a smile. “Well, then we wouldn’t be here to wait on you after you made your sunshine parade from church, to the Golden Corral and into the mall.” I handed her the bag with her son’s too-small Ralph Lauren slacks. “And maybe next week when you’re sitting on your pew, you will listen to your preacher’s sermon.”

In a huff, she threatened to report me to the manager. I gave her one of my business cards just to make sure she got my name correct; I didn’t want some poor Cindy getting credit for my snarkiness.

I told Granny about this phenomenon once, hoping she’d have some insight.

“I knew it,” the old gal declared. “What would Jesus do? He wouldn’t be rude, that’s what. I knew people eating out on Sundays would be the downfall of civility and I was right.”

Not sure how she was able to know that all those years earlier but somehow, she did.