Coffee At Ruby’s

At first, this image of Ruby’s Diner in Schenectady, NY may seem like a study in isolation. The calendar shows September 1988, and while that may not seem like that long ago to some of us, just peek in to this scene to see how the world has changed. RubysDiner88-034Gerd Kittel’s pre-digital camera shows us a man and a woman (presumably both past their physical prime), sharing booths with no one. The woman appears contemplative and dressed for work. The man reminds me of my grandfather: intent on reading the news, colder in his old age and consequently cardigan-clad, and probably smells of Old Spice. No laptops, no iphones, no flat screen TVs. Just take that in–no one is staring at a screen. Like you’re doing right now.

There are Polaroids tacked to the wall. A cigarette machine. God knows the price then, but I passed one only last weekend, a relic itself, and the cost was $10 per pack. And you know smokers will pay it. Formica tabletops. The TV is not a wide screen. It has knobs which to turn. The coffee cup is small. It is not a Starbuck’s grande. That doesn’t mean he won’t consume more than the 16 oz; it just means a waitress will be by shortly to top him off. And that means human interaction. She might bring more cream. She might ask what he is reading.

But first, she will ask the photographer to step out of the way. You can see his reflection to the left of the TV, the man in the Anthony Bourdain sweater.

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