Steak, ‘n shake hands

I am in a lot of extracurricular activities. Like, a stupid amount. I participate in nearly every band-related activity offered, I spin flags and dance in winter guard, I fight tirelessly for LGBT rights in our Gay-Straight Alliance, and I promote service in National Honor Society. All hyperbolic descriptions of my meager contributions to the FHC community aside, school is my life.

While I have met a lot of cool people through band and everything else that I take part in, this crowd is by no means an accurate representation of the diverse cultures present at FHC. By culture, I don’t mean whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, what language you speak, or where your parents are from. defines ‘culture’ as “the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc.,” meaning that while culture may have an inherited element, it is primarily cultivated by the individual. In broad terms, culture is what you find important.

There is somewhat of a variety in the interests of the other folks involved in my activities of choice, but nothing too outlandish. Band kids love music. GSA kids love equality. Guard kids love catching their tosses and not getting bruises. It’s pretty simple. Yet, I find myself wildly amazed when I step out of my comfort zone and meet someone with whom I have very few things in common. They have different taste in music, movies, and clothing. They spend their time not playing the tuba or listening to bossa nova like I do, but doing something else, perhaps even more interesting and fulfilling.

I have the opportunity to meet these sorts of people in class, sure, yet as an AP student three times over this year, I reunite for class with essentially the same 25 people three times daily. Where I find that I meet these people most frequently may shock you.

I love Steak ‘n Shake. The atmosphere is unrivaled. The food is mediocre, but affordable. If you looked inside my wallet right now, you would find at least three half-used sheets of coupons for the restaurant. I go after every band or guard function, every drag show, and most spontaneous outings with friends.

Until recently, I have kept to myself when I go with friends, due to the fact that the composition of patrons from the hours of 11 p.m. – 2 a.m. is approximately eight drunk people for every one sober person (I haven’t actually taken this census, but that sounds about right). Over the past few weeks, however, my perspective has changed.

One fateful Thursday evening a few weeks ago, ten or so friends and myself ventured to Steak ‘n Shake to waste the night away, sipping on milkshakes and disturbing the peace. We found ourselves enamoured with our waitress, a returning employee and super funny gal who had taken a break from the old SNS to pursue a career at Buffalo Wild Wings. Needless to say, that endeavor did not work out, and for that, myself and a few close friends are eternally grateful. We modify our plans if our question “Is Ling working?” is met with a negative reply.

Oddly enough, around this time I started to notice that seldom do I go to Steak ‘n Shake and not see someone I know from school. These aren’t close friends, but rather people I sit across the room from and never speak to, or someone whom I pass in the hallway day after day. And when these chance encounters occur, I have begun to do the unfathomable: say hello.

What results is a conversation with someone I hardly know, in which I do all that I can to learn as much about them as possible in an exchange that lasts only minutes. I ask what brings them to Steak ‘N Shake, how they’ve been, who they’re with, other questions that seem topical but could serve to form the foundation of a friendship.

Junior Taylor Stone came in one Friday night with a table full of rambunctious young men who had just come from an indoor soccer game at Vetta. We sit next to each other in AP Psychology, but hadn’t spoken much prior to that night. I either waved hello or made a teasing face of disgust — I’m not sure which — but whatever gesture I made sparked a short exchange between myself and a pretty cool guy whom I can now call a friend.

“They’re really tolerant of kids here,” explained Stone. “We always come late at night; it’s nice that they’re open 24 hours.”

While I do have a favorite waitress, I am by no means disappointed when I have the opportunity to have someone new bring me my red velvet milkshake. Junior Madeline Warner has been the lucky one several times, she has been a waitress at Steak ‘n Shake for as long as I have been going regularly. Warner gets to routinely witness the many diverse groups of people who dine there.

“A lot of FHC kids come in from different groups, there’s no real main demographic,” shared Warner. “Every time I work, I see someone I know.”

Generally I’m not going to Steak ‘n Shake with the intention of meeting people; I bring my posse. Juniors Brianna Little and Abby Rigdon-Featherston are my most frequent companions. We will sit for hours upon hours, night after night in our own little booth, witnessing drunken missteps by late night patrons and laughing until Abby starts sounding like Roseanne Barr and Bri and myself decide it’s time to go.

When asked to recount any standout memories, Little simply exclaimed, “Oh, all the drunk people!”

While this may sound like an advertisement, Steak ‘n Shake truly is the perfect restaurant for dining, chatting, as well as making social observations. I hope to see you there sometime; come to think of it, I may already have.


Let’s go out for chicken fingers and milkshakes sometime. You can email me at sw[email protected], or tweet at @sweeeeeens. Thanks for reading!