S.O.S., Oh, Yes!

Another T-shirt! Loved ones have bought plenty for me over the years. But I gave myself one in April. It's white cotton with soft blue lettering exhorting the viewer to SAVE OUR SHOLL'S. Below that is S.O.S.

The Washington Post has covered the dilemma that Sholl's Colonial Cafeteria at 20th and K streets faces. It may close, owing to pumped-up monthly rent. I just want to report the perspective as a recent fan. (I can't come up with a more specific label, not having yet risen to the rank of denizen.)

When I was a grade-schooler in Chicago, my playmate on the next block once declared, "Cafeterias are my dreamboats!" Well said. I agreed. We both loved the variety of food, the freedom to choose and the spatial wonder of a deep dining area. The first time I recall learning about Sholl's was in The Post's article on Feb. 17 [Metro]. Why not go to a dreamboat and find out what this particular cafeteria could offer? I did and then went back each Wednesday morning for two months.

Once a week I journeyed to a semester-long assignment as a tutor in Arlington. On-duty hours began late morning. But I traveled early to park at the Metro station, to let someone else steer a vehicle and also to avoid paying a whopping fee at a garage. Staying productive and using time well became essential. So did following classic advice: Eat breakfast.

The Wednesday itinerary proved lean: attending the 8 a.m. Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral on Rhode Island and then walking to Sholl's. Now what could squeezing myself into a cafeteria line and then angling the meal tray, my book bag and all of me into a booth do each week? First, my quite habitual meal of two fried eggs, toast (or English muffin), butter and coffee plus a refill cost under $2.85. Restorative food, unadorned but for a sprinkle of salt and pepper, followed spiritual food. Second, Sholl's made room for us diners. Represented was a mix of ages, attire and tempo. People came and went, and some stayed a bit, as I did. And I found a niche for writing, even for half an hour or maybe 45 minutes. Lesson plans, essay questions for students, a householder's decisions come to light -- that's some of what got done. I filled pages, thanks to the hospitality extended at Sholl's.

On four of the consecutive Wednesday mornings, I witnessed throngs of preteen and teenage students come to dine. Once I happened to wait behind a line of visitors from one school still choosing their breakfasts while from behind more students from another school descended the stairway, fresh from buses. The waves of young people and chaperones meant good business for Sholl's. Presumably, word of mouth perpetuated a pleasing history of school-trip meals there.

March collapsed into April and further into May. The tutoring contract came to a close, and now most Wednesdays will find me west of Washington and Arlington. Breakfast has become so different. The plan is this: to return to Sholl's for a meal and to bring along some future fans. A weekend day of it, the cafeteria and some museums, seems appealing.

So writing and pondering will occur in yet another niche or two. In the meantime, that T-shirt from Sholl's carries some of the best words I've seen.

-- Shirley N. Nuhn