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Writers spend 24 hours in Pulley Diner

By Audrey Davis, Joey Hart, and Dmitriy Kizhikin, For The Miami Student and Alison Perelman, Senior Staff Writer

Friday, 9:55 a.m. - Joey

Almost every table is occupied with students enjoying breakfast, but the only sound in Pulley Diner is a sizzling from the kitchen. The air is thick with an aroma of pancakes and burnt bacon.

Behind the counter, a middle-aged woman gives orders and fills cups.

"Who do I owe milk to again?" she barks at her patrons. A student at the bar raises his hand and looks away from his phone for a split-second to take his glass. He is served and returns to iMessage accordingly.

Every person eating alone seems to have their attention totally occupied by a cell phone or laptop screen.

Two boys go over homework nearby. In a booth next to my table, three girls gossip and giggle as their buzzers go off to alert them that their food is ready. They always have breakfast together after their Friday morning class.

Friday, 10:51 a.m. - Joey

The hiss of hamburgers on the griddle is still the only sound in Pulley.

A boy and a girl sitting at the counter talk as they eat their breakfast.

"I made out with her," the girl says as the boy shows her a picture of another girl. "This kid was like betting us we wouldn't make out, so I was like 'Okay.' This toast is unreal."

Friday, 12:55 p.m. - Alison

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"Order up, please," the woman in the kitchen says as she moves plates closer to edge of the metal counter.

Multiple grease-stained to-go boxes wait to be picked up.

A constant sizzling noise comes from the grill. Four buzzers vibrate and blink red on the counter next to forgotten receipts. The lunch rush is over.

An older gentleman wipes tables and sweeps the floor. Another worker yawns and mindlessly puts on a new pair of gloves.

It's lunch time, but there are a lot of breakfast orders and confusion over an omelet.

"You might want to holler, 'does anybody want an everything omelet?'" the woman in the kitchen shouts.

The guy near the register walks closer to the dining room and asks, "is anyone waiting on an everything omelet?"

There's no reply and no one comes to claim it.

I overhear that someone ordered 12 hamburgers. Turns out he's from St. Louis and visiting with four high school boys who haven't had a chance to eat since they arrived for their tour.

The 12 burgers seem to be holding the other orders up - one student is visibly upset about how long he's been waiting. He moves to the counter to vent to a stranger about the situation.

He claims he could have walked to Chick-Fil-A and been back with food by now.

Friday, 2:56 p.m. - Alison

Several Miami employees order food - they look out of place in a setting usually populated by dozens of students.

Twenty minutes later, there's no one in the diner. No one occupies the stools at the counter or the tables nearby - they must all be hiding around the corner or tucked away in a booth. Even the music and hum of conversation from downstairs seems distant.

A maintenance guy changes one of the lights above the counter.

Matt Stewart sits in a booth working on statistics homework. He hates it, but it's required for his diplomacy and global politics degree. Hopefully he won't be here long - his assignment is due by 5 p.m. anyway.

Even then, Matt won't be able to completely enjoy the weekend's unseasonably nice weather because he has drill for the National Guard. He says he joined partly because of his dad, who was in the army, but primarily for the money.

"I wanted to go to college and couldn't pay for it, so it was the only option really," Matt says. "The training at first was pretty difficult, but now it's just a job."

Friday, 4:19 p.m. - Audrey

Every single stool at the counter is empty. The only people in the diner sit alone, working on homework and eating in silence.

The workers lean against the counter, talking among themselves. There hasn't been anyone in line for a while.

"What would you think of me making a fish sandwich, with two burgers on top of that, with a spicy chicken sandwich on top of that and steak and cheese on top of that?" asks one of the cooks.

"Type II Diabetes," responds another, rolling his eyes.

A few minutes pass before someone finally walks up to the counter to order. He pulls out his phone to read his order.

"Six eggs?!" I hear the chef ask.

The guy waits over 15 minutes for his huge order to be ready, then walks away with four boxes full of food.

Friday, 5:11 p.m. - Audrey

One of the workers balls up an old receipt and shoots it into a nearby trashcan.

He misses.

He looks around to see if anyone noticed - I did. We both laugh as he picks it up off the floor and shamefully places it in the trashcan.

Friday, 6:15 p.m. - Audrey

A maintenance guy cleans the spot near where I am sitting. I smile at him.

"How's the weather out? Still warm?" he asks.

"Oh yeah. Last time I checked it was still in the 60's!" I reply.

"I've been here since 11:00 a.m., so I'm a bit disconnected to the outside. Still windy?"

"Yeah, it was awful out."

"I bet! Have a nice day," he smiles at me and walks away.

The workers begin to prepare for the late night rush of people.

A girl walks up to the register and orders a fish sandwich.

"Hey, Emily! Where's fish sandwich on the menu? I can't find it," asks the guy working the register.

"It's…" Emily starts.

"Um, nevermind. Just make it chicken. I'll have chicken strips," says the girl ordering.

Emily's the only girl working behind the counter at Pulley, so her male counterparts tend to pick on her. I overhear one of the workers call Emily a "Miami three."

"Did he just call you a Miami five?" asks one of her employee friends.

"No. He called me a Miami three," she replies, understandably annoyed.

"What's that?" another worker asks.

"It means that I'm ugly," Emily responds, laughing.

The workers are starting to notice that I've been sitting in the same spot for a few hours. They haven't said anything, but they keep staring at me for just a few seconds too long.

"Where are you?"

I hear a guy standing next to me yelling, and I assume he's making a phone call until he continues.

"No, Siri, you idiot. Where are you? No. Where are you? Yes! Send."

Another guy approaches him - a friend.

"Dude! I just used Siri to send a text," he says proudly.

Friday, 7:19 p.m. - Dmitriy

A hurried student drops his piping hot Mac & Cheese on the floor.

"Shit," he softly whispers.

He looks at his fallen food with longing, then walks away.

Friday, 8:18 p.m. - Dmitriy

"I should have done cocaine before my shift," a male worker says. I can't tell if he's joking or not.

A few minutes before the current shift ends someone uses the radio to call the downstairs food areas.

"Could we have help at Pulley? We will have two people in four minutes."

Turmoil ensues as every employee is asked if they can stay a little longer.

"We never get any help when we ask for it, they steal all of our workers and they complain about how slow our service is," says another worker.

Friday, 9:52 p.m. - Dmitriy

"Hey, do I know you?" Susanna Smith asks a worker behind the counter. "Are you in a band?"

"Yeah! You've heard of The Amber Effect," he says. "I'm Zac Brown."

She shuffles a bit and replies, "Yeah I think we went to highschool together, but that isn't the band I was thinking of."

Zac's excitement at being recognized fades immediately.

Friday, 10:14 p.m. - Audrey

"Double the straws, double the fun!" a guy says, laughing as he passes me with two straws in his milkshake.

Shortly after, a different guy walks by with a delicious looking dessert I've never seen before.

"What is that?" my friend Angela asks.

"A toasted roll! It's amazing! You have to get it," he says. "You guys need to share it though. They're huge and you'll feel like shit after you eat it, but it's worth it."

Zac Brown begins to talk to us, and we hear someone say something about getting laid. Zac laughs.

"That's everyone's dream - getting laid at Pulley Diner."

We all laugh.

Saturday, 12:02 a.m. - Alison

The police officer who patrols Armstrong at night arrives at Pulley Diner.

Twenty minutes later, more than a dozen people descend on the register at once.

Another 20 minutes later, a guy skateboards across the black-and-white checkered floor.

There's a "closed for cleaning" sign blocking off the back half of the dining room, but everyone ignores it. Someone even leaps over it, complete with his own personal sound effects.

Another guy walks right into the sign, stares down at it, perplexed, then sloppily steps over and continues on his way.

There's a loud crash as a student drops a small stack of plates and fries fall to the ground in front of the soda machine.

A toga-clad girl leans on the edge of a table. Her entire right side - bra and bare skin - is visible. A few minutes later, she clings to her friend as he attempts to walk away.

"You were my first friend and I love you so much. You have to accept it before you can get your food."

Two more toga partiers sit at the end of the milkshake counter. One wears a perfectly wrapped and tied navy blue sheet, the other what looks like a blanket wrapped around his shoulders.

Saturday, 12:56 a.m. - Dmitriy

The late night milkshake rush is unavoidable.

"Matt One?" yells the employee making milkshakes. "Matt Two?"

Matt One arrives and grabs his shake, a vanilla swirl, and the employee calls for Matt Two once more.

"Matt Two, we need you," I yell, in an attempt to help.

A few minutes later, a stumbling Matt Two picks up his shake from the counter.

Saturday, 1:08 a.m. - Audrey

Alison and I spot a guy wearing a bright yellow lei.

"Why'd you come here?" Alison asks.

"Um. I'm drunk and want food," he says. "Duh."

"I got mac 'n' cheese and a milkshake," says the girl sitting with him. "It's like the perfect food to make me happy."

"What's with the lei?" I ask.

"We had a themed party at my house," the guy responds. "It was definitely Hawaiian-themed. You know, not many parties require leis other than Hawaiian ones."

"I was at an '80s work-out themed party tonight," says the girl.

Her friend boos at her. Hawaiian-themed parties trump the '80s, apparently.

"Can I say something?" he asks, before continuing. "I just need to say that these milkshakes, I'd rank them like 86 percent. It's too rich. A little rich on the chocolate."

"Isn't that a good thing?" asks Alison.

"Usually, yeah, but no," he says. "It's … it just … it should be dialed down a little bit. You know, as soon as my ham and cheese omelette gets here, life will be good. "

Saturday, 2:19 a.m. - Joey

Roommates Morgan Cavanaugh and Mary Kate Roses sit in the corner and enjoy some chicken strips. They're debating whether they would rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck.

"Fighting tiny horses would be so much fun," Morgan says.

"No, I would take the one big one," Mary Kate responds. "You just grab it by the feathers."

"No, the little ones you could just kick. They're irrelevant."

"Okay, but you could just ride the duck."

No consensus is made.

Saturday, 2:25 a.m. - Alison

Audrey and I run into a guy who prefers to be called Pablo, or Stephen Curry, or Derrick Rose or Paul George.

We ask Pablo what he's been up to since the last time we talked.

"I'm going to be honest, some real shit went down," he says. "I lost a homie."

We try to inquire, but apparently the information is classified.

Saturday, 2:37 a.m. - Alison

The floor is disgusting - mud streaks, soggy and squashed fries, forgotten chicken tenders and drops of liquid that I hope are only water.

Several people slip on the floor and almost fall.

Five minutes later, someone falls flat on his butt and his friends start cracking up. One thought it was so hilarious he decided to try to ice skate before running into a table and falling, too.

A guy unhooks the "closed for cleaning" sign, looking around suspiciously so as not to get caught, then rolls it up and puts it in his vest. His friend congratulates him with a slap on the butt.

People sit down among the leftover boxes and crumb-ridden tables.

Saturday, 2:44 a.m. - Audrey

Two students steal the only pump container of ketchup and try to hide it in their booth, which worked fine for them until the officer on duty walked by. She talked to them for a while, then they sullenly returned the ketchup to its rightful spot on the counter. She laughed, shaking her head as they walked away.

Michelle Merz is a detective for Miami University Police Department (MUPD). She loves her job, loves working the night shift.

She talked to us for a while - about the book she hopes to write about her experiences in law enforcement, about what it was like to attend Miami as a non-traditional student when she was 20, married and had a baby.

We could have talked to her all night, but she had drunk kids to look out for.

The guy who had previously stolen the "closed for cleaning" sign was now chucking french fries across a window in attempts to land them in a plastic cup. The end result was a pile of french fries lining the window sill.

After running out of french fries, he and his friends get up to leave. He takes the sign out of his vest and places it on a chair. They walk away.

Not long after, another guy finds the abandoned "closed for cleaning" sign, puts it around his neck and walks out the back door.

Saturday, 5:04 a.m. - Audrey

Pulley is a ghost town. Instead of rolling tumbleweeds and dust, there are balled-up napkins and a layer of muddy footprints. Every table has at least four boxes of leftover food on it. Untouched milkshakes melt into a soupy consistency. French fries have become part of the floor.

I wouldn't wish cleaning this place upon my worst enemy.

The kitchen area is spotless in comparison. The workers are just finishing up cleaning the countertops.

"Picking up garbage," a worker mutters, "that's something I've always wanted to be skillful at."

He rolls his eyes while picking up trash from behind the counter - the dining area still untouched.

Three noticeably drunk guys walk in and order breakfast. They ask for water cups, then walk to the pop machine and fill their cups with soda. The worker notices and runs over to them.

"Hey! That's a water cup!" he scolds. "Next time I'm charging you!"

They just laugh and walk to a booth near the back.

After a while, I notice that it's absolutely silent. No music even plays overhead. I have no idea how long it had been that way.

The workers say something about the cleaning guy not showing up. This can't be normal.

Just before I head out, '50s music begins to play.

Saturday, 7:05 a.m. - Alison

The woman in the kitchen walks to the edge of the railing and shouts down to Miami Ice.

"Can you come up here and help, please? We're bad."

I think that's a bit of an understatement - the diner seems like chaos with hungry customers, trash littering the tables and a maintenance guy who just showed up to fix something in the kitchen.

Thank God for good samaritans. David Holmes comes walking through, trash bag in hand, picking everything off the tables.

I ask him why he's helping.

"'Cause kids get a little too drunk and I guess when they get drunk they can be kind of disrespectful. And I feel really bad about the employees here," David says.

He's not usually here this early, but when he is, he's happy to help.

"I would not wish this upon anybody. This is very vile," he says as he stuffs boxes of half-eaten meals into the trash bag.

A buddy of his walks by on the way out. "You're a good man, Holmes," he says, patting his shoulder.

Another small group walks by.

"Why is Dave cleaning all of Pulley?"

"'Cause he's a good dude."

Saturday, 8:57 a.m. - Alison

A couple walks in with a foster dog trotting along the girl's side. The guy sees a friend, who immediately becomes enamored with the dog, crouching to pet the German shepherd mix while the others order food.

Two minutes later and the worker from Miami Ice is mopping the floor. It's the first time it's actually looked clean, and that's not saying much.

A girl slips and spills some of her chocolate milk.

"I'm so sorry!"

"It's alright, at least I'm mopping."

The guy who was petting the dog is now telling dog stories.

An older couple, probably parents, stop to read the first menu before continuing to the counter to order - obviously they've never been here. While eating, they see a toasted roll that someone had ordered and decide to get one to-go.

The workers talk about how they've never seen the dining room so bad before, employees from downstairs had even heard about it, too.

Saturday, 9:40 a.m. - Alison

There isn't a line in sight.

Ten minutes later, a handful of people arrive for Saturday morning breakfast.