While sitting over baskets of hot wings and blackened catfish nuggets, my attention was wavering wildly between hoops and Hooters Girls.
We were dining at the Jackson, Miss., Hooters, just off Highway 55 on the North Frontage Road exit. This was no accident, mind you. Our car didn't break down on the side of the road, forcing us to seek refuge and sustenance at the Hooters on the hill.
We were there for a reason. We were there because Hooters apparently was the only establishment in Jackson that carries the complete CBS/NCAA tournament satellite package.
It's official, folks: I'll go anywhere - ANYWHERE - to watch my beloved Jayhawks play basketball in the Big Dance.
After a fun-filled spring break in Memphis, Tenn., and New Orleans, my family and I left our hotel at 8:30 a.m., high-tailed it over the Louisiana bayou, through the Mississippi pines and swerved off the interstate minutes before tipoff. Pulling into the parking lot, I noticed it was overflowing with cars and trucks. Big trucks. The kind with bunny girl mud flaps.
"It's so crowded," I said, nervously. "What game could these people be interested in seeing?"
Once inside, I scanned the room of all-male customers and realized the last thing these guys wanted to watch was basketball. Sure, the TVs all were tuned to the tourney. But there was another show going on here, and it had nothing to do with their brackets.
I glanced at my husband and son, who were grinning like a couple of village idiots. This was going to be a looong afternoon.
"Welcome to Hooters, y'all!" a couple of chesty young women called, as the manager led us to our table. Happily, he complied with our request to tune two screens to the KU game and said, "Missie will be with y'all in a minute."
As we waited for Missie, I tried to focus on the game - or the menu, at least - but all I could see were mammary glands. (Male or female, I suspect that's normal for one's inaugural visit to Hooters. Isn't it?)
"Holy Isaac Newton," I said to myself. "These girls defy gravity! And check out those Suntan pantyhose and scrunchy white socks they're wearing. Where am I, 1983?"
Just then, Missie bounced up to our table wearing a smile as big as her, er, hoot owl logo.
"Kin ah git y'all any thang to drank?" Her outfit was atrocious, but her Southern drawl was endearing.
"NOOOOOOOO!" my husband suddenly screamed, slamming his fists on the table. Missie jumped back like a scared March hare.
"Don't take it personally," I reassured her, pointing to the TV. "It was just a stupid foul. He'll have a Bud Light." (Well, I thought, at least he's gotten his priorities straight.)
As Missie scampered to the bar, I watched with fascination as her well-endowed co-workers did their shtick with their gentlemen patrons - sitting down at the table or leaning over "just so" to take their orders, brushing close as they cleared away empty beer mugs. This might not be the BIG Dance, but it's a dance all the same. Hey! Maybe THAT'S why they're dressed like Jennifer Beals!
Our food arrived, the basketball intensified, and my attention shifted from girls in black polyester tank tops to boys in blue and white jerseys. My son and hubby's eyes were zeroed in on the game. The world was back on its axis.
"I've been to Graceland and, now, Hooters," I thought to myself. "Scratch two off the bucket list."
For the next two hours, we hunkered down at the Jackson Hooters, munching on hot wings and cheering our team onto victory. We bonded with a family from Lenexa in the corner who also were pausing for a basketball break on their way home from New Orleans. (Love the Jayhawks Nation!)
By the final buzzer, our server and I were on a first-name basis. I called her "Missie," and she called me "ma'am." We posed for a victory photo with her friend, Amber. I even purchased a souvenir T-shirt.
As we left to a chorus of "Bye, y'all"s, I thought, "Hooters isn't that bad. It's harmless, really."
Then, I spotted my husband handing Missie the rest of our gas money as a tip. My son, who conveniently had been cash-poor for the previous seven days, threw in a 10.
Cathy Hamilton is a 53-year-old empty nester, wife, mother and author, who blogs every day at BoomerGirl.com.