Rodney Silva and his wife Maryanne got through Wednesday night without power with a generator but when morning came they headed to Perkos for breakfast.
“Mary is not going to go without her traditional breakfast,” Rodney Silva said.
Lots of others had the same sentiment. Perko’s was packed, as were the few other restaurants that were able to open.
The Silvas are Perkos regulars on Tuesdays and sometimes as many as three days a week. Usually they head to the closest unoccupied table and sit down immediately.
Not Thursday. They waited 30 to 40 minutes to get a table at about 8 a.m.
“It’s a wakeup call for Sonora to be more prepared,” said Maryanne Silva.
“We’re just here to have a nice hot breakfast and start the day,” added her husband.
A server was handing out to-go orders saying, “have fun in the dark today.”
Elsewhere, hot steam rose from coffee cups and a steady procession of meals were brought out from the kitchen — biscuits and gravy, eggs, and bacon, bacon, bacon.
“People want to go where there’s light,” said Larry Coleman of Sonora, the head dishwasher and busser at Perko’s.
Coleman arrived to work at 5:30 a.m. in the pitch-dark and the generators were just being fired up. Temperatures were in the 40s.
A half-an-hour later after they opened, the steady stream of people began to fill the restaurant and fill it more and more until they were packed.
“We are just busier today,” Coleman said. “Everybody’s been good. People have been patient.”
Some patrons sought out Perko’s specifically knowing it would be one of the few places open, like Sarah Creightonm, of Twain Harte, with her almost-2 year old son, Oliver.
“It’s a little more busy than normal,” she said. “The parking lot when I arrived, I was contemplating not coming in. But I’m hungry.”
She stayed with in-laws who had a generator, she said, but as a former employee at the restaurant, she said nothing compared to a hot meal coming out of the Perko’s kitchen.
Some regulars felt the mood at the restaurant shifted a bit, just short of fellowship.
“Everybody’s attitude is so rigid,” said Ralph Souza, of Sonora. “Boy, today is just like arghhh. It’s because they’re overwhelmed.”
Souza said he has eaten at Perko’s almost every day for 12 years. But this week, he wasn’t eating his bacon and eggs (over medium) with hash browns and a cup of coffee to prepare for work. He was sitting and waiting, he said, to get back to his business, R&S Metals, a scrapyard in East Sonora.
“I’ve got stuff piling up, employees are off work and I can’t ship,” he said.
At the bar, another sleepy patron agreed.
“It’s frustrating to watch,” added Patrick Brown of Angels Camp, a surgical nurse at Adventist Health - Sonora who worked through the night until 5 a.m. on emergent cases such as C-sections.
“Stress does things to everyone. It seems like everybody's a little stressed today. But I’m just happy to have a seat and something nice to eat before I go home.”