Fiction, by John K. Adams
Maybe it was me. Of course it was me. I did it.
Have you ever noticed that it is impossible to find peace and quiet anymore? You might say, ‘You live in a large city. What do you expect?’ But really, I expect to hear traffic. Traffic is not that big a deal. Traffic confirms your hearing aids are on. It’s surf.
But must I listen to chirpy sales pitches while I buy gas at the self-serve? What are they selling, anyway? I’m already buying their gas. Do I also have to go inside to peruse their irresistible selection of scrumptious snacks?
No. I do not.
Then at the burger place drive through, I’m trying to order two standard combos and the guy starts arguing with me. My money pays his wages and he’s arguing! Just give me my order! Don’t forget the extra salt!
Mary, my wife, told me he was just trying to upsell. But it was arguing. How hard is it to just take the order and leave it at that? If I wanted to add an extra whatchamacallit, on special today, two for the price of one, I would have said so in my original order. Wouldn’t you?
It began to look like that famous scene in the old Woody Allen movie that he never made, where he’s in the drive through, after almost colliding with the post holding the microphone and speaker. The voice from the speaker is so garbled, Woody can’t understand what the order taker is saying. Woody eventually ends up in a huge dispute with this invisible person. What starts as an attempt to order a burger turns into a heated debate over the fundamental precepts of Judaic beliefs in the afterlife and where they go off track as compared to the basically nihilistic foundations of existentialism. It would have been hilarious.
So, I’m thinking I’m stuck in a Woody Allen movie with this order taker who learned enunciation from pebble chewers. I’m so frustrated that in a fit of pique, I cancel the order. But then I realize I am boxed in, front and back by other cars and cannot leave.
So I try to get the order taker to take my order again. But now he’s giving me the silent treatment, which infuriates me even more. Does he want to sell me a burger? Or not? I want him to fulfill his destiny and sell me a damn burger. I’m hoarse from yelling. My wife is threatening to get out and walk because she can’t stand being seen with me. Finally the manager comes on and takes my order which I heroically pull myself together enough to give to him. Everybody’s happy, right?
I drive forward to the pay window, complete the transaction and then edge forward to pick up the food. Only the food is not there because they threw it out. They had the order when they took my money but now it’s mysteriously gone missing. Ever have one of those days?
I will not attempt to describe to you the emotions passing through my brain at that moment. Suffice to say, if my head had literally exploded, I would not have been a surprised. I would have needed windshield wipers to clean inside the windows. Mary took my hand at that moment. I needed that.
So, they find the order. It was just an oversight. Yeah, right.
Mary suggests we find a quiet street and have a car picnic and calm down. Amazingly, finding a quiet street was easy and I could eat while the food was still hot. Mary distributed our lunch. Nothing like French fries straight from the fryer. Comfort food.
Calming took a little more time.
It was a shady street. A butterfly raggedly flew by a cat lurking beneath some bushes. Two people walked by talking intently. Where does everyone go? So many people. So many destinations. Who can keep track?
Down the block, a kid attempted a skateboard trick. Over and over. The clack of his board hitting pavement marked time like a broken metronome. His determination was admirable, or crazy. Hope his parents have insurance.
It was so quiet I could actually hear the birds in the trees. After my melt down, that was a treat. They were probably singing all the while I was yelling my lungs out at that poor order taker. It was like camping and the first time seeing the Milky Way spilled across the sky. Distinct bird chirps. Order in the chaos. Life goes on.
On reflection, I realized I had created the whole deal. It wasn’t the poor guy’s fault I couldn’t hear him. He was just doing his job. By the time we got to the pick-up window, I had become such a clown, who wouldn’t hide my food? Had it been me, I might have done worse.
Twenty minutes before, I could have ripped up the sidewalk from sheer rage. Now, I listen to the peaceful symphony of birds and watch the shimmering light of leaves fluttering in the gentle breeze.
Who can say where the wind comes from? Or where it goes?