Because work has been really very busy I haven’t had time to cook meals at night to eat at lunch during the day. Because I didn’t take lunch to work I have to go somewhere to eat. Because I’m cheap I use coupons and because the only coupons I have are for fast food and because I secretly lust for French Fries, yes, so fast food it is. I don’t get off for lunch until after twelve and I know I have to be back way before one. But I will sit down and eat because I am hungry and if I do not get some downtime between having to deal with people I’m going to be wrecked by the end of the day, which cannot come to me fast enough.
But there are people.
“I cannot believe you left your damn cell phone at the house.”
Why not? Are there other possibilities? Has she never forgotten her cell phone? Have you never forgotten yours? Is she the type to forget her cell phone? Where else could she have left it? All of these things are words that form in my mouth but I do not speak these words. The couple in front of me with a three year old girl should be half way to Atlanta by now but the woman in this partnership left her cell phone at the house and he, very clearly, cannot believe it. He keeps repeating that he can’t believe it. Loudly. I almost ask him if he thinks she hid it, but no, I cannot get involved.
This is one of those fast food places with the drink dispensers that have two billion elevety thousand, seventy-six choices. The alleged man is holding the little girl at her waist and she’s pushing buttons like a boss but she cannot hold the Bigger Gulf Gulp Cup in her tiny hand so mom is doing that while her husband is having the soliloquy of his life by repeating he cannot believe she left her cell phone at home. He is, quite loudly, atheistic about her leaving that cell phone at the house. Her brother is coming from Lake City, an hour away to deliver the phone. And see what you did? He has to drive a damn hour I can’t believe you left your damn cell phone at the damn house.
Meanwhile, all I really need is water and ice, in my cup.
I give up and go sit down. I watch as they continue to block and monopolize the area where people might get drinks, and something in me demands that I toss a big bag full of rattlesnakes onto the floor. That would do it, you know, if there were seven or eight full grown Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes on the floor around me, people would stay away. But the people would kill the snakes and that would be sad. It’s also sad, every damn time, I see a man treating someone he’s supposed to love like this. It’s hurtful to watch. I got into an argument with a woman I loved once in a train station and in the middle of it she told me I was too loud, too harsh, and she wanted me to stop. I did and I didn’t realize we were arguing and the conversation turned suddenly to the idea that she could ask me to calm down, or at least slow down, and I could, and I would, because that’s what you’re supposed to do when someone you love is upset with what you’re doing, isn’t it? We never stopped holding hands the whole time and she mentioned that as we boarded the train and it was one of those moments that bonded us together more closely.
Your order is number five hundred and seventeen.
I get up to get my food and the can’t believe it’s not cell phone meets me at the counter. He demands to know why my order came up first when they were in line ahead of me. He puts his hand on the counter close to the tray and ignores me. The sound of this person’s raised voice has filled this room one time aplenty.
Punch him. Yeah, you know what, Mike, fucking punch him.
Now, Mike, pull the trigger and just throw down. Any man that will berate his wife in public over and over isn’t a match for you, no matter how young he is, or how big he is, he has no honor and he has no heart, and ever it may bring, just pop this mofo and let’s just see…
The man looks at me and realizes that I’m drawing down on him. He’s already too close to me, he’s already let someone inside and he looks at me as if he’s wondering what he’s going to do if I’m really serious and oh- my- fucking- god.
It’s like watching a shark, or a bear, or any predator that’s some mass. A guy slips over the counter behind Mr. I can not believe you left your cell phone at the house has no clue what has happened behind him but the other customers scatter. This is a man about twenty but he’s also about six feet six inches tall and there isn’t enough fat on him to cover a mouse’s left foot. I have no idea if he works here because he’s down to a tee shirt and jeans and he looks ungodly pissed. He has just glided over the counter, one palm flat on the smooth surface and his massive body launched flawlessly, big black boots a quarter of an inch off the polished steel counter and quietly to the floor, landing without a sound and he’s bringing.
“Excuse me, sir.” And this is a voice of death, and blood, and go ahead, run your mouth just one more time.
“I can take the next customer over here” the manager says loudly and she draws everyone else away from us.
Uh huh. I see this coming.
“Sir, if you will take a seat I will bring your order to you,” the Giant says with a voice that drips courtesy and venom. He gives me a looks that suggests that I stand down and allow him handle this.
Please, oh, please, oh, please, let this guy be stupid enough to speak to the Giant. I think this guy is a Marine, and his mom might be the manager, or maybe he's the partner of the young woman at the window who is pretending she sees nothing, and he’s watched and listened, and finally, had enough. He’s come over the counter to do what Marines do when they’re being Marines.
Yeah, it’s something us guys know. You get someone picking on a smaller guy or something like that and when someone steps in the bully becomes Mr. Social but no one is buying it. He’s forgotten I’m behind him, but I can’t fault him for that, the Giant is a massive being that is clearly unhappy.
Oh, what the hell. It’s cheap as hell but I do get a free shot here.
“She’s really cute, you know” I say and Phone At The House tries to look at me while not turning his back on the landslide about to crash into him.
“Yeah, what?” Phone At The House stammers. The big guy is close enough to Phone At The House that I can smell his breath from where I’m standing.
“Your daughter,” I say, “she get her looks from her mother. That is fortunate, no?”
“Uh, I, yeah,” Phone At The House cannot bring himself to look away from the Giant. “What?”
“You should tell her that, you know,” I tell him and the Giant beams at me. “You should tell your wife she’s pretty, and you’re glad your daughter looks like her.”
“If you’ll take a seat, sir,” the Giant tells him, in a tone that suggests it is the last time, “I will bring your order to you.” This is a young man schooled in the art of how to be courteous to the point it’s a death threat. He’s not asking Phone At The House to sit down, he’s telling him that vital organs will see daylight if that butt isn’t covering a plastic seat and pretty damn soon.
Phone At The House has to turn sideways and walk around the Giant who isn’t showing any signs of moving, any more than would half a mountain. He looks at me and smiles. “Will that be all, sir?” and he hands me my tray.
“Yes, thank you.” And after all, it is more than enough.
Giant hangs around until their order comes and he delivers it with a smile and grace. Phone At The House’s wife has just witnessed the emasculation of her husband but really, is this any way for a man to behave in public? It’s more of an addressing of something obviously missing than a removal. Their little girl is delighted at the sight of a man the size of an elephant. I watch him and realize, no, really, he isn’t that big at all. But the way he carries himself and the fact that he’s nearly fat free makes him look bigger. His manner makes him a bigger man, a bigger person, and there is at least two other people in the room who know it.
Giant goes through the door to get behind the counter and the manager slaps him hard on his shoulder and she looks mad but we’ve all seen that look. It’s the look a woman will give a man for resorting to near violence and that isn’t the right thing to do and I didn’t raise you like that look but deep down inside she is delighted that her son acted when he did and the way he did. Around the room there are a few grins. I catch myself smiling, too.
I have to go and I wonder what the ride to Atlanta is going to be like.