Blog: How My Stomach Ruined An Old Man's Day
(originally written 11/19/14)
Let me preface this story with the following:
I do not leave the house planning to be a jerk. I really don't. I honestly try to be a half-decent human being, in spite of the countless challenges to those attempts and scarcity of like-minded individuals.
I never set out with thoughts of "HAHAHA! Who am I gonna f--- over today?!" I just try to go out, do what I have to do, and come home. Nothing more, nothing less.
It's just that sometimes my impatience, immaturity and tunnel vision toward my own desires tend to interfere with my strive for half-decency.
Here's what went down a few days ago:
I am hungry. (SHOCKER) I'm craving Taco Bell. I'm also short on time, which is crucial to the story.
To The Border I run. As I'm making my way from car to building, an elderly man—who I'm estimating at 75-80—is doing the same. I'm just 35 feet away from the door, but he's 20 feet away. I have been known to race people in situations such as this one, but on a bad knee with 15 feet to make up, I'm forced to accept Gramps won this round.
(This man will henceforth be referred to as Gandhi; the resemblance was strong save for the gray fuzz on the sides/back of his glistening head.)
Gandhi trudges in. If you're a fellow Taco Bell afficionado, you're aware of the "aura" unfamiliar customers give off. They move cautiously, unaware if they're supposed to be seated by a hostess and given a menu or not. They don't respond to greetings because the vast menu selection is intimidating them. They carry a blank stare, like that of a teen being asked to perform chores.
I briefly locked eyes with Gandhi at the counter (also crucial to the story) and took my place behind him. At this point, I'm still practicing patience, even though my order could have already been completed. My money was ready and I knew exactly what two items I wanted.
Two full minutes pass before Gandhi orders...a cup of coffee.
That may not seem like long to you at first. But re-enact it in your mind and pretend you have to be somewhere. Your position will change.
I'm still waiting patiently, telling myself it could have been worse. Gandhi could have been one of those Calorie Counters that drove us so crazy during my own Taco Bell career. Those pinheads ground our lines to a standstill and ruined our average service time. But I'm not here to talk about the past.
Gandhi fumbles for his wallet, struggles to lift out a couple of bills, and gets his change and ticket. At last, it's my turn—and not a moment too soon, cuz I'm famished. Even by my standards.
Except it's not my turn.
Gandhi's placed his order, gotten his change...and yet he's still standing there.
Though I could only pick up bits and pieces of his wheezy gibberish, it was enough to know whatever he was muttering about had zero to do with the order. Meaning he needed to move. Now.
The cashier was clearly not going to do what needed to be done. How do I put this nicely—the fog between her ears practically emanated from her pores.
Leaving the job up to me.
I tried to hold out. After all, this was probably some lonely old man with nobody else to talk to. Besides, mental vacuity aside, the cashier was cute and I didn't want to look like a jerk.
However, Gandhi—knowing I was behind him, remember—dragged on for another 30 seconds and I'd had enough. Jerk or not, it was time for ME to order.
I sidled up next to this man. I was careful not to sound threatening. I yelled not, I cursed not and I even grinned slightly when I said, "Sir? I'd like to order now, please."
Both he and the cashier eyed me. He looked as if I'd chewed off his watch. She looked as if she'd been hypnotized (but then again that's how she always looks.) After a beat, he indeed stepped aside without a word.
All I wanted was to place my order. My entire transaction took under 30 seconds. I backed up so Gandhi and Fog Girl could resume their conversation—business was slow; they could have chatted indefinitely.
That didn't happen. Gandhi loitered about for a couple of moments—and left. I do not think he even got his coffee.
My growling stomach might have ruined his day.
Listen: I do not believe in showing extra respect for the elderly. I believe in respecting them equally as you would respect any person worthy of it. That doesn't mean I wouldn't give up my seat for one on the bus—whole different argument. What that does mean is: if a person, any person, is infringing upon my rights, my time, my space, whatever, to me it is rude and I don't like rude.
Many people abide by the "respect your elders" doctrine with the implied addendum of "no matter what". I don't. There's a difference between respecting someone and allowing them to do whatever they want without question.
Furthermore, not every cute little old man is a cute little old man—some are scumbags who defied the odds by making it to octogenarian age. For all I knew, this guy steals dirty diapers and lines them up to spell "BUTT PUKE" on people's graves. For all I knew, he chases kids all over the neighborhood every day throwing fruits and vegetables at them for hours at a time. For all I knew, every Tuesday he goes to a convent and forces nuns to watch him Jitterbug at gunpoint.
And for all I knew, he's the most wonderful human being in the world. He feeds orphans, single-handedly foiled another Japanese ambush in WW2 and was holding me up in line in order to pray for the cashier. (Hopefully to make it to the Wizard for a brain.) And thanks to me, he probably went back to his empty house and wept.
In my mind, I knew I did nothing wrong.
And yet I felt like I did everything wrong simultaneously.
If only the Bell sold Irish coffee...