Sunday, July 6, 2008

Take a number

It was one of those mashed potato days.

A crowd swarmed the deli counter at the grocery store. That’s okay. Mashed potatoes were worth the wait. I knew what I wanted. Not any fancy dinners, not any special deals, just a piece of chicken and mashed potatoes. Warm, fluffy, mashed potatoes.

I took a number like everyone else – number 86. I thought that was a little ominous, as in, ’86 the potatoes,’ meaning ‘don’t put potatoes on the plate,’ or worse yet, ‘throw the potatoes in the garbage.’

But the crowd at the counter, which must have been one family, wandered off happily with their food, and the lone lady before me had number 85. Smooth sailing.

And then he showed up.

You know the type.

The kind with no concept of personal space. The type who thinks his questions supersede anything else that might be going on, questions that trump any silly system of order established by the take-a-number wheel.

“What comes with a dinner?” He asked the deli clerk, who held a giant spoonful of my mashed potatoes in midair, where they perched, cooling quickly.

She answered as best as she could while packing up my delicious but quickly cooling food.

He asked questions about the chicken. He asked more questions about the potatoes. He relayed this information loudly to his companion, who must have been hiding in the liquor aisle.

“Hey, you’re taking all my potatoes,” he said, giving me a chuckle and flapping his elbow at me. Hyuk, hyuk.

“How much are they per pound?”

The lunch lady weighed my potatoes, held them and explained the price to the interloper.

“Do you use real potatoes?”

I tried to put myself in a zen sort of mindset. The potatoes are real if you believe they are real.

But all I wanted to do was smack the living shit out of him.

Here, I thought. I’ll help you out. The potatoes were grown in Idaho. The farmer’s name was Joe, or Bill, or Bob. Possibly James. They were harvested by machine and loaded onto a truck driven by Margaret, who is divorced with two grown children. The potatoes were delivered here last Thursday and processed into mashed potatoes by two underpaid workers who discussed the high cost of gas and whether or not such-and-such a place was hiring instead. The place had great benefits, they’d heard.

They’re mashed potatoes, damn it, and they’re getting cold. Any idiot knows that you don’t stand between a woman and her mashed potatoes.

When he started ordering his potatoes before I had my gravy, enough was enough.

“Do you mind if she finishes with my order first?”

Oh, my God! He was so sorry. He had no idea I wasn’t finished. He really was sorry.

Yes, yes. Just back away from the potatoes, please. And we’ll all get out of this alive.

No comments: