Anybody who knows me knows I'm a bit deaf. Too many years standing in front of too many speakers punching out too many decibels = Deaf g.
But that doesn't explain why I can't seem to understand anyone anymore!
Like the lady that works at the local Baja Fresh. For those of you who don't know what Baja Fresh is, it's a fast food franchise that specializes in Mexican food – especially the BORE_EAT_TOES (as my youngest son Noah calls them).
Here's the thing … I won't go there anymore. Why, you ask? 'Cause the last time I went there, the little (and I mean little, as in a Mexican Oompa Loompa) lady humiliated and shamed me into total defeat. With just one unintelligible question, a question I'm still utterly unable to answer. Here's how it went:
<The line was long both ahead of me and behind me. When it was my turn, I stepped up to the counter confidently.>
Me: "Hi, I'd like one Ultimate beef burrito please."
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <staring up at me devoid of any emotion> "Blacbince o pintobince?"
Me: <Not expecting …whatever she just said> "No, I want one ultimate beef burrito, please."
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <Now seeming to peer into my soul with her ink-black evil eyes> "Blacbince o pintobince?"
Me: <speaking ver-ry slow-ly and loud-er> "No! I WANT ONE UL-TI-MATE BO-REE-TOE … please!"
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <not blinking, not laughing, not amused … but now vexing my SOUL> "Blacbince o pintobince?"
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: "Blacbince o pintobince?"
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: "Blacbince o pintobince?"
<My eyes now bloodshot, sweat pouring down my forehead>
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <Blinks. I thought I had her just where I wanted her! But then she pursed her hateful brownish lips and regained her mojo> "… Blacbince o pintobince?"
Me: <I looked behind me for help – all I saw was a growing line of impatient people, looking back at me with no emotion, uninvolved, uncaring wretches! I asked myself, Could they be in league with Senora Mini-Witch?>
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <more aggressive> "Blacbince o pintobince?!"
Me: <Helpless, emotionally-naked, stripped of my dignity> No reply.
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <now doubling up - goin' for my jugular> "Blacbince o pintobince?!" "Blacbince o pintobince?!"
Me: <tears forming in my eyes> "I want to speak … to the manager!"
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <cold … relentless … heartless … just noticeably grinning like a female, south-of-the-border, pygmy Hannibal Lecter > "Blacbince o pintobince?!"
Me: <lower lip quivering, manhood stripped away, in a last ditch effort I reached for my cell phone like it was some kind of medieval shield. I punched the speed dial button for my wife. I didn't even say hello to her, I just yelled into it, "WHAT … IS … SHE … SAYING??!!" then pointed it at the Mexican Oompa Loompa lady like it was a crucifix and she was a vampire>
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <silent>
Me: "SAY IT!!! SAYYY IT!!!! For all that is Holy SAY … it …"
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <silent>
ME: <half-threatening, half-pleading, through my clenched teeth> SAY … IT … please, PLEASE … just SAYit sayit sayit sayit …!
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <silent>
Baja Fresh Manager: "Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
The crowd behind me parted like they were the Red Sea as I turned on my heels, trying to regain some shred of my dignity and began to exit the establishment, in shame. As I got to the door, I turned and looked back at my short, mustachioed, chubbita nemesis. With my last iota of manliness, I thrust my chin up at her.
The Mexican Oompa Loompa lady finally showed some hint of human emotion … but it wasn't charity … it wasn't consideration or empathy … it was Mexican Oompa Loompa lady superiority!
She smiled broadly enough for me to see her gold tooth sparkling in the late afternoon sun as she silently mouthed "Blacbince o pintobince …"
I'm a friggin' author (my wife's complimentary way of putting it – as in, "So NOW, you're a—") which means I have to frequent my local post office to mail the signed copies that good folks are kind enough to order from my website. If you didn't know already, you can order signed copies of _The Watchman of Ephraim_ directly from my website at: www.GerarddeMarigny.com. The entire transaction is handled by PayPal, so it's secure and I even personalize your signed copy … but I digress …
Okay, I'm a fiction writer so yes, I do see story-lines in my everyday life – but my trip to the post office today would be more of something that Stephen King would write, like a chilling horror tale!
The post office itself is quaint – Henderson, NV is basically like a small town (at least to someone raised in NYC). Desert landscape surrounds the architecturally-pleasing building and you can even easily find a parking spot. That's where the tale of Mayberry RFD ends though!
Upon entering, my old-neighborhood upbringing kicks in so I immediately case the joint. I won't exaggerate (too much) so I'll admit – most days it's all quiet on the western front – but today, my worst fears were realized!
The line was unusually long – in Henderson, that means three people were there with me – but it wasn't the amount of people that terrified me, it was who the three people were!
Starting at the front desk:
College student/Unabomber type: I can't help listening to everyone's yapping. So first I focused my bionic hearing on the college kid at the front desk (actually I'm mostly deaf from a decade of being in a heavy metal band, so who knows what really was said).
Long straggly dreadlocks on a Caucasian, hmmm … baggy shorts (we live in the desert) … baggy t-shirt and sneakers that Richard Reid would be proud of (The Shoe Bomber, remember him?) But it was the way he was acting that started me vexing. Here's how it went:
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air'): "May I help you?"
College Student/Unabomber-type: <wiping his finger under his nose and looking around> No answer
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air'): "Sir, may I help you?"
College Student/Unabomber-type: <sniff> Now staring at the Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air') – no reply.
Now I'm worried.
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air'): "Sir, do you want to mail that package?"
Obviously, a rhetoric question I thought since we were … in … a post office.
College Student/Unabomber-type: <Places the crumpled box on the counter> "No."
Okay, now I'm really worried.
The Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air') silently processes the package for shipment while never taking his eyes off of the College Student/Unabomber-type who proceeds to pay for the shipment then heads for the exit.
Me: <Whew! … But wait>
An older man with longish blonde hair, mustache and beard (only in Las Vegas) walked in just as the College Student/Unabomber-type exited. The old gentleman carried a briefcase and was wearing a slightly crumpled blonde suit with blonde cowboy boots (only in Las Vegas). He proceeds to get on the line directly behind me and announce to the entire post office in a voice that was identical to Howard Hesseman's in WKRP Cincinnati.
Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: "Excuse me! I need to speak to the Postmaster General!"
I'm worried again.
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air'): "I'm sorry sir, but the postmaster general doesn't work here."
Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: <impatient> "OKAAY, then let me speak to the Postal Superintendent!"
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air'): "Sir, we have no postal superintendent in this post office."
Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: <Agitated> "Then let me speak to your manager, you DO have a manager, don't you?"
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air'): <Yells into the back while keeping his eyes glued to the Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots> "HEY DARLENE, WHO'S THE MANAGER TODAY?"
Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: <Very agitated>
Me: <Very worried>
Just then, the old wrinkled Mexican gentleman wearing a cowboy hat and holding a stack of documents turns to me and says: "Disculpe señor, pero ¿sabe usted si puede procesar papeles de inmigración en esta línea?"
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air') to Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: "I'm sorry sir, but our manager isn't here today" (grin)
Old wrinkled Mexican gentleman wearing a cowboy hat and holding a stack of documents now puts his hand on my shoulder and repeats: "Disculpe señor, pero ¿sabe usted si puede procesar papeles de inmigración en esta línea?!"
Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: <Really !@#$ agitated> "You don't UNDERSTAND, I'm here to report a CRIME … a FEDERAL CRIME!"
Old wrinkled Mexican gentleman wearing a cowboy hat and holding a stack of documents: <Agitated at me> "Disculpe señor, pero ¿sabe usted si puede procesar papeles de inmigración en esta línea?!!"
Me: <I'm sweatin; bullets and I have to pee now> humina humina humina humina …
Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: <opens his briefcase>
I grabbed the Old wrinkled Mexican gentleman wearing a cowboy hat and holding a stack of documents and HIT THE FLOOR, PLACED MY HANDS BEHIND MY HEAD AND INTERLOCKED MY FINGERS (an old habit from the old neighborhood, I don't want to talk about it)
The Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots proceeded to produce … his business card … and handed it to the Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air') – both of them looking at me and the Old wrinkled Mexican gentleman wearing a cowboy hat – no longer holding a stack of documents, both of us now laying prone on the floor.
… 'cause I inadvertently knocked the stack of documents – apparently his immigration documents that he was asking me if he was on the right line to process – out of his hands.
I simply helped the old man pick up his papers, paid to mail the signed copy of my book and left.
How was your day? (grin)
Okay, I'm well past 40, actually closer to … I can't say it, but my point is that I learned these things after turning the (not-so) big 40. Here we go:
1-I'm not as smart as I thought I was when I was younger. Not that I'm dumb, mind you, but WOW if there aren't a bunch brainiacs out there that are smarter than I ever was or will ever be! I'll tell you what though, I'm at an age now where I'm smart enough to know what I don't know - that's something you don't learn when you're young. So I tend to keep my mouth shut when it comes to things about which I'm not sure. My motto is, 'Listen and learn from those wiser then thee,' or the way they'd put it in the old neighborhood, 'Shut your trap and open your ears!'
2- I like food, but it doesn't like me anymore. Anyone who knew me when I was younger knows that I was thin. I was thin but I always had a BIG appetite! I could eat 10 hotdogs, or an entire pizza, or a pound of pasta by myself. Guess what, I still can, except before I turned 40 the food seemed to vanish after leaving my mouth - now, it goes directly to my gut and my butt. I've been working hard to make food my friend again - by eating better and smarter - it's a work in progress.
3-I can't drink as much as I used to. Started learning this one after age 40 but lesson learned after a little party my wife and I hosted a year back - I won't give details, except to say my days of having drinking contests are over. Going forward, I'm very happy though sharing a nice bottle of wine with Lisa, a good brew, or enjoying a glass of fine single malt (one glass and sipping it).
4- Age is just a number. That's something we all heard others say (mostly older folks) when we were younger. It's not a concept the young can get their heads around, mostly because when you're younger, age matters! After turning 40 though, it just started occurring to me that you're only as old as you feel … and act. My dad used to get behind someone driving slowly in their car and he would say, "Come on, you old geezer, move it!" I used to laugh and say to him, "Pop, that old man is probably younger than you are!" He'd look at me and wink. Now I understand why.
5- (And this is the most important one) There are only three things important in life. When I was younger, I thought money was important, power was important, strength was important, popularity was important, looks were important, education was important, what I wore, the car I drove, the places I went, etc. etc. etc. This one I started to learn a bit younger though, to be honest, but only after 40 did I really start to focus on them. I learned it when I was diagnosed with cancer back in 1996. There are only three things important in life (at least to me): My Faith, My Family, and My Friends… the rest is just noise!
What have you learned … come one, give it up!
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Dean Wesley Smith