Sunday, November 23, 2008

The curious case of the drive-thru attendant

I'm not sure if has to do with being from the South, or how I was raised, or because when I was little my uncle would give my cousins a whoopin' anytime they dared address any adult without saying sir or ma'am. But I say "yes ma'am" and "no ma'am" to most all women.

A couple of weeks ago, I stopped by a local fast food establishment to order a dessert. A woman's voice came on the thing and I placed my order, which included me referring to her as "ma'am" a couple of times.

When I got up to the window, all I saw was this guy. He took my money and handed me my order. That's odd, I thought. (That it was a guy, not that he took my money and handed me my order.) But I know sometimes they'll have one person with the headset taking the order and another person just handing out the food--or at least that's how it is when I imagine the innerworkings of a fast food establishment--so I didn't think much more of it.

Then this past Thursday, we ordered from the same place for lunch and I went to pick it up. It was sort of a long order, so there were quite a few "yes ma'ams" and "no ma'ams." When I got to the window, the same guy was there. Except this time, he started chatting with me.

"It's finally warming up out there," he said.

My friends, he spoke with the voice of a woman. A real life high talker! Not a loud talker, a high talker. Just like the Seinfeld episode.

I wasn't able to look at him because I felt bad and also because it was taking everything I had not to laugh. But on the other hand, it was such a rare phenomenon that I was tempted to call someone just to let them hear.

He seemed like a nice guy, and this was the second time in a week that I had called him "ma'am." But what could I do? He sounded more like a woman than most women I know. They put him in the drive-thru where no one can see him. Plus we're basically in the sir and ma'am capital of the world here. It's entrapment!

I'm sure many "normal" people would let the story end there. But not me. Oh no. This wasn't over. For the next couple of days, it was all I could think about. I jovially shared with family and friends my story of meeting the high talker. I even pondered the possibility of a Bone Reality Tour, with the high talker and my Festivus Pole as the featured stops. Or, the only stops. But at the same time, I felt terrible about the whole ordeal.

After much consideration, I devised a plan. I would go back up there and no matter what, I would say "yes sir" and "no sir" when I ordered to make the high talker feel better. It seemed like the natural thing to do.

It was perfect. So inspired. Yet so simple. I imagined how good the high talker would feel to finally be called sir after hearing ma'am day after day after day. It made me proud that I was such a good person.

I carried out my plan yesterday. Of course by this time, I was sick of eating at the place--it's far from my favorite anyway--so I decided I'd just get a coke. What follows is the unedited version of the conversation that transpired shortly before 1:00 PM Central Time Saturday afternoon:

"Welcome to KFC, may I take your order?"

"Yes. Uh, yes sir." (I almost forgot, right off the bat!) "I'd like a medium Mountain Dew, please."

"One medium Mountain Dew. Is that all?"

"Yes sir."

"That'll be two-fifteen."

$2.15?!?! Suddenly coke has become more expensive than gasoline? Wow. Still, I figured it would be well worth it to right this wrong and bring this episode to a happy conclusion. I pulled up to the window and, um, well... it seems the high talker wasn't working.

Turns out there was but one flaw in my carefully designed plan. And that was it. So basically I paid two dollars and fifteen cents to call a 16-year-old kid "sir."

I'm sure many "normal" people would let the story end there...

"I won't make the same mistake by coming here again, cos I can't tell difference between the hers and hims. No, I can't tell the boys from the girls. And friends, it's really messing up my world..."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Great Sibling Experiment Of 1980

Today is my sister's birthday. I should know. Twenty-eight years ago today, I spent the wee morning hours in the ER waiting room, puking my guts out. (At this point, it strikes me that if I truly desire to someday be a writer I should probably come up with a better phrase than "puking my guts out.")

Anyway, in honor of Sister Bone--as she is known in blogging circles--I proudly present this edition of Sibling Memories. It's sorta like home videos for the blog. Enjoy, and thanks again for having internet.

One of the first memories that comes to mind is the Telecommunications Treaty of 1987. This was where my Dad, in a sudden burst of King-Solomon-esque cut-the-baby-in-half wisdom, ruled that on odd numbered days my sister would get to watch what she wanted on TV. And on even numbered days, I could watch what I wanted.

In time, I realized that in months having thirty-one days, Sister Bone would get control over the TV on back-to-back days (I never watched so much Full House in my life), making this treaty completely unfair. Still, it remained binding under the reign of Dad The First and was quite inconvenient, at least until I starting driving and working and wasn't home as much.

Zoom forward to the Fourth of July, 1989. I was going to pick up my uncle and aunt who didn't have a car and bring them back to our house for the holiday festivities. Sister Bone and two of my younger cousins were in the car with me so that I could show off my new driving abilities.

Soon after I put the car in reverse, we felt a jolt and heard the sound of crunching metal. I had backed into Mom's car. Terrified, I cautioned everyone in the car not to say anything until I figured out what to do. You know, because as long as no one told her, Mom surely wouldn't notice the huge dent in her driver's side door for weeks. Before I even got the words out of my mouth, Sister Bone was out of the car and running inside to tell on me.

Needless to say, no one was happier than me when Sister Bone's tattling phase finally ended, also known as the day she turned twenty-two. I really did enjoy having a sibling, though. So much so that I distinctly remember several times after Sister Bone was born begging Mom and Dad to have me a baby brother.

All along the way, we engaged in high-level psychological warfare. One of my favorites was when Dad would tell us we were not to touch each other. I would put my hands ever so close to Sister Bone's face and taunt her repeatedly with the words, "I'm not touching you. I'm not touching you." (You may have heard other kids using this, but I assure you I invented it.)

In turn, she would whine to Dad, "He's looking at me." And then I would be told that I was not to look at her. Thinking back sometimes, I'm amazed Dad The First didn't abdicate the throne.

Of course, times weren't always so good. There was the day I was playing a pickup football game and ran head first into the goalpost. I had a slight concussion and had to stay overnight in the hospital. A few weeks later, I found a letter Sister Bone--probably fourteen at the time--had written to me in a spiral notebook. All about how she missed me and was worried about me. I know, how mushy, right?

Sometimes I don't think a brother realizes what he means to his sister. And probably vice versa.

Happy birthday, sis. This concludes year twenty-eight of the Great Sibling Experiment of 1980. If Sister Bone read that line, she would probably say something like, "You're so weird." To which I would promptly reply, "I know you are but what am I."

"Or maybe head up north, to Knoxville, Tennessee. I know my baby sister has got a couch where I can sleep..."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The man in the red suit

I intended to post this yesterday, but I never could get it to come out right, so I decided to scrap it. Then when I went running tonight, instead of counting my steps to 100 and making sure I took exactly five steps on the short bridge and eight on the longer one, all I could think about was this post. I came home and wrote it, though I'm still not sure it came out right.

The first thing you notice about the man in the red suit is his outfit. The bright red coat, pants and tophat would stand out almost anywhere. But especially so on a steamy afternoon near summer's end, at a football game. That is when I first saw him.

Everyone else wore shorts or at least short-sleeves, except for the man in the red suit. He walked alone and at his own pace, a bit slower than the rest of the crowd. He seemed to be the definition of the phrase "in his own world."

Almost subconsciously, I filed him away in my mind as just an eccentric old black man. But as the weeks passed, I came to realize the man in the red suit was fairly well known around town. Or at least recognized. A couple of people even knew his name. And I began to ask questions.

Everything I know about the man in the red suit comes from things others have said. He draws a check from the government. He is always behind on his bills, but he pays them the best he can. No one seems to know if he has any family, but they have witnessed him speaking to his imaginary friend. And of course, there's the suit. No matter the season, no matter the weather, there is always the suit.

Casually and not really expecting an answer, one day I asked why he was the way he was. The answer came back in a single word.


It was spoken as if that one word should explain it all away--the curious attire, the imaginary friend, the struggling to make it on a fixed income. As if I am to accept it as that's just the way it is.


And with that, my view of the man in the red suit forever changed. Instantly, I had great respect and admiration for him. And albeit from afar, I felt a certain compassion for him. Anytime I see him now, it touches a soft place in my heart.

I also grew much more curious about the man in the red suit. I wonder about his life. I wonder if he has any family. When the fighter jets fly over before kickoff, does he get tears in his eyes like me? I wonder what he thinks about. Then I'm thankful I don't know.

Most of all, when I think about him struggling to pay his bills, I can't help but wonder if the country he risked his life for has turned its back on him.

A few weeks ago, I spotted the man in the red suit inside the stadium. He was sitting just a couple sections over from us. The crowd began to do the wave and I watched anxiously to see if he would participate. He didn't stand up, but did raise one arm as the wave passed by. I smiled.

The first thing you notice about the man in the red suit is his outfit. And that's OK. I think he has more than earned the right to wear anything he would like. But if that's all you notice, you're missing a lot.

On gameday, many fans put Bama flags on their cars. They fit on the side windows and most people have two flags, one on the driver's side and one on the passenger's side. At the most recent game, I saw the man in the red suit in his car. (Out of 92,000 people, we had parked in the same lot. Go figure.)

He had a Bama flag on one side.

And an American flag on the other.

"Some stood through for the red, white, and blue, and some had to fall. If you ever think of me, think of all your liberties and recall, some gave all..."

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Have you Scene It?

It was your typical weekday afternoon. I was fighting to stay awake for another hour or so of work, trying to get over the shock of seeing Sonny Corinthos stabbed and dropped in the river with cement blocks chained to his feet. (Fortunately, Carly happened by the waterfront, dove to the bottom of the river, somehow picked the locks on Sonny's chains, unchained him, and swam him back to the surface, all while holding her breath.) A commercial break came on, and that's when I heard it.

"General Hospital, brought to you in part by Scene It Seinfeld."

Wait. Did I hear that right? It couldn't be, could it? Two of the very cornerstones of my life coming together? Apparently, the answer to those questions is yes. Yes I did. Yes it could. And yes they have.

My initial reaction was probably not unlike many of yours--after all this time, my Nuvaring post was finally paying off! At last, they've begun marketing to the 25-39 year old straight male soap viewing crowd. And why not? There must be dozens of us out here.

Next, a Vagisil commercial came on and my thoughts turned to this new product: Scene It? Seinfeld. They've done it! It's been done.

The problem here is the same problem I always face with Seinfeld-related releases, especially around the holidays. Either everyone will get me one and I'll wind up with like four, or no one will get me one because they think everyone else will be getting me one. It can be quite the conundrum.

It didn't take long for people to start contacting me. I must say, there is something quite comforting about friends--even those I've not heard from in awhile--knowing me so well that I'm the first person they think of when there's news regarding Seinfeld, Matchbox Twenty, or Lindsay Lohan.

The female half of Kywana IM'd me one morning to see if I'd heard about it. We discussed what a great addition this will be to this year's Festivus celebration. Then Friday, a girl I've spoken to maybe once in the past year called to tell me about it. She also raised an issue I had yet to think about, saying, "No one will want to play with you because you'll know every single answer."

Drat! She had a point. I would dominate. It'd be like Kramer fighting children in karate. After careful consideration, meditation, and asking myself what would Jason & Jerry do (WWJJD), I came to a decision.

I've decided that I'm perfectly fine with always winning.

"Master of the house, doling out the charm. Ready with a handshake and an open palm..."

Monday, November 03, 2008

Stormtroopers, shakers, and we're #1?

Friday was Halloween. I should have warned you about this ahead of time. I know how unsettling it can be to have people dressed in scary costumes wandering down the street and knocking on your door if you're not prepared for it.

My final trick-or-treater count for the night was four. Kywana brought their two offspring by, which gave me a much needed reason to clean my house. The kids were dressed as Batgirl and a lion. They also had a stray stormtrooper in tow, who apparently had escaped the Death Star but forgot his helmet. I never realized how vital the helmet is to the stormtrooper ensemble. Otherwise, it just sort of looks like a bad Cameo getup. Word up?

After they left, I took the Millenium Falcon over to my sister's to visit Nephew Bone. My sister didn't want to get him out for some reason, so we had to bring his gifts to him. Talk about having it made! Nephew Bone was dressed up as a turtle, as you may or may not be able to see from this picture. Just trust me, he's a turtle.

There seems to be a general decline in the number of trick-or-treaters each year. I find that very disheartening. Kids who do trick-or-treat seem to be giving it up earlier and earlier, bowing out by age nine or ten. I'm thinking of speaking at a couple of Kindergarten assemblies to try and encourage kids to get out there and collect candy from these fools who are so stupidly giving it away.

Saturday, I attended the Bama/Arkansas State game. It was the first time Bama had played Arkansas State since 1982. I was also at that game, which we won 34-7. I remember ASU blocked a punt late for a touchdown. I also remember Mom pointing out Bear Bryant standing by the goal post before the game. It was Bear's last season. That was only the second Bama game I had ever attended. So Saturday had sort of a coming full circle feeling for me.

This week was also homecoming and several of the regulars who sit around us--Earl, DUI, Ultimatum, Carlin--weren't there. Before the game, my sister turns to me and says, "Does this guy behind us have a mullet?" Trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, I turned and discovered that yes, indeed, he did. It was old school, too. A vintage Camaro crash helmet. I immediately nicknamed him Billy Ray.

Bama won the game 35-0 thanks to a strong performance by the defense and a solid running game. And after Texas lost to Texas Tech Saturday night, Bama became the #1 ranked team in the nation. It's nice to be recognized, but honestly it makes me even more nervous than I am normally. I'd rather have remained #2 and then jump to #1 after the last game. Rankings don't mean much until the end of the season. I'm going to be shaking like a car with an out of balance tire on the interstate watching the LSU game this coming Saturday.

Speaking of shaking, I want to close today with a heartwarming brother/sister story. Red and white shakers are a big thing at Bama games. It seems like at least half of the 92,000 fans have them, yours truly included. Well, a streamer from one of the shakers wound up in my sister's Coke. So she turns to me and asks, "Is it OK to still drink this?"

"Yeah," I replied, waiting a couple of seconds before continuing. "It's OK for you. It wouldn't be OK for me."

"Wave your hands in the air like you don't care. Glide by the people as they start to look and stare. Do your dance. Do your dance. Do your dance quick, mama..."