Monday, July 28, 2008

The Tinderbox

The weather has been unbelievably hot lately. Even on days where it only reaches the low 90s, the air is so still, so heavy with the city's sweat, it feels closer to the low 100s. And as the temperature rises, so do the tempers. The town is a tinderbox, and a flippant remark or careless driver can set off a firestorm as easily as a dry bush under the midday sun.

Fast food consumption goes up when it's hot. At least that's my pattern. It's too hot to cart the kids in and out of car seats and across parking lots only to spend the next hour pleading with them to hold out for just five more minutes while I find the right brand of cereal. They smell my fear like predators and poke at me with cries, whines, and constant requests to go potty down every other aisle. I sometimes get so flustered I forget half the items on my list, and so there are days I open the refrigerator and am shocked to find only a withered cucumber. Didn't I just buy that loaf of bread? And what happened to the peanut butter? I am still learning to shop with two growing boys in mind. I bought a pint of blueberries the other day thinking it would last the week. They ate the entire carton at snack time, and Nicholas had the nerve to look offended at the site of his clean plate. On these days I glare with envy at their slim, bottomless tummies and head towards McDonald's with just the slightest bit of guilt.

Under these circumstances, Omar had to know he had it coming.

At my McDonald's there is a driveup where you order the food. After which you make a sharp left turn and stop at the first of two windows. At window #1 you pay; at window #2 you pick up. I finished ordering and made the sharp left turn only to narrowly avoid hitting a pimply-faced teen standing in the drive-through and leaning languidly into window #1.

What the?!

My thundering engine 5 inches from his body was no match for the harp-playing angels and chirping birds floating above his head. This young man had eyes (and ears and brains) for no one but the beautiful young maiden, Leticia, perched inside window #1. I put the truck in reverse, made a 10-point turn in the curve of the drive-through, and re-approached.

"Hi. I almost hit you." I looked at his name tag. Omar.

Omar slowly tore his eyes away from the furiously texting Leticia and looked at me. I looked back, and played connect the dots with his pockmarked faced. It spelled out Dude, I'm in love. I gave him a look that said Dude, I'm in no mood. Leticia was too busy texting to give me my total, so Omar hoisted himself into window #1 and stole a quick glance at the register before sliding back down.

"Your total is $11.52." He rested his right elbow on the window ledge, propped his head on his fist, and held out his left hand for me to place my money, all the while staring at Leticia. I looked around for hidden cameras. Finding none, I determined that this pathetic exchange in time was my reality.

I gave him my card and watched as he hoisted himself into window #1 to process the order. Naturally, perched as he was like a freakin' lovebird, he fumbled for an indeterminable amount of time with the machine. Leticia entered an order and smiled at a reply to her previous text. Omar handed me back my card and receipt and resumed Leticia Watch. I waited, then realizing Omar would not be moving again, collapsed my side-view mirror, put the truck in reverse, and created enough berth between me and him so as not to hit him. I inched past Omar and made it to window #2. I looked in my rear view mirror and watched as the next driver behind me maneuvered around Omar.

Young love. It's sweet, passionate, endearing, and a pain in my ass. As I watched Omar hoist his scrawny little body into window#1 again, I knew I had no choice but to quash that little Love Connection like the Anti-Chuck Woolery.

As luck would have it, the manager was working the window. The manager who, if his frazzled appearance was any indication, was covering for Omar on break. It took me three times to explain to him that one of his employees was blocking the drive-through. Poor fella couldn't comprehend what I was trying to say, so when he followed my thumb and saw Omar's dangling ass outside window #1 (he was processing an order) he had to catch himself to keep from falling out of window #2.

"OMAR!" Nothing.

"OMAR!!" No response. Never underestimate the racket harp-playing angels and chirping birds can make.

"OMAR!!!" I watched to make sure the shower of spittle didn't hit any of my fries. Through clenched teeth the manager advised Omar to "get his ass back inside." I adjusted my sunglasses and didn't even try to hide my chuckle of delight as Omar slinked his way past the long line of lunch-hour cars and into the kitchen.

Love burns hot, Omar. But a hot, pissed-off mom paying for a bag of fried heart disease burns hotter.

See you next time, Romeo.