Saturday, June 5, 2010

Attention, Pupils

It's 2:00 in the afternoon when I enter the Burger King. I'm sure it was pretty chaotic here about an hour ago, but it's quiet now. Not too many people, just a few retirees milling about, and a mother and her two-year old. I planned it this way. Well, I'm not personally responsible for the retirees milling about. And I don't know the mother nor her two-year old. What I planned is the thing I have the most control over, my own movements. Especially at 2:00 in the afternoon. I could have come in at 12 or 1, but the place would have been busier, much more louder, much more crowded. It's the lack of that crowd that I most desire at 2:00 in the afternoon. If I'm going to control my own movements, I'm going to need as much empty space as possible. Enough space to sit where I want. This is very important to me. I like to eat in solitude. If a bit of special sauce drips from the Double Whopper and lands just below the lip, I want to be able to swoop it up with my tongue without having to fret over prying eyes. In addition, I like to be alone with my thoughts. Such thoughts as, what's the best way to eat this big sloppy Double Whopper without special sauce dripping all over my face?

There's an empty table right in that corner. Perfect. I'll just sit there. I'll have a nice view of the corner wall. Everyone else in the place will have a nice view of the back of my head.

But there's a problem as I approach the table. A crumb. A crumb almost perfectly centered on the table top. Were this ten minutes after lunch hour, I could understand. But an hour has passed! Someone really should have wiped it off by now. I myself could easily flick that crumb off with my fingers. But that's hardly my responsibility. This place pays people good money to remove crumbs. Hold on, this is a fast-food restaurant. Well, they pay money. Whether it's good or not is really not for me to say. I will say they pay me, the customer, absolutely nothing to remove that crumb. I could go back to the counter and bitch about that crumb, but whoever's on duty is busy with one of the retirees, who's probably expecting one of those senior citizen coffee refills.

I'll just sit one table away from the corner. In other words, the table before the table in the corner. No crumb there. And it's still a remote enough spot. Remember, the Burger King is fairly empty. What's the chance of someone actually sitting at that crumb-ridden corner table, thus spoiling my solitude? In fact, my being at the table before the table in the corner, should actually discourage anybody from sitting there. I know if I saw someone sitting at that table, I'd be discouraged.

So, here I am, serenely sitting at the table before the table in the corner, serenely thinking my thoughts, and attempting to serenely eat my big, sloppy Double Whopper without dripping special sauce all over myself. Life is good.

Just then, I see a middle-aged man, older than me but younger than a retiree, walking with a tray full of food right toward that corner table.

All these empty seats, and he's sitting there? Well, if he does sit there, it will probably be with his back toward me. Surely, he'd rather look at the corner wall. Probably why he chose that seat to begin with.

But he doesn't sit there. He sits on the side, so that his face is directly facing mine!

Now, what am I supposed to do? Oh, God, we just made eye contact. Well, it's his own fault. He chose to sit there.

Eye contact doesn't seem to bother this guy too much. But what am I supposed to do? I can't be alone with my thoughts when I got two eyeballs keeping me company!

So I turn my head toward the window. That's a good way to be alone with your thoughts. Hmm, lets see what's out there. Out there in the parking lot. Some woman getting out of her car, and--DAMMIT! We just made eye contact.

I'll crane my head in the opposite direction. Toward the nice empty dining room. Empty except for that retiree, the one I just made eye contact with. Why the hell does he have to sit there for?

Maybe if I just crane my head a couple of degrees, I'll--I'll make eye contact with the mother of the two-year old. No problem, I'll dip my head, and--OK, if there one person I really don't want to make eye contact with it's a two-year. Two-year olds live for eye contact. Two-year olds thrill on eye contact. And why is this two-year old now talking to his mother? And looking at me? And now looking at his mother. And why is the mother again making eye contact with me? Because of what her two-year old told her? It's his fault we made eye contact, not mine!

If I just move my head--another retiree! The place is still almost empty, but the few people there seem to be sitting in strategically placed eye contact positions. To make matters worse, a Burger King employee is mopping the floor. Wherever I move my gaze, he seems to follow. His eyeballs seem to follow. I look outside. Some guy getting out of his car, and, yep, eye contact.

An optometrist doesn't make as much eye contact as I am today. At least an optometrist gets paid good money to make eye contact. Better money, I'm sure, than that kid mopping the floor.

With no other alternative left, I shift my eyes downward. I see the special sauce from my sloppy Double Whopper has dripped onto the tray, the table, even my lap.

Something to think about.


  1. At least you didn't get a retiree trying to teach you how to tie your shoes!
    (see my blog for reference)


  2. Sometimes I wear really dirty dark glasses when I want to avoid eye contact.

  3. We retirees like to stare at the chance for sauce on the bottom lip. We are much like two year olds in that regard. We also snicker.

  4. True story. I have never eaten a meal alone in a restaurant. You just reminded me of the reasons for that. Grand post, Kirk!

  5. i've found that looking mildly demented during eye contact generally discourages said contact. unless, of course, the other person more demented. in that case, all bets are off.

  6. @Numinosity--I read your most recent post about the shoes. Very funny. I'll comment more over at your place.

    Kass--Then people will think you're a movie star, and REALLY stare.

    Tag--I wasn't aware you considered yourself a retiree. So does that mean you're no longer looking through the classifieds? Anyway, "retiree" was my tactful way of saying anyone who looks 70 or older. You hardly look 70 in your picture. You don't care to contradict that, do you?

    Limes--Oh, Les, I didn't mean to discourage you from eating alone. There are much worse things in this world than eye contact. Like being alone in your thoughts and suddenly walking into somebody.

    standing--I know I'm demented. That's why I want that corner table. To keep the sane folks at bay.

  7. Well figure if i'm drawing a pension and hobble around with no job I'm retired. At least 'til I start working again. But if I keep giving people the wall-eyed stare in BK I'll be committed soon. I hear the navy has a nice retirement home down around Biloxi.

  8. Kirk, the point is, if they stare, I won't notice because the glasses are so dark and dirty (like me). Enforced ignorance is not only bliss, but the only highway when traveling the path of self-honored lunacy.