Another re-post -- sigh -- as I battle my, what?, 37th head cold of the year.
I go through a pair of black flats every year. Humble, dedicated shoes, they are my "go-to" footwear, my Run!-The-bus-is-coming! shoe. Like the other functional items in my life -- my car (may it rest in peace), my yoga mat, several ex-boyfriends -- they ask little of me and I, in turn, run them into the ground.
Saturday was the day my latest pair of black shoes left this mortal coil.
Leftie and Stompie, as I liked to think of them, will be missed.
That's why Mary and I found ourselves at the mall Saturday evening. And one new pair of black flats and a meander or two through another shop later, we had stopped at the Panera for a bite.
Semi-interesting side note here, the mall closes at 10:00. The Panera closes at 9:00.
We didn't know this when the woman behind the cash register took our orders at 8:58. We didn't realize it when my sandwich became available at 9:07.
We take you now to nine minutes after I received my sandwich and just moments before Mary and I suffer joint incredulity. I have the last bite of my sandwich in my hand, a handful of potato chips on my plate. Mary is waxing rhapsodic about her mother's shortbread and comparing it to the cookie she has just bought.
"It's not bad, but it's not my mom's. I mean, what is this? Butter, flour, sugar? Ooh and I can feel the seams of my pants straining. You hear that? You hear that, Pearl? The threads are going to let go any --"
A uniformed weasel slips into view, his hair in his eyes. In a rather theatrical move he slides up to our booth and manages to somehow click his heels and slouch at the same time. In a cutesy voice he may have picked up from the Disney Channel, he interrupts.
"Excuse me, ladies."
I look up at him. What shockingly appears to be truly fantastic nose hair is quickly realized to be some sort of septum piercing, an upside-down horseshoe, its ends emerging from each nostril and hanging almost to his upper lip. His hair is in his eyes, and he is brushing it across his forehead, as I'm sure he must do several hundred times an hour.
He gives us a condescending smile. I am thinking that he believes himself to be quite attractive. I am thinking that he believes that we believe the same. Mary and I are awash in youthful, hipster smugness.
"I'm sorry, ladies," he simpers, "but as I'm sure you know we close at 9:00? So if you could just finish up? If you would finish your sandwich, you know, we close at 9:00?"
Poor guy. Completely devoid of a declarative sentence.
Mary and I look at each other, communicate telepathically: They close at 9:00? Is this little !@#$ kicking us out?
We turn back to him, eyebrows raised. He brushes his bangs out of his eyes and continues. "I have to vacuum this area? So if you could finish, that would be great? We close at 9:00?"
Again with the closing-at-9:00 bit. I look at my phone: 9:16.
Mary jerks her head towards our little weasel. "What do you think of this one, huh?" she says to me. "He says they close at 9:00."
I nod and turn to look up at him. "So you're saying you close at 9:00?"
He nods enthusiastically. "Yes."
"And I should finish eating and leave?"
He looks relieved. The middle-aged women in front of him are getting the picture. "Yes."
"Just so we're clear," Mary muses, "do you think we should finish first and then leave? Or should we leave now and then finish?"
Pierce, as I like to think of him, is magnanimous. "Oh, you can finish first."
"So I should finish my sandwich and leave, is that right?" I say.
He is still grinning. "Yes, if you could finish up..."
"Perfect," I say. "I will finish up, and then I will leave. And when I do leave? You, my friend, will be the first one I notify." I turn away from him.
Mary looks up. "We'll call you," she says, smiling.
Pierce backs away, grinning, his face becoming more confused with each backward step.
We left not long after that, after briefly discussing and discarding the option of taking the next 45 minutes to eat the last five chips on my plate. Frankly, hanging out at the Panera to make a point seemed silly.
He was, after all, just a kid.
And of course neither Mary nor I were ever as eager as ol' Pierce to leave work on a Saturday night.
John Francis (Wheatbread Johnson)
5 hours ago