Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Old Man and the Tacos

I was going to begin this with a rant about the geriatric members of our society. But I do have respect for them. My parents are old. Hell…some people consider me old. I hope to be old one day. Because when or if I make it to the ripe age of old, I get to revert to toddlerisms. Toddlers get to say whatever they want. The only difference between a toddler and say…my dad, is the toddler gets reprimanded for saying something he shouldn’t. A toddler is developing his internal monologue—that function which keeps our thoughts separated from our words. My dad lost that ability back in 1982. Was he old then? No, he was younger than I am now.

While it’s true that he didn’t have a blog like I have to say things he shouldn’t say, his internal monologue was already in an advanced state of decay for someone who was only forty-two. So imagine it now, thirty-one years later. And this is where my adventure began—three decades after the time when he would mortify me by flirting with every person who had a higher level of estrogen than him while standing in line at the grocery store. Seriously, it was every person that likely had lady parts. And I say likely because there were times when I wasn’t quite sure of which gender he was speaking to. With that said, is it any wonder my mom divorced him? (Maybe I’ll get to my mom’s age rage during a later blog).

So my dad and I went to lunch at a chain eatery called Baja something or another. He arrived before me and, of course, he had to make me the brunt of his jokes with the worker there. Knowing from experience that I was walking into one of his ill-conceived shticks, I saw the young woman behind the counter looking at me and I knew right away what had taken place. I swore under my breath and made the slow walk to the counter. “He’s not ugly,” the young woman said to him, at which I forced a smile and tried to suppress the oncoming migraine.

The ordering process is where my dad transforms into a cantankerous curmudgeon. My dad has hearing aids. Add to that, my dad turns down the hearing aids while in public places to reduce the background noise or he forgets to change the batteries every time we meet for lunch. So when the young woman asked my dad whether he would like black or pinto beans, he snapped back with, “What? I don’t want pinto beans.” The young woman looked to me with an expression that said, “What happened to the jocular merry old guy that was just insulting your looks?”

I pointed to my ears in a very nonchalant gesture so as to avoid setting the old man along a path of future rants, hoping she would understand. He continued to grumpily order his food then switched back to joking-man when he told the cashier that I’m on his bill. I have no objections to letting the old man pay; I’m a starving artist/author and a free meal means I get to keep some of huge meager royalties I’ve made off of my debut novel RISE OF THE PENGUINS. That said, the cashier told him the total. At this point I cringed. He prattled off about the exorbitant cost of fourteen U.S. dollars and the cashier smiled and got a sinister glint in her eye. I thought nothing of it—I’ve been getting that look in my eye when dealing with my dad since 1972.

We sat down and engaged in conversation about his travels, my art and writing, and him telling me to get a real job. I didn’t bother telling him that writing is a real job and the conversation switched to him asking about my visit to the cardiologist or urologist. (OMG! I don’t use things like OMG when I write, but crap! Shouldn’t my dad be the one talking about his doctor appointments? Maybe I’m the old one).

During the conversation he asked me about my last prostate exam. As I previously mentioned, his hearing aids are less than reliable, so on the third attempt to tell him I’m yelling in a crowded restaurant the details of bending over the exam table with my pants down as the doctor stuck his finger in places usually designated as EXIT ONLY. The angry glares from the mother of two youngsters sitting at the next table made me decide to get up and get a refill of refreshing Coke Zero. 

As I walked back from the drink fountain, it happened. I dismissed it as a rumble caused by the digestion of tacos americano. I looked around the room and saw the cooks chatting happily with the cashier, I saw my dad merrily eating his Wahoo taco or whatever the hell he had ordered that came with black beans and I even saw the angry mom. Nothing seemed amiss. I sat down and the conversation resumed. I showed him pictures of my art on my phone, which he took from me to get a closer look, smearing pico de gallo across the screen. All the while my stomach was becoming more and more angry. I say angry and not upset because it was beginning to feel like I was pregnant with a baby warthog that was kicking my abdomen with its angry little warthog hooves.

I wrapped up the conversation and meal and grabbed a mint on the way out hoping to pacify the pissed-off warthog. I waved to the cashier who was telling us about her gratitude for us eating at the Baja place and she gave my dad another of those smiles, a I know something that you don’t smile. I said my goodbyes and jumped into my Chrysler. (Chrysler? Really? Old person car). Seven miles to home and the pissed warthog in my gut was kicking with all fours. I briefly considered going back in the restaurant to use the restroom, but I remembered it was strategically located next to the soda fountain, probably to deter people from using it for the purposes I was considering. Seven miles to home that’s all…no problem, the freeway took up three of those miles.

As expected, the freeway traffic was easy at one in the afternoon, so driving at 75 miles per hour I made good time. I’d be home in no time. As I exited I had to stop for a red light. I made my turn and forty-three feet later I stopped for another red light. It was only a little irritating, but the warthog seemed to be napping so I mused about my dad, wondering how many servers or waiters/waitresses he had pissed off with his toddlerisms. This led me to the next thought—and this is more than a little gross, but it did cross my mind—I wondered how many ounces of spit he had ingested as acts of revenge by angry food servers over the years. The light turned green and I drove one hundred-twenty-three feet to the next red light. Sitting there, I recalled the knowing look the cashier gave my dad, then the flirtatious interaction between her and the cook. I was driving another eighty feet to the next red light when it occurred to me—what if the cook put something in the food of the spitty kind, intended for my dad but had put it in my tacos instead? This thought fully awakened the angry warthog and it began bucking with full force.

One red light after another, each strategically placed enough distance apart to where you can never actually reach the speed limit, hindered my progress and the warthog was vigorously twisting about in my stomach. Why the hell would a city put traffic signals every eighty feet? I considered stopping at a gas station, but I was driving through a part of town where if I used the public restroom, I was sure I would likely contract syphilitic cholera herpes from the toilet seat. I pressed on knowing that there was a stretch of road ahead with fewer lights and a higher speed limit.

After another red light, I reached the open stretch of road and put my foot down. It’s a little known fact that the act of speeding isn’t illegal if one has a case of the Bee-Gees (bubble-guts, sorry brothers Gibb).  Okay, maybe it’s not fact, but I was dearly hoping that was the case. As it turned out the idea of speeding was about to become a moot point. I got behind a mini-van which was straddling both lanes of the road. I tried to pass, but the driver swerved in my path. My anger roiled as did the warthog. I eventually found a break and passed the van via the bike-lane. I looked at the driver, intending to give him the salute, but all I saw behind the wheel was a poof of white hair resting atop of a wrinkly brow. I shook my head and sped forward only to have my path blocked again, this time by a sixty-foot long Continental. I didn’t even have to look to know it was another senior. I found a break when the car swerved into the bike-lane, nearly hitting the curb. But the break was short-lived. Ahead were two cars, a pristine Ford Ranger moving at negative eight miles per hour and a Cadillac Seville mimicking the mini-van's driving technique by swerving all over hell and back.

The warthog bucked hard and sweat began to drip down my face. Each and every car was driven by someone who was at least an octogenarian. I felt like I had entered a layer of hell where I was stuck in a perpetual Shriner’s parade. The only things missing were the ahooga horns and fezzes. Thoughts of digesting someone’s saliva filled my head as I raced through the parade. I finally broke free of the Shriner’s and made the dash for home. I took the turn into my neighborhood like it was turn four on the final lap at Daytona and screeched to a stop in the driveway. I duck walked through the house and to the bathroom where sweet white porcelain relief awaited me.

After giving birth to the warthog I left the bathroom and collapsed on the bed. I called my dad to check on him and he was fine with no issues whatsoever. Maybe the Baja cook didn’t give any extra toppings or maybe he did. If he did, well at least I took it for the old guy. I made a vow to order for my dad when I could and when he wasn’t looking. Not just to prevent future intestinal distress, but to save my dad the frustration of not being able to hear a conversation. It’s the least I can do for a free meal. I lied back, letting the anger of being stuck in the Shriner’s parade ooze from mind. And then I remembered…I used to be a Shriner too. OMG! I am old.