I went out to eat with my favorite date recently. The establishment is one of those medium-priced family-oriented chains, and in this case focuses on ice cream as its hook. You’re expected to get a sundae or something. If you don’t, it makes the waiter sad.
As we sat down, a server wandered up and began talking in our general direction. It wasn’t until a few sentences drifted past that I realized she was talking to us; she wanted to know if we were in her section or not.
I’m supposed to know? I wondered.
The people at the table behind us had been waiting fort heir server for fifteen minutes, but none of the staff had taken responsibility for their table, apparently.
We ordered iced cappuccinos. The server wandered off. Some time later, she returned.
“Uh,” she mumbled, “There’s a problem with your drink order.”
“Yes?” I said.
“There’s… there’s no ice.”
“I can see where that would be a problem,” I offered.
“Yeah… that’s… that’s kinda in the name, and all.”
“Yes, it is.” I waited for a moment as she stared helplessly at us.
“Will you need time to make more ice, then?”
“Um… Someone usually goes and gets it…”
“So,” I said, attempting to guide her through a simple logic tree in order to come to a satisfactory conclusion, “are you saying that no matter what drinks we order, there will be no ice?”
“Someone usually goes and gets it…”
“So you won’t be able to make any ice?”
“No, we don’t have any way to really make it…”
Silently, I pondered this. I can see where the technology to make water very cold might elude you, I thought wryly, this being an ice-cream-based restaurant chain.
“Am I to understand, then, that there will be no ice whatsoever?” I asked.
She stared at us.
We canceled our order and fled.
At home things were no less weird.
The people who live in the apartment above mine are ill-prepared to deal with the mundane issues of life. Something as simple as bringing home groceries is difficult for them. You see, they don’t understand how to use doors.
The inability to use doors is an affliction all too common in the annals of human history, at least as documented in popular entertainment. Bo and Luke Duke had it — and thus were doomed to a lifetime of sliding in and out of the windows of their orange car. That guy from Laverne and Shirley — Carmine, was it? — had it, and thus always entered his friends’ apartment from the window. The original Batman and Robin had it, and were thus incapable of socializing unless they were climbing up the side of a building.
Now, when I bring my groceries or parcels home, it’s a simple matter for me to walk down a half flight of stairs, open my door, and carry in my burdens at ground level. This seems to me to be simple, efficient, and generally free of unnecessary stress.
My neighbors, on the other hand, constantly utilize their balcony. No amount of goods, be they luggage or items purchased from the outside world, can be brought in through the doorway — which I assume to be functional, though I suppose it could be bricked up. Instead, my neighbors construct an elaborate system of ramps and pulleys through which their cargo is lifted, dragged, pushed, and thrown from the front lawn to their living quarters.
During a recent cargo loading process, I heard the husband half of the couple proclaim, “Okay, it’s starting to rain. I’m coming up.” Keep in mind that he is approximately three feet from his balcony when he says this. The stress created by the terrible burdens of both coming in out of the rain and climbing back into his apartment were almost too much for him. I could hear the defeat, the resignation, in his voice. He sounded like a soldier in a Vietnam War movie contemplating being “short,” his emotions in turmoil as he prepared to leave behind the land that would forever haunt him. I felt at once sorrow, pity, and compassion for this man, who works so hard to transport retail goods from his Chevrolet Cavalier to the space in which he and his wife live.
“Hey, man,” I wanted to shout, my eyes filled with tears, “use the door.”
People at the grocery store are no better.
Recently the cashier looked at me like she couldn’t do the coupon math to save her life.
“Look,” I said, “you can divide the whole dollar amount in half and then divide the change in half before adding them together. It’s much quicker that way.”
The cashier’s eyes grew wide. “That is a good idea,” she said, awed. “Are you, like, a math teacher or something?”
“Uh… no,” I said, wondering if the details of my would be considered extraneous by a seventeen-year-old wearing glitter nail polish.
“Well, do you, like, just really enjoy math, or something?” she pressed.
“It’s just a skill they taught us as children,” I said, baffled.
“Oh,” she snapped her gum with finality. “They taught us to use calculators.”
It was then that I knew what it must be like to be a god among mortals. On a planet peopled entirely by her kind, I would be the Math God, adored by all as the bringer of Gnostic wisdom lost to the Ancients. I would tell them how to turn lead into gold. I would teach them how to store lightning in cylindrical devices called batteries. I would encourage them to use their heads and save their feet. I would exhort them to measure twice and cut once. I would show them how to divide whole numbers in their heads.
With my head full of these lofty notions of my own importance, I strode purposely from the place of my birth as a god, pushing my grocery cart before me.
Even gods get the cart with the bad, sticky wheel, it would seem.