This morning at Blendz Cafe in Woodfield Country Club, a woman, mid-50s, brunette ponytail, racer-back tank, coordinated running shorts, says to the bartender in a voice loud enough for me to turn and stare, to see who would actually speak this way to anyone, no less someone in the service industry (I mean, this is the cliche of cliches—everyone knows your character is judged by how you treat your mother and waitstaff, everyone! Even assholes know this. True assholes play nice nice in a fake fake way, but they know). Also, says isn’t the right verb. She barked, snapped, THREW WORDS AT HIS FACE.
“Excuse me, but we need more ice here!” No, I don’t think I will excuse you. She offers no, “when you have the chance, I can see you’re busy.” Just “WE NEED AWWCCCEEE OVAH HERE!” Things turn to monkey shit from here.
I’m back to filling my cup with water, and I hear her demand again, “And we need more bananas!” I want to school her, old school, with a ruler to the hands or a paddle to her backside. Holy shit. I don’t care what I’ve ever had going on in my life, a crumbling marriage, a hospitalized child, family in the hospital, diagnosed with an unexpected solemn voice… I don’t care what it is, I’ve never spoken to anyone this way, and I want to say something now.
And this surprises me. Maybe it’s because I’m now used to dealing with the mini-meltdowns of children. Someone needs a hug, a cookie, something other than a banana, unless it’s up her ass.
There are over 20 fresh bananas balanced on a wicker tray, none are banana bread ready, none OVERLY ripe. Just a mix of freckles and also the greener variety. “We need more bananas,” she throws out again.
“More?” Reuben asks, peering at the bountiful tray. It’s not that he hasn’t heard her. He’s just in disbelief.
“Yes, MORE!” If this were a film, now would come the tight shot of an eyebrow lifting, then back to her eyes, narrowing into angry slits.
Reuben shoots me a look, as if to say, you see in’ what I am? I shake my head, mortified that she’s a white woman, that we share that. As Reuben sets off to add yet another bunch of bananas to the tray, I ask her, “Whats wrong with these bananas?”
And this next part I can’t do justice. This next part deserves the voice notes app, where I just hit record and ask her to repeat herself for the record. Maybe she’s going to launch into a speech about organics, or how flavorless local Florida bananas are compared to those imported from Costa Rica (this is something my mother swears is true). But, no. This is too much benefit.
“What’s wrong with these bananas?”
“UUUUCCGHH!!!” She says as if the tray contains the after juice of a circle jerk. “They are all DISGUSTING.”
“Exactly! They’re perfectly suited for you and your shitty little attitude.”
Only, no. I can’t say this. I can just regret not saying it from here, moments later. Let’s play along though. Because that’s what play is, role-playing our way through safe situations, so we’re better equipped when the opportunity presents itself again, for real.
What would you do, as a warm human being, hoping to make a difference, in this situation? Insulting her isn’t the way to go. It’s the want to go, but not the way. What, dear reader, would you do? It’s your “It’s A Wonderful Life” opportunity, YOU, and your interaction now, is the one chance she has to turn her life around. Would you keep at it, asking her if she could describe her ideal banana? Would you tell her something about her behavior, would you play along, to get her to side with you, then try to turn her around? Or would you walk and ignore, letting her life suck?