"You Want Fries with That?"

February 2003 - Some people feel the need to talk. It doesn't matter where they are, whether they actually know the person they're talking to, or whether they actually have anything of interest to say. They just need to talk. What I want to know is why, oh why, why, WHY? Or, more to the point, why, oh why, why, WHY! do they talk to me?

The following takes place in the counter area of a fast food restaurant just outside Harrisburg. Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "What is she doing there? Just last month, she made a resolution to not eat so much fast food." Well, this happened before the start of the New Year. Technically, the resolution hadn't gone into effect yet. So there.

Anyway, I was in line, waiting my turn. There was a couple at the counter, one woman behind them, then me. Quietly I waited. Silently. Not saying a word. Then, the woman ahead of me got out of line and went to get some napkins. Not wanting to risk rudeness and jump ahead of her, I asked if she was still in line. BIG MISTAKE! She said she was still in line. Not a problem. But, she also mistook my inquiry as an invitation to talk.

First, the woman placed her order - with great difficulty, I might add. It took the clerk a couple minutes to understand what she wanted. But, eventually, he got it. While her order was being filled, I waited. Quietly. Silently. Until...

"You sounded like you have a cold," the woman said, as she pulled a tissue from her pocket and blew her nose (while still standing at the counter, mind you). Secretly horrified by the woman's unsanitary action, but maintaining the illusion of politeness, I answered. "I'm pretty much over it now," I said. BIGGER MISTAKE!

The woman turned her short, curly hair, her wire-rimmed glasses, and her chafed, red nose toward me and proceeded to tell me her story. She told me how the flu and all the unpleasantness that comes with it had recently spread through the ranks of her workplace. What could I do but nod my head in silent commiseration. It was just terrible, she went on. Everyone was coughing, achy, sneezing, runny nose. I nodded again. Lucky for her boss, she said, that she is so dedicated to her job that she wouldn't let a touch of the flu stop her. No, she went to work - at a fast food restaurant. Which turned out to be several miles away.

Thank goodness for small favors, I thought, as I shook my head at her in wonder. And thank goodness the clerk filled her order at that point. Who knows what kind of tale I would have heard if she’d had to wait for fries.