I went to the San Francisco ferry building on a recent Saturday, around lunch time. Normally, it’s not my jam to squeeze myself into throngs of slowly, or erratically moving people—especially if I’m hungry. When I’m hungry I’ve got no patience for jumpy kids, dawdlers, or senior shoppers with too many bags. CLEAR THE WAY! I always want to shout. MOUTH NEEDS URGENT FEEDING!
I was a little out of it. A half hour earlier, I got a really weird massage at a massage clinic in SF. Not pervy! Just weird, awkward, and terribly uncomfortable. (Story to come…) Suffice it to say, after the massage debacle, all I wanted to do was grab an overpriced lunch item from one of the many food vendors, smash it into my facehole, and jet back to Oakland post haste.
Because it was cold and rainy, crowds at the ferry building were thicker than usual. And since it was lunch hour, every single place had a long line—except for this one place selling chili.
Chili! Always a sure win for me.
As I waited at the counter for my chili bowl, I noticed one of the cooks kept smiling at me. He was a young, cute dude in his 20’s with twinkly blue eyes. Awww, I thought. The little dude must think I’m foxy! Too bad I’m not into young dudes anymore.
After a few more moments passed, the chili dude walked up to the counter. He had something in his left hand that appeared to be a wadded up napkin. He carried it to me tenderly, like it was a baby bird or something.
“Hey,” he said, winking at me, and extending his hand. “Try this.”
I’ll admit, I’m not a lightning-fast real time processor. However, by cobbling together the few available pieces of data on hand, I was able to form a deduction about what was happening within a few seconds. The deduction: THE CHILI DUDE IS GIVING ME A VERY SPECIAL TREAT concealed in a wadded up napkin. And the reason he is doing this, is because he thinks I’m foxy AND DOESN’T WANT TO MAKE OTHER CUSTOMERS JEALOUS by showing favoritism. Ha!
I grinned wide and gazed at the napkin, then back at the chili dude. What could it be? A special chili dumpling? A piece of rare cheese? A chili bean in the shape of Elvis? His phone number??
I reached out my hand, and took what turned out to be nothing more than a cold, wet wadded up paper towel. No special beans, no rare cheese, and certainly no concealed romantic overtures.
I must have looked extremely crestfallen and/or confused, because the chili dude said “It’s for…your coat.”
“My…. coat?” I asked.
“Yeah, you got a little chalk on it.”
“A little chalk”…… was a gross understatement. On my black rain jacket was a COMPLETE CHALK MENU. Which was especially strange, because the chili place didn’t have a chalk menu at all! Meaning, I must have rubbed up against a chalk menu somewhere else in the ferry building, and was way too distracted by hunger, and dodging people, to notice. Awesome.
“Thanks,” I said, wiping the chalk off my coat, and feeling the old familiar flush rise to my face.
“No problem,” he said, winking again.
After I finished off the chalk, the chili guy asked me if I wanted a dry towel to finish the job. By then, I had my chili, and just wanted to quickly, and quietly disappear to feed my face.
“Thanks!” I said, scurrying away.
About halfway through my chili bowl, I got thirsty. I suddenly remembered I’d also bought a bottled water at the chili place, BUT IN MY HASTE TO LEAVE THE SCENE OF EMBARASSMENT I left it there on the counter.
I know it’s a dumb thing to do (especially since ferry building water runs about $5.00 a pop) but I didn’t go back for the water. After the scene with the jacket, and my earlier awkward massage incident, I just wanted to get as far away from people as possible. Not to protect myself, but to protect them from my complete ineptitude at navigating the physical world.
I hopped the quickest train to Oakland. When I took off my coat, I could still see a faint, backwards chalk outline for some kind of quinoa bowl. Hey, only $8.99! …….Or is that, $9.98?