My wife should know better than to let me wander in strange towns. It’s like an opportunity to be inside a petri dish, watching – and sometimes commenting.
It’s the commenting part that will one day lead to my body being inside a chalk outline on the sidewalk, probably with onlookers pointing and saying, “He had it coming!”
While Dawn made good use of herself, I went to find a coffee pot. I decided to buy one for the motel room so that we could enjoy coffee-on-demand without the necessity of hiring servants or driving around like electrocuted squirrels. We leave the coffee pot when we leave. They don’t get discarded by the staff. The “coffee pots” provided by most hotels, in my opinion, are secret torture devices that neither make coffee or provide any service, unless it is to test one’s ability to hurl a small appliance out the window and into the parking lot.
As I wandered around the Dollar General store in North Little Rock, I couldn’t help but be amused by the antics of another shopper. His fevered chatter reminded of that time when I gave my Aunt Ardith 2 bottles of 5-Hour Energy Shots instead of whiskey in her coke. (The doctor said she needed to drink less alcohol; the fault is his for not being cautiously specific about this sort of thing.) Not since the early comedy specials of Richard Pryor had I heard the f-bomb and mofo grenade dropped with such frequency. There were so many I thought I was seeing them begin to fall from his mouth and hang in the air, like profane Zeppelins. No matter where I wandered in the store, the F-Bomb Man seemed to materialize, like impossible-to-remove flecks of glitter in one’s underwear drawer.
I finally succumbed to the realization that I had walked around the store so many times that I was about to be made Store Manager. I stopped and bothered a young male employee who was apparently trying to strangle the cash register on the left in frustration. I swear that he said, “Go to the last aisle and jump off the bridge there, where the zombies are.” When I went to the last aisle, there were indeed coffee makers there. There was also an errant display of Halloween merchandise. I surmised that at least some of the keywords in the employee’s reply to my question were reality-based.
Lo and behold, when I got the register, F-Bomb Man and his female companion were behind me. The two children with them were darting around like pinballs in a half-broken machine, one manned by a maniacal player.
After a few more Mofo Grenades, I couldn’t help but to laugh. The little boy with the couple behind me stopped in his tracks and stared up at me, his mouth open, as if he were witnessing a grown man about to lose his mind and/or vote Republican. It struck me as strange that my laugh startled the boy sufficiently to bring his frenzied stomp around the central displays to a halt – but that the impressive onslaught of profanity from the adult male with him hadn’t fazed him. I made myself a note to write that child’s teachers in the future, to let them know that he was in no way responsible for believing that some profane words were substitutes for common adjectives, nouns, verbs, and salutations. (And probably street names too.) I had grown up with world-champion cursers myself. I was quite old when I realized that it was possible to read the menu at a restaurant without inserting colorful and possibly ear-piercing obscenity in the middle of descriptive items.
Turning to make eye contact with the man behind me, I was surprised that he had stopped talking too.
“Hey. How are you doing?” I asked, loudly, as my voice had been amplified by a town crier from the Middle Ages. And I laughed again, possibly from brain damage at this point.
Surprised, the man said, “Just maintaining, man. Sorry about all the cursing.” Which proved he realized he was cursing.
In a moment never to be rivaled by any extemporaneous quip ever, I replied, “Dude, just call me Ritz.”
And I held up might right hand for a fist bump, something I never do.
F-Bomb Man immediately held his fist up and bumped mine.
“Why they call you Ritz?” He asked.
Without hesitation and looking him right in the eye, I replied, “Because I ain’t no common cracker.”
And then we both laughed and laughed, as the man’s female companion and the cashier looked at us like giraffes with top hats on our heads.
PS: This story isn’t about the cursing. It’s like ambient background music to me. Without insult or anger, profanity is just another means of communication; it is often uncouth and undignified, but so too are parts of this life, one which is too busy and too demanding to be derailed by a poor choice of words. Also, the F-Bomb/Mofo Grenade Man was a Rembrandt of his time with cursing.