Monday, February 1, 2016

And Stop My Mind from Wandering

I found these musings from long ago about a time in my life even longer agoer and smiled. It may have actually been more of a grimace than a grin but a miss is as good as a mile. 

I started out standing in a line in a fast food joint waiting to order something that looked nothing like the picture on the menu board. For some reason, my mind wandered and I recalled Edna, the lunch lady at The Browning School for Boys.

First a digression: the name says it all. 
When I went there for part of the late sixties, it was all boys at that time though as Bob from Minnesota once sang, 'the times they are achangin.' If you thought the school was named for Robert Browning, himself a poet but best known for being married to the far more famous Elizabeth Barrett Browning, sorry-no. 

Sandwiched between Park and Madison Avenues on the East side, I would have already been a fish out of water, kid from New Jersey, no money in the family, if I weren't the son of the Lower School Headmaster. Yeah, those were good times; and if anyone from the Alumni Association is reading this, now you probably understand why I never respond to any of the notes you send.

Just about the only person, I felt comfortable with would have been Edna who rationed the hot lunches with a zeal that often led me to wonder if part of her salary and benefits package wasn't in being permitted to take home to her family the food she didn't serve to us. Stranger things have happened-in my years as a Browning Gentleman, I ate many of those stranger things.

Edna always wore a hair net, always. On Valentine's Day it was red; on Saint Patrick's Day, it was green. I was always grateful we had no school on the Fourth of July. I'd watch her leave in the afternoon, staring out the rear window of (Mr.) Clair Smith's homeroom, as she walked the block and a half to the subway that took her home. 

So self-absorbed was I as a callow and shallow lad, I had no idea where she, nor, for that matter, where any of our teachers lived and it was only decades later that I realized I never knew. But I can recall the hairnet and understood the reason for it; bought in on it, hook, line, and sinker.

So here I am, trying to have my order taken by a gum-chewer who could have been me forty-five years ago. A person who did me a favor showing up for work this morning; just ask her and she'll tell you, but won't do me another favor by leaving. I realized she, and all the other McMinimum Wage plus Change Associates, are wearing visors--not a hair net in the crowd.

I've always loved the late George Carlin's contemptuous characterization of visors as 'half a hat' and in terms of the original purpose of hairnets in places that prepared food, he's right. The visors everyone now wears are part of that uniform the McArmy of One, no matter the franchise, wants us to experience. 

Considering most of these places don't actually make food, but reheat the purportedly edible units (or whatever the corporate statement calls them) for consumption, there's little difference and even less distinction. I do think the hairnets would come in handy on Fridays (Lent is just around the corner), but I'm a little old school.
-bill kenny

No comments: