Saturday, March 22, 2008

Other People's Lives

On Saturdays, I ignore my 'here's what I should eat' regimen and go wild and crazy--relatively speaking, of course. I am nearly fifty-six and live in Norwich, Connecticut, so wild and crazy are comparatives and NOT superlatives. I tend to hit the snooty McDonalds, in the 'historic district' as Norwichtown is called (I have a movie in my head of Paul Revere, on a dry run for his ride from North Church, leaning over his horse to shout an order into the clown's head, at the gallop-through in the McDonalds that undoubtedly stood on this very spot in 1773) to have a McBreakfast of some kind.

The great thing about going by myself, since my love and life-partner is home and warm in our bed, is I can spread out the newspaper, the other one, the one we don't get home-delivered, while having a hash brown and a breakfast something or other and eavesdrop, so to speak, on the conversations going on all around me. Many of us here in SE Connecticut are quite passionate, which is also a polite way of saying 'loud' and, in my defense, NOT listening to other peoples' conversations is harder to do than drifting along. This morning, there was a reasonable buzz about the loss in the first round of the NCAA men's tournament, by the UConn men to San Diego. The result was an upset and that describes how many seemed to feel this morning though there were more than a few 'MA' (morning after) coaches who saw it coming. I guess they were prophets without honor as no one, except me, seemed to be listening to them this morning.

I was drawn to a conversation between two women, I'd guess in their late Twenties (by the repeated references to other persons in high school. Ladies, if you stumble across this on the ether and realize I'm talking about you, lemme tell ya: all of us old folks agree, high school sucked and you're best off to stop talking about it.) and I'm not sure if their lives have turned out the way they wanted, by the way they were dressed and how they spoke. A third woman, whom they knew, came into the place (restaurant sounds so funny when it's a fast-food joint, doncha think?) with a child who looked to be between five and eight (I'm not good with kid's ages; my wife always reminded me of the ages of our two; the names I remembered all by myself). A warmer, longer discussion on women all three knew took place complete with one recounting a story of how she had seen this person 'driving and I waved and she just stared at me as I crossed the street so I just said to myself 'bitch!' and the next thing I knew she was getting out of the car and yelling and screaming at me! What was that all about?'

(If we survive the 21st Century, the history of this hundred years may well be entitled 'What's That All About?' as most of us use this expression rather than 'huh? or 'wtfo!', both of whom had their moment.) The walk-in woman kept touching the hair of the child, very softly, as if to reassure herself that he was real and here and (I suspect) to remind him that this will be just another moment and then they'll be getting something to eat (remember when we were kids and going to McDonalds was a treat that either you earned or were surprised with? When did that all change and why?) as the other two continued to speak of high school bitch queens gone by and offered updates on where they are now (mostly trailers on granite shelves in Griswold is what it sounded like from where I sat). 'No', said the mom, 'they got back together after the breakup. I just saw the two of them in his truck.' Sort of a sobering mid-term on your life, if you think about it: late twenties/early thirties update and you're riding shotgun in some body else's truck. And we wonder why suicides are up in this country? Check the mirror.

I looked up to see another guy, even older than me, sitting by himself at a table, so engrossed in these three women's conversations, he'd stopped eating and had physically turned himself so as to better see them while listening to them. His own life was on hold as his breakfast grew cold so he could better experience, albeit vicariously, these other people's lives.
-bill kenny

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