Friday, December 09, 2005

Can I Buy That Smile for a Quarter?

This morning I stumbled out of bed, pulled a knit cap over my disheveled hair, laced up my snow boots and cruised over to my local Panera Bread cafe to get something hot to wake me up. Cruised is an apt term for my trip, because it turned out to be the first time I have ever been the object of "cruising" at a coffee shop. Naturally, it was not at the hands of one of the many attractive Young Asian Women who were perusing their e-mail on their laptop computers. No, it was courtesy of Ned Flanders.

I had just purchased a Baltimore Sun paper and a large coffee to go, and while filling up my cup, a bespectacled, moustached man interrupted me to blather something, only the tail end of which I caught. "I know this may sound strange but I only want to read the Today section of the paper. Can I buy yours for a quarter?"

Yes, it did sound strange. I glanced over at a full stack of Sun papers and replied, "Why don't you just buy the whole paper for 50 cents?" I could understand someone asking me for the Today section if they didn't want to buy the paper, like, "When you're through with that, can I have it?" Like, maybe he wanted an article in there or he or someone he knew was listed in it. But to buy a part of the paper, was strange. He could just buy the whole paper and leave behind the sections he didn't want. And besides, I wanted the Today section because local movie listings is the only reason I even deign to purchase that glorified fish wrapper called The Baltimore Sun.

Ned Flanders replied,"Because I don't want the whole paper, I just want the Today section." Oh God, my Freak Alarm suddenly went off. This interaction was starting to remind me of of dealing with patrons at my day gig at the the public library where one has to throw logic and rationality out the window for 8 hours a day and step into the Twilight Zone of insane and inane questions and curiously customized customer needs.

"So just take the free copy over there, the one they put out for people to read," I retorted, suddenly irritated and losing interest in the interaction. My cup was full and I was ready to roll.

It then dawned on me that this guy wanted to be the cream in my coffee. If you catch my drift. If you know what I mean. Wink wink, nod nod. Creeped out, I made my way out of Panera's, and glanced at the Today section to see what was so fascinating in there. OK, maybe he really was just Ned Flanders, a Narnia Nerd who wanted the Today section for its write-up on how Christian groups and church sermons have taken up the cause of the just-released film Narnia. In my experience there are only two types of people who ever give you unsolicited smiles - Born-Again Christians ("Have you heard the good news? Christ is risen!") and Sexual Predators. Even hookers don't smile - they flash.

But this notion was quickly dispensed as I was getting into my car. From across the parking lot, Ned Flanders (who had apparently followed me out) called out, "If I hadn't asked, I wouldn't have gotten to see your smile!"

OK, this is a GUY saying this to another GUY. It's not some cheesy pick-up line used on reality TV hook-up shows like eliminiDATE!

"There you go," I not-so-cleverly replied, quickly turning over the engine. As I pulled out, there was still more interaction with Ned, as he simultaneously pulled out in his pick-up truck and almost side-swiped me. Geezus, I thought, this guy really does wanna bang me!

I looked up in my rear-view mirror to check that winning smile of mine (wait - was I smiling or merely grimacing?). Yeah, really beautiful. I hadn't even brushed my teeth, which were now stained with Hazelnut coffee, and it looked like I had dried spittle around the corners of my mouth, like a retard or epilectic. My unshaven face was peppered with bristles, some white, some black (ah the joys of growing old), and wisps of matted, greasy hair were shooting out from under my knit cap. I was the equivalent of a old lady with her hair up in curlers who was making a run for a cup of coffee, yet to Ned Flanders, I was Adonis. Maybe it was the ultimate left-handed compliment. Maybe he thought I was a youngster, a Chicken to his Hawk. I do, after all, have the scrawny physique of an awkwardly developing adolescent, and he certainly couldn't see the saggy bags under my eyes that were hidden away by my sunglasses. If he only knew that at this very moment my love canal was being filled with the digestive after-effects of half a pound of Wal-Mart Trail Mix and Wegman's Tortilla Chips (last night's "dinner menu"), would he still have amorous visions of my hastily retreating haunches?

Anyway, these Ned Flanders cruisers are the people that scare me. Normal, almost mundane, looking people who in my mind were gay religious freaks with secret dungeons in their basements where they tortured hitchhikers and strays and coffee cafe pickups they had lured back to their normal, almost mundane, looking homes. After purchasing their smiles, for a quarter!


Blogger Scott "Unpainted" Huffines said...

I still remember the night at the old Rendezvous Lounge many years ago when a you were approached at the bar with this line: "Lemme axe you something... have you ever had sex with a black man?" And the ever-popular followup: "A blowjob is just a blowjob..."

11:48 AM  

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