Loaded Grillers and Loaded Questions

When the depressive mood strikes I often feel a hunger that isn’t really there. It’s just the emptiness of my feelings crying out for the carbs and GMOs they crave. I know that I need to be strong and fight these binge-eating depressive episodes by meditating, calling a sponsor of sorts, reading, exercising, etc.

Welcome to Taco Bell, how are you this evening?” I make a point to reply to the voice in the speakerbox if they ask how I am that I am “well – and yourself?” both as a white lie to avoid confronting my self-sabotaging behavior and to perpetuate some of the politeness in society. The speakervoice replied, “oh I’m good, thank you.” I like to think they are taken aback by politeness. In reality, we are both good at acting.

Pulling up to the window to hand over my choice of payment, the cashier asked (and caught me off-guard) “why are you ordering food at this hour?” My mind raced to assess the situation. She had a slight accent and slightly slanted eyes and was very young appearance-wise, so perhaps she didn’t comprehend precisely how loaded of a question that could be. That isn’t racist I’m merely taking everything into account including the possibility that she’s foreign into account, and why someone would ask this question that could conceivably be misconstrued as rude. I know working in any type of service job there are “small talk” scripts you develop to run through to help make your interactions with customers enjoyable. I’m not a “small talk” person but she’s likely asked this question countless times before without anyone bursting into tears.

While my mind did that in the moments before I handed over my bank card which barely has the minimum funds required to keep itself open let alone afford a burrito combo expenditure – my soul searched itself. Was I supposed to bring my arm back into my car, put my wallet away, thank her, and drive away praying about how she saved me from shameful, empty calories and a bout of colitis? I stuttered and searched for bullshit to reply.

“Well… what do you mean?” I needed to buy myself time. She appeared genuinely interested. I was becoming genuinely concerned with myself and how badly my anxiety was. “I want to know the reasons people come here to eat so late.” Well, when she puts it that way! Maybe she’s conducting a survey. I told her that it had been a while since I ate last (semi-true) and then I inexplicably piled on a tiny layer of bullshit and said that I needed to “power on through the night” and then punched my fists at the air. The cashier laughed gave a small chuckle and said, “you’re funny.” Which would have been good enough for me if she hadn’t asked the follow-up question, “what do you do?”

“What do I do?” besides pull over in the Jack in the Box parking lot down the street where the lot is better-lit and shove this burrito supreme down my gullet while listening to Jen Kirkman’s podcast – and I had to give serious thought to what in the actual fuck I am after all this time spent farting around on earth. “I’m a writering” I think is what I said because she had to clarify by asking – “you are writing? You are a writer?” and I just mumbled “yeah” – and she felt obliged to keep talking – “you are an aspiring writer?” To that I had to say a definitive “yes” to end the interrogation. The food must be really fresh at 1:20AM judging by the length of our interaction.

I was surprised at what came out of my mouth. I am by no means a writer. I am a writer the same way that you are a reader. “What do you do?” I’m a box-packer? I could have said that. I studied to be a drug counselor for three years and abandoned my certification program with one remaining class and one thousand internship hours under my belt? I’m an uncle and a godfather? I don’t know what to say to that question. I feel most people are content with having one word answers to what I view as triggers to existential crisis.

To be polite, and out of curiosity, I swung her question right back at her. “What do you want to be?” which did not even come across as patronizing. You can’t ask a Taco Bell drive thru window operator if she wants to climb up their corporate ladder and if that is her life dream; but that’s basically what I did. I asked it by saying, “and you…?” and then looking her in the eyes for a beat too long until she understood what I was asking. She then pointed down at her cashier windowsill and said smiling to herself, “oh, not this. I want to be an RN. I applied for an internship at Kaiser and I’m waiting for it come through.” Like, oh silly, Taco Bell does not DEFINE HER. I maybe said “you go, gurl” and then asked for Fire sauce. Then we told each other “good luck.”

Then I promised myself that I would fucking write when I got home.

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