I learned this lesson a very long time ago, but always forget it. Unfortunately, when I happen to forget it, the absolute worst is sure to follow. I'm thinking of having my lips stapled shut, or perhaps having a zipper installed in my face.
My big mouth has gotten me into trouble at work. It's gotten me into trouble in bars. I can deal with those situations well enough, but what really irks me about my rampaging pie-hole is that it finds me trouble in the most outrageous ways, and brings me into contact with people I would gladly smack over the head with a brick, if it were legally permissible.
There I was, waiting on line at KFC to order a three-piece with mash and corn. The staff was a bit pre-occupied with the customer in front of me, an obvious escapee from some nearby mental hospital with a room-temperature IQ, who could not comprehend the fine distinction between cole slaw and green beans, and was cole slaw really a vegetable? I shit you not: this is New Yorkistan, truly stupid people abound, and there's even dumber people who are obliged to indulge them under the guise of Customer Service.
So, while Skippy the Wonder Toad was occupying the one bundle of zits-and-baby-fat at the register in the burning existential questions, the lady behind me decides to strike up a conversation (because, you know, I look all friendly-like and obviously just love having random people invade my personal space). She announces that the previous evening was delightful; it was so cool, and wasn't it finally great that all that heat is finally over, and wasn't it fantastic to sleep with the windows open, if only for one night?
I smiled, and nodded in agreement, if only because slapping her would have been considered rude. I came here to goddamned eat, not get a weather report. In one of those subtle gestures which is supposed to be subconsciously recognized by my fellow bags of skin as "get lost, asshole", I began to rearrange my pockets, whereupon the pack of cigarettes therein became momentarily visible.
I simply could not have contrived a clearer invitation to for her to continue talking and to annoy the living shit out of me.
"You know, I quit smoking after 21 years..."
And then it happened; I forgot to keep my mouth shut. I should have politely smiled, nodded my head, and not given her any further encouragement, but no...Something said "Vegetable Boy up there has given you a few more precious seconds to waste, why not answer the Nice Lady with The Thousand Yard Stare?" The words came flowing out of their own accord.
"Well, good for you! How did you do it?"
And before she even made a sound, I caught That Look. I've seen it a million times, and would recognize it in the dark. With a blindfold on. With cataracts. There was now no way of stopping the load of utter bullshit that was coming my way.
"Jesus made me stop. I went to church one day, and the Preacher said 'what does it cost to be a Disciple of Christ?', and when I thought about it, it seemed pretty dumb that He had given me Life,and I was doing everything I could to shorten it..."
It should have ended right there. I should have shut the fuck up, and just ignored it, but I couldn't. The building wave of Sarcasm had, in the space of three seconds, become a Tsunami. I am, by nature, perhaps, compelled to do this. I could not resist the urge. It HAD to be said...
"Was that before or after he passed the collection plate?"
You'll be glad to know that it was before.
Anyhow, this caused the patron standing behind her to chime in.
"That is so true! You know, I was an alcoholic for 23 years, and I'll be sober 13 years next month!"
Oh fuck. What have I done? Maybe if I just shut up now, this entire thing will go away? Vegetable Doofus has finally gotten his entire order (you'll be surprised to learn that cole slaw is a vegetable...he certainly was), and it was time to place my order. Finally, a possible respite from the Revival Meeting taking place behind me.Perhaps, if the others saw me engaged in an act of commerce, they would be polite and not trouble me further with Ephesians 3:19, or whatever the fuck it was they discussing. But no; I was not to be saved from BEING SAVED by the sack of raging hormones behind the register. Apparently, the douche ahead of me got the last breast and thigh, and I would have to wait just a few minutes more.
Raging Hormone Register Girl didn't do the logical thing at that point, and ask the Church Lady if she could take her order, and thus, shut her the fuck up. Nope, that would make sense. Muffin-top Register Chick was going to wait for my breast and thigh along with me, like a fine and loyal dog at my side, waiting patiently and faithfully, and not do a damned thing until I had gotten the same level of personal attention that the Cole Slaw Douchebag had received...by picking the flaking nail polish off her fingernails, and letting it drop to the floor.
Oh great. Not only will I run the risk of being bored to death by the God Squad behind, I can now contemplate having to check my food for potentially toxic debris before I eat it. The time when I really should have engaged my mouth, and said something like "Sunshine, you shouldn't do that in front of a customer, and you certainly shouldn't handle food with little bits of nail polish falling off you fingers" didn't come. It was almost as if, having engaged my mouth at an inopportune moment just a minute before for something really unimportant, now that something vital had come about, I had lost the power of speech.
Frankly, I just wanted my goddamned food so that I could retreat into a corner and eat it in peace.
But,i t was not to be. It almost never is when the Almighty has been invoked.
For Recovered Alcoholic and Jesus Saved Me From Lung Cancer, strangers not two minutes prior, had suddenly become long-lost buddies, and because I had introduced them to one another, they found it necessary to try and include me in their conversation...which was all about church and "recovery". I declined, but nodded my way through this or that piece of stupidity thrown at me. Or maybe it was because they both picked up on that bit of sarcasm about the collection plate, they took it as the signal that they had an Unbeliever in their midst who needed to be harangued?
For his own good, of course.
I finally received my food. For the length of time that it took to get it to me(I was assured it would only be a few minutes) I could have hatched a chick from an egg, raised the fucking thing and then given it the full Frank Perdue treatment before frying it up myself. Just tell which 11 herbs and fucking spices to use, please? I took my tray, and headed to a table as far away from another human being as possible without leaving the store. After carefully inspecting my victuals for the telltale signs of "Hot Pink Passion" fingernail pollution, I began to eat.
And Church Lady and Mr. Recovery found it necessary to sit at the very next table together and discuss which church was better than another (apparently, both were frequent visitors to a variety of churches). The words "Jesus", "Christ", "God", "Saved","Repentance" and "The Day of Judgement" were tossed about so frequently it would make you vomit. Both would only stop yacking long enough to stuff their faces, and give me That Look. If there's anything worse than That Look,it's getting it from someone looking down a greasy drumstick while they do it.
I wolfed down my food. In fact, I ate it so quickly that I'm still tasting it this morning. Three pieces, mashed potatoes and corn on the cob, I barely remember the biscuit. I scarfed it all up so quickly as to make a hoard of locusts look like a bunch of third-rate-tossers. I tried to leave quickly, dreading what was certainly coming, because I know this drill, and it always ends the same fucking way.
"God Bless you", she said, "I really hope Jesus puts it in your heart to stop smoking!"
Deep breath, Matt. She really means well, and it's not as if she just told you to go fuck yourself. Stay calm.
"Thank you", I said, through clenched teeth, and probably clenched buttocks, too.
I headed right for the door.
I will NEVER eat at fucking KFC again, and I will never engage a stranger in conversation again...unless she has great big knockers, of course.