Last night, as my husband and I grabbed a quick dinner at Boston Market, a memory popped into my head, followed by another, neither having anything to do with my dinner and neither which I can shake.
The first, took place while I was in college. It was a late night out with one of my best friends in Oakland (PA not CA) and we decided to grab a bite at what may have been The “O” or may have been McDonald’s. Either way, it was late (maybe 2 or 3 am) and there weren’t many people left in the restaurant. I remember sitting there chatting with my friend and hearing this man yelling at someone to “listen to what he was saying” and “don’t you dare talk back to me” – he was really giving the other person a good talking to. Curious as we were, we both turned around to witness the scuffle and hear the other party’s side.
It took everything in my head to reconcile the scene before me. The man was indeed yelling, but not at someone. At something. His cup of coffee to be precise. He was repeatedly yelling at his coffee and threatening it, warning it, not to talk back to him again!
The second, took place in a shopping center a few years ago. I had gone to eat Thai food with my sister and brother-in-law and after chowing down on some shrimp pad thai, I hadn’t made a dent in the portion and asked for a doggie bag. As I was driving home, I stopped at a store in a little shopping center. Returning to my car after leaving the store, I noticed a man digging through the trash for something to eat. It broke my heart. Remembering my leftovers, I went to my car and grabbed the food and walked it over to the man (it was daylight). I handed it to him and said, “Here you go,” and started to walk away. He said, “What is this?” To which I responded, “Thai food.” Now why I didn’t just say noodles and shrimp, I don’t know. The man looked very confused both at my offering and my description of its contents. He opened it up and looked at it and I headed back to my car. As I looked back at the man, he was continuing to rummage through the trash, thai food nowhere to be found, and although I can’t be positive, I am fairly certain I saw him throw my food away.
Now take these stories and process them as you will. For me, they did something to my insides that won’t let me get rid of these memories. They don’t impair me in any way. But I’m saddened by them on several levels. And yet, they both have elements of comic relief to them, as crude as that may sound. My heart breaks for those in need, truly, but I cannot deny that there is something incredulous and/ or comical in a man screaming at his coffee and another throwing away good food and searching for more in the trash. And reflecting on that, I think it can only be a human defense mechanism to make light out of what otherwise is a bleak and sad situation. Anyway, it is the layering of these stories, the reality of them, my reactions and thoughts to them, the societal implications, and my compassion to those “off the good path” that I think must fuse to form lasting memories of these two events that now I share with you.