Actually, it IS Rocket Science



Fish ‘n’ Trips

Over the weekend I ducked into a local majesty of a restaurant known as Wahoo’s Fish Tacos. The place is located in a central hub right next to a microbrewery and a movie theater, so you know it’s going to be packed on a Saturday night. Going there is nice because it’s cheap and they don’t push you to finish your $2 taco so they can get the next set of customers in, plus there is a permanent fixture of teenage kids that like to hang out on the steps outside and attempt tricks and whatnot on their skateboards, so, you know, free dinner theater.

It was getting later in the evening when I watched this kid, who had been trying all evening to jump the stair-rail, completely bite it; it was one of these inevitable moments given that he had been trying this thing all night and he didn’t have enough space to get a running start and every time he landed he got closer and closer to curbing himself, and eventually he basically did. He tripped and as his board swept out from under him his body completely changed polarities, his head catching his fall on the curb itself and slid, very slowly, onto the parking lot. Imagine putting a cigarette out in slow motion. Yeah. Like THAT.

Shit, you guys, I have plenty of friends that skate, and I’ve seen multitudes of wipe outs, but this kid’s fall legitimately upset me.

There are very few things in life more saddening than watching someone who is clearly in pain attempt to play it off like they’re fine. The kid bonked himself so badly that he had trouble walking straight for a few moments afterwards. And even though his friends were split between trying to care for him and trying to get a picture, he was still swatting them off like he hadn’t just possibly given himself a concussion and that the right side of his face wasn’t quickly ballooning to the proportion of one of those weird goldfish.

I'M FINE.

Which is when the manager, or whom I’m assuming was acting manager of Wahoo’s, literally jumped over the counter from where he had been working all night and proceeded to grab the boy with a firm but cautious authority and guide him inside the restaurant, seating him at the closest table to the door. He then moved back to the kitchen area and barked some orders at one of his employees, who nodded and proceeded to fill a towel with ice and hand it to the kid. Then he reemerged with a full-on first aid kit and proceeded to clean him up with a nurse’s efficiency and calm. I couldn’t make out what he was saying to the guy, but I gather it was probably about whether or not he needed to go get himself checked out. The kid brushed off the suggestion and the man, looking dejected, mumbled something and walked off. The kid then sat there and I could literally watch the realization of what had happened finally set in on his face.

You know, if you’ve ever been in a car accident, you have this rush of full adrenaline and you can look around and see everything clearly and it still doesn’t fucking-matter-because-you’ve-still-got-your-shit-together-and-you’ve-got-this-and-fuck-’em-I’m-HANDLING-THIS-SHIT. But then you get out of triage and the adrenaline wears off and so do the pain meds and then you look around and really see everything clearly and it’s all F-U-U-U-U-U-U-U-U-U-U-U-U-U-U-C-K.

Imagine watching that sweep over someone’s face within 10-20 seconds, give or take. The towel covering his forehead was now Technicolor red and it was clear he wouldn’t be wearing contacts in his right eye any time soon. I was sincerely worried and thought about checking on him, then I realized that any added attention was probably the last thing a boy who I would estimate at about 15 years old would want. So I did what any respective voyeur would do; I acted like I was getting a very important text message and casually glanced up here and there to make sure he hadn’t passed out check my cell reception.

And finish my blackened mahi-mahi. Iron stomach; it’s both a blessing and a curse.

Luckily, after a while, it was fairly clear his accident level could be downgraded from Mortal Kombat Fatality to merely Fight Club inductee; he had patched himself up and was beginning to joke with his friends again through the open door, but the level of beat-up-edness was still going to take a while to reside. Like a lot of young guys in the spotlight of their friends, he put up a valiant effort of negating his pain, as every so often he’d look away and inspect his gauze and I would see this look of absolute “face, why won’t you stop bleeding?! ”

And then the manager, who I had thought had washed his hands of the matter, came back out from behind the counter, and brought with him two GIANT plates of food. Like, a STACK of tacos upon tacos, sitting on top of a pile of rice and beans, and another plate of nachos with a variety of sauces and dips. Then the two men, separated by multiple generations and abrasions, proceeded to give their last communion of the evening. This was when I realized that this was quite possibly the most badass manager I had ever had the chance of coming across.

_________

I once worked at a coffee shop whose manager refused service to a homeless man not because he couldn’t afford the cup of coffee, but because she was too offended by his body odor.

In the early 90′s, I saved my allowance for an entire month in crazed anticipation before the release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on VHS, only turned up less than a dollar short at the register. The manager/clerk shrugged and said, “Maybe you can come back next week and get it.”

One of my best friends once tried to return a clothing item she had never worn to a department store, only to have the manager called, who then literally shoved the dress up to her nose and snorted, “I can’t return this. It smells like it’s been worn…AND WASHED.“

And then there were those few years in Chicago where a veritable war had been waged between any local business owner and clientele wherever you went, unless you had enough money to drop at Alinea. Which is why watching this man perform not only a total act of grace and compassion, but to top it off with generosity was the pinnacle of my evening. Apart from the fact that half of his face was a Jackson Pollock masterpiece, the kid didn’t balk at the cornucopia set before him, and launched into the meal like a rabid dog. When they had finished, the manager did another brief inspection of the kid’s marks and I guess gave him his clearance. To his credit, the kid shook his hand before setting back out into the street, which was not unlike watching a rehabilitated wolverine released back into his natural habitat. And the manager simply picked up the ravaged leftovers and casually moved back to his respective position behind the counter.

_________

Mental note: To get free tacos, simply kamikaze onto concrete.

(Add. Notes: Do not attempt before big job interview, first date, any event other than Halloween, battered women’s fundraiser, etc.)

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