cracker barrel

I was just downstairs having a smoke, and it’s Wednesday so the building is having its cruddy little farmers’ market down there, and there’s a fair amount of foot traffic wandering through the courtyard. Something I saw down there must’ve reminded me of a time when I still lived in Houston, and I was rushing to some appointment and needed to know what time it was. (I’ve never worn a watch.) A businessman was passing by, and after I asked him for the time and he gave it to me, the following question popped unbidden out of my mouth: “Is that the right time?”…as if, for some arcane reason, a person might set his watch an hour off and then, when asked by a stranger for the time, deliberately give them the wrong answer. It seemed a reasonable question in the split-second before I asked it, almost like small talk or a different way of saying thanks, but he was an accomplished and well-heeled chap, a serious man unused to inanities from such as I, and he gave me a glare both bewildered and slightly hostile before growling out “Yeah!” in a gruff voice which sounded like, You may think you’re being funny, but…you’re fucking with the wrong man. It was only after he walked away that I considered how the question must’ve sounded to him, and to this day every time I think of that scene it busts me up no matter where I am. And so it was just now when, even though nothing outward had happened, I started shaking with laughter amongst the office-workers toting away their bags of pistachios.

Same deal with something that happened about 10 years ago. I was seeing a woman I’ll call Lulu, and I was at her house on a weeknight and we’d just been fooling around. I had a meeting or something the next morning and felt like I needed to go home and sleep in my own bed, so I was getting dressed and getting ready to go, while Lulu was bugging me to stay. (No way of fitting “understandably” into that last clause without sounding like a cad, but you know what I mean.) Anyway, she was sitting up in bed naked, and she was chiding me and pretending to be mad, and I was apologizing and trying to explain my side of things when, in a completely adorable way, she suddenly cried out YOU’RE A STINKER!, then threw the blanket into the air so that it settled like over her whole body like an Arabian tent. When I left I could just see one of her eyes peeking out at me from the blanket.

One more. This one was circa, I don’t know, sometime in the late ’80s, and my roommate at the time was hooked on meth. By day he maintained a surprisingly normal existence, even managing to keep his job teaching at a private school despite doing things like running into school one Sunday morning for a faculty meeting that was actually scheduled for the next day. One night he and I were driving somewhere and he needed to buy some gas. We pulled into a station and he got out to pump it, but in his mental fog he grabbed the regular pump and started trying to fit it into his unleaded-only gas tank. He didn’t see his mistake when it didn’t fit, and he kept on trying to push the pump into the tank despite such priceless clues that something was wrong as the loud metal-on-metal kunking noises coming from his hands. I was getting out of the car to see what was up, and saw a girl of about 17 at the next pump who was studying TJ doubtfully as he continued struggling with the nozzle, looking like he was working on a math problem. Suddenly she said, “Hey, mister, you’re trying to fit an unleaded pump into a regular gas tank,” at which point TJ suddenly lifted his head as if coming out of a trance and yelled “HUH?!” Turning around, intending to hang the hose up and get the right one, he instead managed to tangle his feet up and trip over it, doing a belly-flop at the girl’s feet as she jumped yelping out of the way.

There’s at least one more story like that—a friend and I accidentally demolished a motel’s driveway canopy in Fort Kearney, Nebraska—but I’ll give it a rest. Probably none of these stories translate here, but they all tickle the shit out of me enough that if I think about them anywhere, I start laughing like a daft man.

One Response to “cracker barrel”

  1. Doug Says:

    I’ve been looking for the common thread here. Watch, girl friend, meth-head pumping gas. But I do that. I drive my poet friends crazy.

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