I think every person has a friend that when they are together they have recurring experiences. For some, maybe it's that Huey Lewis's timeless classic "Hip To Be Square" comes on in the car whenever they're driving together. Perhaps it is that they always miss the train by seconds when getting on at a certain stop. Whatever it is, I am confident that we all have that special person in our life that we find ourselves saying, "Every time I am with you..."
For me, that special person is my dear friend Muffin. My Muffin is one of my closest friends –– when I first moved into the city and did not have a friend other than Big Brother, Muffin is the person that drove, at minimum, weekly into the city from the burbs just to spend time with me so I would not be lonely. Have you seen Chicago traffic? Now that's a great friend right there. Muffin is also the one that I always have the most bizarre dining experiences with. It never fails where we go, something out of the ordinary is going to happen. There's the time we went out for Pakistani food and spent our time alone in a giant dining room with no less than nine waiters staring at us from eight feet away. We needed refills of water, our plates needed to be cleared and I wanted to order more na'an for our kofta. We smiled, gestured and made eye contact with the line of servers but got no response. They just sat and stared at us like the gargoyles on Notre Dame. I was debating feigning a stroke to see if we could get a response, but at pushing 30 and obese, I did not want to tempt fate. Instead, Muffin and I just made commentary and waited close to 20 minutes after finishing to be acknowledged by this legion of servers. It was one of the oddest dining experiences of my life.
Then there was the time we went for breakfast at a charming little diner and the owner screamed at and kicked out one of his waitresses. The whole drama went on for about 15 minutes, but the Cliffsnotes version is that he was sick and tired of her being late, spending all of her money on booze and not taking care of her kid. This was playing out right in the middle of the dining room. I thought that perhaps we had caught some sort of improv production, but I quickly realized that no, it was not. And yes, the owner of the place was firing and bitching out one of his employees right in the middle of his business. The server left with tears streaming down her face and, based on the owner screaming into the phone, called back to plead for her job. The owner later stopped at our table to apologize for the drama played out. While his apology was nice, I would have preferred that he apologized a piece of pie. But alas, no pie, just an apology and another strange dining experience with my Muffin.
This past week Muffin and I decided to get some ice cream (Read: Cari demanded a hot fudge sundae after polishing off a half slab of ribs and baked potato at dinner.) We headed over to one of our favorite little ice cream shops and promptly ordered a few frozen treats. While we are waiting to pay, a woman comes in screaming, "Please call 911! My friend be sick! Calls us the ambulance!" We all stopped for a moment and one of the clerks called 911 as a man came stumbling/falling into the shop and promptly sat down in a booth and started moaning. Note: What do you call ice cream shop workers? Barista obviously does not fit, Scooper sounds like they clean up dog crap, but clerk or counter girl just does not do justice to the magic and happiness that they deliver. I shall call them Pushers as they deliver my favorite white powder in a frozen emulsion of fat and yumminess.
Muffin and I grab our sundaes and seats and watch the drama being played out in the little shop. The woman who asked for an ambulance is now screaming at the Pushers, "Did you call the ambulance? It be takin' so long!" Mind you, the Pusher was on the phone with the dispatcher asking the woman questions and the woman responded that her friend had some sort of pancreas problem. Logic would indicate that the Pusher's boyfriend would not take an interest in a passed out man's pancreas and that the Pusher was, in fact, on the phone with emergency services. Pusher ended the call, a few moments pass and again, the woman starts in on, "Did you call the ambulance? I ains't hearin anything!"
At this point, I was having two thoughts. Number 1: I wanted to somehow help the man, perhaps get him some water or warm towels. However, I quickly then remembered that this is America and any kind soul who helps another can easily be sued if they screw something up, Good Samaritan Laws be damned. In hindsight though, I should have helped because if someone wants to sue me, they are more than welcome to as my main assets include a rather extensive Beanie Baby collection from the mid-90s and a stockpile of MAC make-up empties that I need to trade in for free lipstick. Have at it, vultures. Thought Number 2: I understand this woman was in distress over her companion's state, but does she really need to scream, "Did you call an ambulance?" repeatedly to the clerk? The Pusher said yes, and if there is any profession I believe you can trust, it is someone who doles out ice cream in an adorable parlor for a living. Other trust-worthy professions include people who take care of dogs and old men who whittle things while sitting in rocking chairs. Girl Scout would have made the list, but my mind has been changed after one of those little harpies tried to price gouge me on some thin mints outside the Jewel, but that's another story.
The man passed out and I quickly lose interest until I hear sirens. Only one thought came into the mind of the fat girl: 911 dispatches to the Chicago Fire Department. That means Chicago Firemen are going to be walking into the door at any moment and I happen to be looking particularly cute that day. I demand that Muffin trades me seats as my backside is at the door and let's face it: This is America where our concept of beauty is grossly skewed and my size 14 ass is not going to be grabbing any one's attention. My eyes and smile though? Money. I tell him he needs to swap me seats, but as he is just as interested as I am in the idea of hunky firemen, he merely moves over. I scoot over but argue that it now looks like we are a couple. He then moves tables so we can each have a view of the door but I don't like that either as 1. I look like a lonely fat girl shoveling my s'more sundae into my face and 2. I need an audience for my witty commentary on the situation and I don't want to have to yell at Muffin at the next table.
We shuffle around and are back to our original configuration of him facing the door and my derriere pointed in the same direction. The ambulance arrives and my head is filled with the demons of every bad romantic comedy I've ever seen: The handsome fireman comes in and catches the eye of the cute brunette in the corner, he takes his patient's blood pressure and shoots her off a quick smile. His partner comes in and removes the passed out man while the hunky one comes over to me, gives me his number and tells me that his shift ends at 8 a.m. the following morning, asks if I'd like to meet up for waffles. I say yes and we spent the entire day together on the world's greatest first date ever.
My little fantasy is quickly disrupted by the Muffin's raucous laughter. He is grinning like a shark as he busts out with, "It's a woman!" My head whips around quickly to see that he is not playing a cruel joke and my fireman is, in fact, a firewoman. I do not get discouraged though, as I know the ambulance is driven by two people, meaning there is a better than strong chance that the next person through that door with be my fantasy man. Unfortunately, she's not. Muffin and I start laughing at the situation. The passed out man seems to be fine as one of the firewomen said, "I just got drunk off his breathe!" Smart move for a man with pancreas problems. The man was placed into the ambulance and our dining drama came to and end, as did my (and Muffin's) fantasy of meeting a hunky man in an ice cream parlor.
As the sirens roared, the liberal feminist in me was actually quite thrilled to see two females running an ambulance. However, as I shoveled a heaping spoonful of chocolate ice cream in my mouth, all I could utter was, "Damn you 19th amendment!" Damn you for stealing my fantasy.
Note: I am fully aware that the 19th amendment is about woman's suffrage and is not the failed Equal Right's Amendment. However, I do believe the impact of that amendment, along with the Seneca Falls Convention, and the efforts of the amazing Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the countless millions who demand equal treatment are the driving force behind gender barriers being broken down in all aspects of our lives, including traditional job roles. My apologies for having to get serious, but I did not want to be called out for not knowing where my rights as a proud woman came from. And major kudos to those two women who were running that ambulance, while you may not be my dream date, you set a great example for little girls and women everywhere.
And now back to our regularly scheduled Follies.