My Work Here Is Done

Hazel found a job. I can't take any credit of course. All I did was buy the occasional meal, take her to a cheap afternoon movie, try to be supportive and when I couldn't take any more of Chicago in mid-February, headed off to NY for a fun-filled weekend with friends and family while she struggled along. It's not the perfect job:

Me: What's the uniform?

H: Visor and t-shirt.

Me: At least they don't make you wear a polo shirt!

H: (simultaneously) ...and when the training period's over they make you wear a polo shirt.

But it's something. She's happy and I feel better.

Conversations, from airports, trains and restaurants:

Girl in line at the airport. She's suntanned, with hair and nail extensions, Chanel sunglasses. "In Boca? This one family, they paid, like $500, they have to sell for, like, $207? We walk in, and they're there, with all the stuff they bought, packed up in boxes, and they're like, crying? But my dad's in a position to buy a bunch of stuff now so it's good for us..." She's like, twenty?

A Chicago bus. Woman, with a Dunkin Donuts bag, speaking loudly: "Yeah, I been on a fast for four days, I lost four pounds. Let's see, I was 252 and I'm 247 now, so that's five pounds, right? I gotta go for this test where they stick this rubber hose up, y'know, where you go to the bathroom? There could be some kind of obstruction up there, either a tumor and or impacted, ummm, y'know...poop. But you, you don't have to worry about that, til you're at least fifty."

The train, near Wicker Park. Guy, texting with one hand and talking on another phone at the same time. "Yeah, she flirts with everybody, so they all think she's available. (Pause, texting) Yeah, even like, on stage? She does it then, and that's different, cause she's performing. But then all these guys come up after cause they think that she meant it." (reads text, laughs silently, I don't blame the girl)

On the taxi shuttle to the LIRR (clearly marked Express Taxi Service to Train Station). Suntanned, white-teethed woman who's been shouting and herding three kids aged about 4, 6 & 8.

"Excuse me!? Excuse me, driver - where are you going?"

"Lady, where are YOU going?"

"I want to go to the parking lot! Where do you think you're taking us?"

Driver, patiently: "This is a shuttle to the train station."

"Shit. See what you kids made me do?"

Veselka restaurant on 2nd Avenue in New York. Two grandparents, their adult son and their grandson about 4 years old. Grandma is manically trying to keep kid occupied. The grandfather looks bored and the kid's father keeps checking his phone.

Grandma: Now if you eat everything, I have a big surprise for you! Max. Brenner's. Chocolate. Doesn't that sound gr-eat?

Little kid looks completely uninterested.

Dad: Hey buddy, I'm thinking maybe you might like the Belgian waffle, with whipped cream? Is that cool with you, pal?

The little prince doesn't answer, so they take that as a yes.

Grandma: Hey, Joshy, did you ever play 20 Questions? I'll tell you how you play...

She proceeds to go through the whole game, hypothetically. "I say I'm thinking of something - let's say it's the Statue of Liberty, but I don't tell you what it is, and so you start going through questions, like `is it bigger than a bread box, is it an animal, a vegetable, or a mineral, is it in this country, is it a person?'"

She illustrates, using up at least twenty questions.

Joshy, waiting until she's finished: I don't want to play.

He's really pretty well-behaved and makes it through the meal without incident. I get up to leave at the same time they do (maybe Grandma will take me to Max Brenner's too? I like chocolate) and Joshy proceeds to knock over a whole glass of water, on me. Grandma shrugs triumphantly.