Scenes from a Lunch

Scene 1:

Driving up the road on her lunch break, our main character is contemplating the easiest way to get to her fast food burrito. She quickly calculates the time savings of taking the street nearest to the high school (even though there’s a lower speed limit) instead of the main thoroughfare (where she will most likely be met with two extra minutes of delay due to street light patterns). Without having consciously made a decision, her muscle reflex jerks the steering wheel to the right and on to the neighborhood street. She is immediately waylaid by a traffic jam of end of school proportions. In the blink of an eye, she swings the car into an immediate U-turn and heads back to the main street. There’s no hope of getting through the line and saving any discernable time.

As she turns back onto the main road, she notices that the high school is holding a graduation parade in the parking lot. The cavalcade of cars that she has stumbled upon are of jubilant graduates getting ready to take their moment of victory over the demands of secondary education. Even though she is frustrated that several precious minutes of her lunch time are forever gone, she honks her horn in a staccato fashion in solidarity for those that have achieved victory. She expects to hear cheers or clapping for her donation to the festivities, but she is met with confused stares and various heads turning to see what the commotion is about. She blushes in the car, ducks down a couple of inches, and continues on her way.

Scene 2:

Resigned to the fact that she has, in fact, lost her two minutes, she starts thinking about what she will order once she gets to the restaurant. The burrito has long been the main contender but other options begin to cloud her mind. She is so far gone into hunger that she doesn’t realize that there is a sizeable line of vehicles ahead of her. She adds herself to the mix. She takes no time to muse upon the consequences of her decision. She gives no heed to the notion that going inside may be more to her benefit. She is lost.

Her lunch time is down to a precarious 14 minutes. She doesn’t even know if she’ll have time to eat. She makes a note to bring a lunch the next day.

Slowly, slowly, ssssslllloooowwwwlllly, she inches ever closer to the drive thru, thoroughly shaken by the amount of time it has taken to get her to the holy grail of outdoor menus. Only one more car in front of her. There’s still seven minutes left–surely she can wolf down one burrito while driving back to work. She begins to tap her fingers on the steering wheel as the only obstacle to her oral gratification seems to order one of every item available to purchase. Our heroine(!) screams internally and curses a plague upon all those who dare attempt to keep her from her ultimate goal. There’s no way out of her decision. She will have to see this obnoxious story to its frustrating conclusion.

She finally gets to make her order (a burrito and a chicken quesadilla) and move forward in motion. A quick look back let’s her know that tacos are still a hot commodity and that some other schmoes have decided to repeat her horrible decision. She sends them a quick thought of solidarity and then continues on. Nothing she can do for them now–she’s made her order. Any other problems from here on out are on someone else’s shoulders.

Scene 3:

Finally, she sees some real progress. There’s only two cars until the window and three minutes until her lunch is over. There’s no avoiding getting back to work late, but there’s still a chance she won’t get in trouble for making the choices she’s made. But just barely. She is content that all will work out just fine.

But then it doesn’t. The dreaded car in front of her gets to the the window and a pale arm swathed in floral print extends a credit card. Time passes.

She is over her lunch break by four minutes and her leg begins to bounce. She puts the car in park.

A small hand presses the credit card back to the owner. The brim of a hat peeks out of the restaurant. The floral arm passes back the credit card. A conversation ensues.

Our main character sighs dramatically and leans her head against her window. Finger tapping commences.

The small hand passes the credit card back to the owner. Nothing happens. And nothing happens. And NOTHING HAPPENS!

Eight minutes. Nine minutes. Ten minutes late. And her food is just sitting there getting cold. She knows it. The flower lady knows it. The employee knows it. And still she waits. The leg is bouncing and the fingers are tapping and the head is leaning and the sighs are getting louder and her brain is screaming, “IT’S ONLY FUCKING TACOS! HOW HARD CAN IT BE?!!” Hunger is no longer the issue–she just wants to get out of there and back into a world of freedom. But she is at the mercy of “Flower Power and the Epic Food Order,” and there’s nothing she can do about it. She leans her head back and mutters to the roof of her car.

Scene 4:

The credit card gets passed to the employee again.

Scene 5:

No shit.

Scene 6:

She feels her entire day is inexorably ruined. There is nothing that can redeem the situation she has finds herself in. She curses Flower Power, the employee, and her own stupid delusions of lunch time mastication.

Scene 7:

Finally, finally, the credit card is handed back to the owner, and bags of God knows what follows quickly after. The car moves slowly to the exit and waits to join traffic. Our heroine (!) resists the urge to dance in her seat and glides her car to the window. She has been gripping her credit card for so long that she can see the lines in her palm as she hands it to the employee. But she is stopped. She is informed that Flower Power has paid for her lunch. She confusedly thanks the employee and heads to the exit. She feels terrible for the the things that she’s thought and sends out silent gratitude.

Except, Flower Power is not leaving the drive thru. Our heroine has never been so conflicted over a person she has never met before. Frustration begins its slow burn anew. She wishes she had an antacid. At the very least it will help prep her stomach for the food she is about to eat on her way back to work.

Scene 8:

Flower Power finally finds the opportunity to merge into traffic and our main character darts in close behind her. The food benefactor continues west as our (hungry) protagonist drives into the turn lane to drive south. Her right hand disappears into the food bag and begins to rummage for the burrito. It has now become a contest between her and the light–will she be able to unwrap the food and take a bite before the arrow turns green? Not this time. She is forced to take the turn as the bag simultaneously attaches itself to her wrist. She’s officially over it.

Two minutes away (and fifteen minutes late) she shakes off the bag and glances down at her prize. She notices that the high school parking lot is now deserted and that there is no remaining evidence of earlier festivities–which aligns perfectly with her plan to accelerate (just a little) over the speed limit and back to her world of public service. The burrito somehow becomes unwrapped and half disappeared before the school is but a small forgotten blur in the rearview mirror. Her panic recedes and (as she munches) she contemplates what the second half of the day might present.

Scene 9:

She turns into her work parking lot just as the first drop of sauce plops onto her pants.

©DRB 2021

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photo: Photo by Jonathan Cooper on Unsplash

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