Simply, no.

After my last day on the job at Haugen & Dahl, I rode the bus from Millionaires' Island to downtown Seattle, and waited among the bums for my #99 bus home. 

When it came, I was fourth in line to clamber up and flash my card to pay my fare. When I turned to find a seat, my flatmate Dean was directly in front of me, seated on the first forward-facing seat after the sideways seats behind the driver.

He works at some fancy restaurant downtown, and it's not the first time we'd ended up on the same bus bound back to the house we share. In a moment of marvelous luck, though, Dean was reading a book as I'd stepped aboard, so he hadn't seen me, and I hurried past him toward the rear of the bus.

Simply, no: I didn't want to ride all the way home on the same bus with the most boring man in the world, and then walk with him for half a block from the bus stop to our house, while he'd blather on about how everyone had loved the meatball shortcake he'd made at the restaurant today, and then he'd start telling me the joys of unsalted butter, again.

Simply, no, so after half a mile or so, I escaped — rang the bell and stepped off the bus at Jack-In-the-Box.

What the why not? Dinner for one, to celebrate my unemployment.

Jack-In-the-Box is a regional fast-food chain out west, with OK food and prices too high. They seem to understand the "fast" part of fast-food, though, at least at that particular location, in Seattle's harshest industrial area. Usually I'm in a hurry between buses so I can't dawdle between the bums, and I don't think they've ever made me wait even five minutes for my food.

I ordered two burgers off the discount menu, with a side of onion rings and a small shake. It came to $19.47, which is frickin' steep, but at no extra charge it bought some distance from Dean.

The burgers were OK, the onion rings better, but the shake wasn't thick — it was a brick. I could barely push an environmentally-sound recyclable paper straw into it, and the straw collapsed on my first suckage.

Up to the counter again, I asked, "May I have a spoon please," and a stone-like strawberry shake became a perfectly adequate deep dish of ice cream.

Then came the moment that made fast-food for dinner something I'd write about: 

A woman walked into the restaurant — blonde hair, nice build, and she looked about thirty. Her hair was disheveled, though, her shirt oily, her pants stained, her face desperate. She'd been beaten, maybe not physically but metaphysically. She was homeless or addicted or both, and she had nothing kind to say about Louie.

Who Louie is I do not know, but he'd certainly done this woman wrong. "I don't care if I never see that man again," was one of the kinder things she said about him.

Then she lowered her voice, going all polite and all, and to the nice teenage boy who'd taken my order and later supplied me a plastic spoon, she asked, "Can I please use the restroom?"

"To use the restroom, you have to make a purchase," the employee explained. He'd said it as kindly as she'd asked it, but no means no.

"Gotta make a purchase" is the rule almost everywhere, certainly in that neighborhood. There are tents between the sidewalk and the street, beggars at the bus stop. No way could that woman have made a purchase.

If the boy even considered breaking the rule, his calculation was probably: If I hand her the key, it'll be me who has to hose down the ladies' room when she pisses on the floor or barfs in the sink. So you can understand why he had to say simply, no.

You can also absolutely understand, if you have a heart, that the woman needed a toilet. Where's someone who lives on the street supposed to poop and pee? The city, county, and state have jointly decided to provide no such infrastructure.

He should've bent the rules, I thought, but I didn't think it enough to say it. I didn't offer to buy her a sack of fries or something, so she would've had the required purchase to earn a few minutes of john time.

To the kid at the counter, the woman said only, "OK." Then she got louder again, telling us more about Louie, that rat.

And then she opened the side door, took two steps away, unbuckled her pants, and dropped a rapid turd of stew-consistency right on the concrete walkway.

This Jack-In-the-Box has mostly windows for walls, so all the customers had a clear view as she shat, and a collective groan rose up from the occupied tables.

In only moments she'd finished, and she didn't wipe after, nor did she wash her hands. Maybe because she had nothing to wipe with and nowhere to wash, or maybe she's just not a wipe and wash kind of gal.

Leaving the restaurant a few minutes later to catch the next bus home, I had to step over what she'd left behind.

As I waited at the bus stop that's directly in front of the restaurant, the young man who'd said 'no' came out of the building with a mop and a bucket on wheels, and started cleaning the mess.



  1. First time I heard about Jack in the Box was that salmonella outbreak they had in the 1990s. I just remember some executive made a TV commercial apologizing and it looked like he'd been kidnapped by the Red Brigades and forced to renounce capitalism.

    1. It was e. coli. Four children killed from undercooked meat patties, at a Tacoma JITB, I think.

      Don't remember the executive's apology, but if he was human he should've looked devastated. They may have had human executives back then.

      I might hold a grudge if I'd known any of the dead kids, but it's been 30 years and the Breakfast Jack is really good.

    2. I remember the Jack scare. They were so stupid, it was avoidable, the company's policy was to cook the patties for two minutes and sell them whether they were done or still pink.

      When it came out that it was policy not an accident, I was so enraged that I swore off Jumbo Jacks for life.

      In practice I was back a few months later because Jumbo Jacks are so good.

    3. I don't think I ever stayed away from Jack-In-the-Crack, cuz I'm stupid.

      Jumbo Jacks don't do it for me, but I am very fond of the Breakfast Jack.


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