The sneeze

Seattle hosted the baseball All-Star Game a few weeks ago, so the city, of course, cleared all the bum encampments within parking distance of the stadium. The sweeps were cruel and full of lies — the mayor said, "We don't do sweeps" the same day people were being swept — but now that the tourists are gone, a few thousand bums have resettled themselves near the ball park, and that's also near the Jack-In-the-Box where I'd decided on lunch.

I stepped off the bus, looked around while waiting to cross the street, and oh yeah, the homeless own the neighborhood again. Several tents were on the yellowed grass between sidewalk and street on the fast-food side, and a man sat on the curb, wearing rags and holding a bottle of not-milk. I said, "Cheers," walking past him, but didn't linger for an answer.

♦ ♦ ♦   

Onward to a quick, greasy lunch at a stupid high price. I walked inside Jack's place, gave my order and money to somebody in a goofy red jump suit, and waited. With nothing to see out the window except a parking lot and lotsa bums, I watched the workers working.

Hey, I need a job, and I worked in fast-food fifty years ago. Maybe I could work here? I played with the idea, but the kitchen looked cramped, and I'm fat. For sure I'd be knocking things over with my belly all day.

As I watched, an employee lifted two baskets from the hot greasy vats, onion rings in one, sorry-looking tacos in the other. Then she made a face that predicted a sneeze, but with both both of her hands occupied, she couldn't cover her mouth. She made a valiant effort to choke the sneeze back, but achoo! It was semi-successful, as no snot visibly escaped her face.

She sneezed a second time, this time stifling it more effectively, almost completely, and then she poured the onion rings from the basket into one of their little red onion ring boxes, and slid the sorry-looking tacos into their paper sleeves. Then she wiped her face with her hand, reached for a paper towel, and blew her nose.

We're supposed to be grossed out by the sneeze, right? Especially since those tacos and onion rings were my lunch. so I considered being worried about safety and hygiene and catching the next plague, but I simply couldn't get there. Humans make food, humans eat food, and sometimes humans sneeze. All you can ask is that people try not to sneeze on your food, and she'd tried.

The sneezy lady put my meal in a sack, though I'd ordered 'for here' so I should've been given a tray. I didn't complain about that, either, because one sack more or less isn't gonna save the rain forests. She put the bag on the counter, said my number and "Thanks," and I took the sack to a table and ate my sorry-looking tacos and onion rings.

♦ ♦ ♦    

When I'd finished and stepped outside, a hairy shirtless Mexican gent was asleep on his side in front of the restaurant, with his butt 3/4-exposed and coated with a slight layer of matted twigs and street debris. 

Another bum was sleeping on the cement floor of the bus shelter, which technically isn't a shelter any more; the roof has been removed, probably to deter the homeless from sleeping there. Didn't bother the sleeping guy, though.

There were more bums' tents down the street, and tents in both directions down the cross street — tents wherever there's grass, it seems, so the city will probably replace the grass with barbed wire.

When my bus was a block away, the bum asleep in the shelter stirred, and he said something to me. But I couldn't understand him, and didn't much try to. Nobody did.


No comments:

Post a Comment

🚨🚨 If you have problems posting a comment, please click here for help. 🚨🚨