I have severe advanced Osteo-Arthritis, which means I mostly get around on a cane. It’s not so bad really. I mean, I don’t like it, but I am stuck with it. Some days I look in the mirror and I wonder what happened to the strong and strapping young lad featured so prominently in some of my earlier stories, but mostly I try not to look in the mirror. It doesn’t do any good to wish your life away on days that never were, or that are long gone.
Speaking of days that are long gone, I need to lose some weight. I am getting pretty soft and I wouldn’t mind it, except that it is hard on my hips and knees, and it getting hard to tie my shoelaces. Since I am not ready for old people slip-on, Velcro, slate gray, corrective, comfort fit, orthopedic shoes just yet, that means it is time to go on a diet.
Well, that and the fall I took recently.
My wife and I were out doing a little Christmas shopping, and it was getting to be around lunchtime. I suggested we go Panda Express, because I had a taste in my mouth for fried rice, but when we got to the restaurant, it was packed. Not wanting to stand for hours in line, my wife suggested that we stop at McDonald’s, just down the street, next to Costco.
“We’ll have lunch, and then duck in and out of Costco, and get the groceries.”
Duck in and out of Costco? At Christmas? Wow, is she ever an optimist!
I didn’t really want a hamburger, but since I also really didn’t want to stand for hours in line- like that wasn’t what we were about to do at Costco (?!)- I said, yes.
Have I told you that I speak Spanish? Well, that would be a lie, because I don’t, but I do know a few words here and there, mostly because I have lived in California for nearly thirty years, and because the Sandoval family has adopted me. Way back when, I didn’t have any family in California, and I think they felt sorry for me, so they started feeding me, and eventually- mostly because I just never seemed to go away- they invited me to one of their family reunions, and it just kind of all went downhill for them from there. They never should have started feeding me. Everybody knows you should never feed strays if you want them to go away.
In the intervening three decades, I have watched their children grow up, get married and have children of their own. My wife and I celebrate Thanksgiving with them every year in their home. We go to their family reunion every Easter, and the grandchildren call me, ‘Uncle Mitch.’ I had a recent occasion to explain it to my father this way:
“Remember when I was a kid, that family that took a wrong turn and showed up at our family reunion, only they liked ours so much better than their own, they just stayed, and then came back every year?”
“Yes.” He replied.
“Well, I’m those people, now.”
A couple summers ago, I remarked to Richard, one of the Sandoval family patriarchs, that my wife and I didn’t really belong at the Easter gathering, but that we were thankful to be invited every year.
“Too late,” he snickered, “you’re family now!”
It was one of the most touching, tender and sincere compliments of my entire life.
Where was I?
Oh, yes, speaking Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish. I know a word or two, like “por favor,” and “gracias,” and “pendejo,” which, is a term of endearment I think, and means ‘sweetheart’, or ‘lovely’, or something like that, I’m not sure, but I got called that a lot in the early years. But, you would think that after all the years in California my Spanish would a little better.
So, there we were in McDonald’s. I had my double cheeseburger, large fries and small diet coke, (I am supposed to be trying to lose weight, after all.) and my wife had her plain cheeseburger- that’s meat, cheese, tomato and bun only, thank you very much- fries and her Sprite, and we proceeded to find a place to sit down. Surprisingly, it wasn’t that crowded, but we had to choose a booth instead of a table. Normally, I prefer a table to a booth, because there is more elbowroom…
Okay, I know. My problem is not fat elbows. Can we move along, please?
The only seating available was on the aisle, just beyond the center planter, next to some kind of large plastic display, to which I didn’t really pay any attention. I don’t know what it was displaying, or advertising. It was some kind of five foot giant plastic tube, with a sign, and some brochures and a bunch of little plastic pieces that, well, I don’t know what it was for, but it was standing right there, big as life. I was more interested in my cheeseburger.
Just for future reference: a five foot hollow plastic tube on a tile floor in a restaurant, has really good sound acoustics. Especially when you knock it down.
Ever notice how the table and the bench in a restaurant booth are constructed? I’ll bet you didn’t, but guess what? It’s actually very important. Usually, the bench extends anywhere from a few inches to as much as a foot beyond the table. This allows for greater ease of both access and egress, but evidently, the carpenter who put this particular booth and bench together, missed ‘Booth and Bench’ school day, or if he went, he didn’t pay attention, because he got this one just exactly backwards, only I didn’t notice it when I sat down.
As my wife finished the last of her soda, she asked me,
“Ready to go?”
“You bet.” I replied, and went to slide out of the booth.
Gravity is a cruel mistress, especially when you have no business eating cheeseburgers at McDonald’s, because you need to lose weight.
Expecting the bench upon which I was sitting to extend the customary few inches to one foot beyond the table, I scooted my big butt over and outward- into thin air.
Thin air is a curious feeling, when you are expecting a few more inches of bench.
I tried to grab for the table, but I missed. That’s important only because missing the table insured that I was flailing my arms wildly when I screamed like a little girl, and crashed into the giant plastic tube, with a sign, and some brochures, and a bunch of little plastic pieces, that had really good sound acoustics when knocked half way across the restaurant, scattering the brochures like parade confetti, and all the little plastic pieces like three handfuls of jacks on a hardwood floor, that was in this case, ceramic tile.
Oh, yeah- and there was a guy mopping the floor. He had a sign too… a big one. It was road-cone orange and it said he was mopping the floor, and that I should be careful, and I know this because it was in Spanish. It clearly stated,
“Aviso! Pavimento mojado!”
Which, roughly translated means,
“Hey! Look out, stupid, before you fall down and break your boo-boo!”
And, I know that, because when I screamed and fell down, I landed right on top of that sign.
As you can imagine, there was quite a commotion. Between me collapsing to the floor like a giant quadriplegic scarecrow with no spine, into a five foot acoustic plastic tube, and sending it and the brochures and all the little plastic pieces, and my food tray, crashing across the restaurant; and then landing on top of a big orange sign specifically warning me in Spanish not to fall down; and the poor guy mopping the floor dropping his swab and exclaiming excitedly and loudly in Spanish,
“Help! I think this big pendejo just fell down and broke his boo-boo!”
There was also my old world Italian wife screaming,
“Oa! Madonna mio! Poveretto! Aiuto! Aiuto!”
Which roughly translated means,
“Hey! Look out! My big, fat, stupid husband just fell down on a big orange sign and broke his boo-boo!”
In the struggle to get up- the mop guy was trying to help, and my wife was trying to help, and they were talking to each other- one in Spanish and the other in Italian- the manager rushed over and was trying to help me up, and as all three tugged, and pulled at me like if I was some kind of pig in a wallow, my cane fell off of the table and hit me in the head.
It was a banner outing, all around. We didn’t go to Costco. I was not in the mood to stand in line.
Merry Christmas to you all!