Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Drop The Tiny Corn And Step Away From The Salad Bar, Al (and I assume your last name is Kada)!
In the past several years, there have been many things that I've encountered that have sent me scurrying for the comfort of a comically-large rum and coke and my DVDs of Carl Sagan's "Cosmos." In 2008 I sought that solace as my employer vortexed away (yes, I just made vortex into a verb - stick around - who knows what I'll do next) and unemployment loomed. The death of my dad, my own wretched mystery illnesses and the days just over a year ago when my [Maris] was in the ICU (although then, it was a comically-small rum and coke, in case some horrible call came from the hospital), as well as any time I stumble upon footage of Sarah Palin (or, to be fair, Nancy Pelosi) speaking -- all of these trigger my "Cosmos" need.
Most recently, it was the "news," on our local "news" radio station, that Al Qaeda is plotting to poison America with ricin and arsenic. One salad bar at a time. It wasn't even this scary and probably true revelation that spooked me. Listening to this alarmist "news" for the past 9 1/2 years has desensitized me to the threats themselves. I'm sure terrorists are dreaming up all kinds of incredibly inventive ways to terrorize and kill us. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before they succeed, blah blah blah. No, what really froze me in my tracks like a kid playing "red light, green light" was what the reporter and news anchors recommended we All Do. Everyone needs to be extra vigilant, they said, and REPORT anyone seen lingering around the salad bar, returning items from their plates back onto the salad bar etc.. Report it? To whom? The sneeze guard doesn't seem interested.
Waitress: How is everything over here? Did you save room for dessert?
Vigilant Citizen: No, ma'am, but I need to report a suspicious subject at the salad bar.
Waitress: A... A suspicious what at the what?
VigCit: A possible terrorist, ma'am.
Waitress: (giggle) A terrorist? At the salad bar? Here?
VigCit: (very, very serious) This is very, very serious, ma'am. Could you please get your manager? Quickly!
Manager: Good evening, sir. I'm the manager on duty tonight. I understand there's a problem with the salad bar?
VigCit: I need to report-- Holy crap - you look even younger than the little girl who's been waiting on us. How old are you, son?
Mgr: Seven--squeak-- Seventeen, sir. Is there something I can do for you?
Waitress: He said he saw a terrorist by the salad bar. You think it's a suicide bomber?
VigCit: I didn't say suicide bomber!
Waitress: You said terrorist!
Mgr: Thank you, Kaytlinne. I'll take it from here. You go on and check on your other tables. Now, sir - you want to report a terrorist at the salad bar?
VigCit: Yes. I think you should do something. He's still here. I can't believe no one else is alarmed. He's got a Turban, for Christ's sake!
Mgr: Um... What did he do at the salad bar?
VigCit: He put something back.
Mgr: Put something back?
VigCit: Yes. It was on his plate. He looked around suspiciously, then he carefully put it back onto the salad bar. It's an olive.
Mgr: Oh my goodness! Now why would anyone put an olive back on the salad bar? That is suspicious. Was it a black olive or a green one?
VigCit: It's a black one, and I can see it from here. He carefully put it in the ice next to the olive bowl.
Mgr: Oh my! Do you think it's a bomb? What should I do?
VigCit: Well, for starters, you might want to keep customers away from the salad bar. And you should probably call the police, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. I can keep an eye on the guy while you do that. Then, I'd be more than happy to help you escort him out, if you like.
Mgr: Where is he?
VigCit: It's the Al-Qaeda-lookin' guy alone at that table by the front window. He's the only one in the restaurant wearing a turban.
Mgr: (gasp) Oh, I see him, sir! He does look awfully suspicious. But...
VigCit: But what?
Mgr: But aren't turbans worn by Sikhs and not Muslims?
VigCit: Boy, you gonna stand around quibbling about what part of Al-Qaeda that guy's from, or are you gonna do something before people start dropping dead from anthrax?
Mgr: Well, I'm going to get to the bottom of this. Nobody puts anthrax in the olives when I'm the manager on duty. (He marches over to the man in the turban. The two begin to converse. There are gestures toward the salad bar, gestures toward Vigilant Citizen, discussion, smiles and then laughter. Vigilant Citizen approaches the terrorist's table.)
VigCit: Excuse me, but is there something funny about this situation?
Mgr: Yes, well, it actually is kind of amusing, sir...
Turban Guy: And quite embarrassing.
VigCit: Son, there's nothing amusing about terrorism! And you - suppose you show me some identification and don't make any sudden moves.
TG: No offense, sir - but who are you to demand another man's identification?
VigCit: I'm a Goddamn American citizen, that's who!
Mgr: Okay, fellas...
TG: Oh. In that case, I demand to see your identification, as I am also a Goddamn American citizen.
Mgr: See, I think I can explain what happened...
VigCit: You ain't no American. We don't wear that Arab stuff here.
TG: This is a turban. Arabs do not wear turbans. Many Americans do, however. Including me. I am a Sikh. And I was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania. My parents were both born in the United States. I'm pretty Goddamn American, and you're starting to piss me off.
Waitress: There he is, officers. That's the salad bar bomber!
Mgr: Now wait a minute...
VigCit: Officers, I saw this man looking around suspiciously and putting food back onto the salad bar. We're supposed to report that kind of thing, right?
TG: Oh you've got to be kidding me.
VigCit: It could be poison! Or a bomb!
TG: It's an olive!
Officer: An olive? Black or green?
VigCit: Black! It's still there! Do something!
Mgr: There's a logical explanation, officers. Let me explain...
VigCit: What's the matter with you people? Isn't it obvious? The turban! And look at that shirt, with that Arabic "death to America" stuff on it!
TG: That's not Arab you imbecile! It's Punjabi, and it says "peace!" I told you - I'm a natural-born American Sikh, not Arab, not Muslim and very much not amused!
VigCit: I saw you put that olive there. Explain that!
Mgr: Sir, this is my restaurant while I'm on duty, and I'm going to have to ask you to stop harassing my customers.
Mgr: I told you there's an explanation. Yes, you did see him put that olive there. It fell off his plate onto the floor. He didn't see a trash receptacle, and he didn't want to put it back on his plate, but he also didn't want to put it back in the olive bowl. He looked around for a staff member to ask for help and, finding none at the moment, decided to put it into the ice next to the bowl. He's very embarrassed, and he told me all about it as soon as I approached his table, before I'd even said anything. See? It's not terrorism at all. Just a silly mishap.
TG: I am terribly sorry for instilling such fear and trepidation into the hearts of all these good people who hadn't so much as looked at me until you came over to my table.
Mgr: Your dinner is on the house tonight, sir. I apologize for the way you've been treated.
Officers: See ya guys.
TG: (whispering in Vigilant Citizen's ear) Death to America.