January 11, 2011

The Damndest Thing

I have never intended this blog to be a catalog of daily events. And yet, some things just need to be recorder, if not for posterity, then for the sheer absurdity of it all.

Today was a slow day, remarkable only for the time it allotted me to alphabetize and organize the altogether messed up fitness section at Borders. I was not successful -- not even a little bit, truthfully. The whole things seemed such an uphill battle that I could never muster the will to give it significant effort. And so I messed with it for a while -- half working, half browsing -- then went on my break.

I had rice and beans with pork at Esquina, perhaps my favorite thing to eat these days, especially when it's topped with habanero sauce. But I digress. Lunch and a coffee had, I was ready to work; and thankfully, there were more customers, so that I actually did get to work. There were drinks and jokes made -- some better than others, typically -- and one particularly good rossetta as well. But on the whole, this was a day not worth writing about. Good, but not noteworthy.

Then sauntered in a man who, shall we say, was not altogether present. His walk was a giveaway; but if one missed that, then his muddled drawl made the point clear enough. He asked if we had outlets, and I responded that we did, in the cafe seating area. It was an attempt to brush him off, and it failed. Future efforts would be no more effective.

He began mumbling about something, and reached in to his coat pocket. His hand lingered, and my mind entertained the idea that he might have a gun, and might be disengaged enough to use it. It occurred to me that I would rather die some other way, not huddled behind a counter, victim of misplaced drunken rage.

He removed his hand, revealing a deck of tarot cards. He said that he wanted to practice his gift; I responded that I had best get back to work. "Why do you wanna run away, ALEX?" he asked, looking not entirely at me, gesturing as if on stage. It attempted to ignore him, to brush him off, to go about my business. But his vaudevillian act continue, unabated. Thus I assumed that the best way to be rid of him might be to humor him, and so accepted the reading he had begun giving already.

There were several cards with kings, which he assumed to mean that I had an inflated opinion of myself. I, he asserted, liked to be in control, to think that I determined my life's trajectory. Or rather, that's mostly what I said. He mumbled about the pictures on the cards, saying very little that made much sense. But he warned me, nonetheless, that this attitude would lead to trouble.

He pointed to a card: "Look. You're trying to run away with all these swords... but it's not gonna work. See... see," he moved his finger to another card. "You're gonna set yourself on FIRE." His eyes widened, as if I were already ablaze. I tried my best to remain polite, smiled, and nodded. My sarcasm shone through, however. "You're not buying any of this." he said. Surprising. He was, perhaps, more astute that I had assumed. His hand moved to another card, this with a chariot pictured. "But beware... the two headed horse." Perhaps not.

There were customers then, and I went about helping them far too attentively. There was another person working, after all; and she could have assisted them easily on her own. I stood, making drinks, stocking things, generally staying busy, and far away from the man who was not leaving. Far from it, he was approaching the center of the counter.

He told me that it didn't matter what I though, of myself, or of my life. What mattered was love, our relationships with people. I responded that I did not disagree, but that the two things were not mutually exclusive. One needs to have a grasp of who they are, a grip on their own life, before interactions with others can be expected to go well.

It seemed I had struck a nerve. A series of accusations followed. I was a liar, self-interested, and doomed to fall from the ivory tower on which I perched. I was other things too, which I will not repeat. It is at this point that the whole experience crossed whatever line it had been flirting with, no longer amusing in a perverse sort of way, it was now uncomfortable, and more than a little insulting.

The reprieve came, and none too soon. My boss walked behind the counter, examining some papers so as to suggest my involvement. The man smiled, walked away in something of a hurry, and assured me that he would be back. My boss, for what it's worth, did not think he would remember anything about this night, much less where he had been and to whom he had spoken.

Thus concluded, perhaps, the most odd -- certainly, the most disconcerting -- encounter of my career tending coffee bars. But it's also a good story, which is why I tell it here.


  1. If you ever see that two-headed horse you will know he was right about you!

  2. Whoa! I think the cold weather brings all the imbalanced people indoors. We have all the means of an entertaining day where we work. With the option of spending little to no money and still being entertained. I want to see this man! Point him out next time he is in! I would also like to add the fact that your writing made this account even more entertaining =)

  3. He's a terrible tarot reader, that's for certain.

  4. He's doing everybody's job for them and now he has Satan on his ass.