Lunch at Jack-in-the-Box

An oldie but a goodie. At least it still makes me laugh …

by William Arthur “Bill” Holmes. © Copyright 1990

Driving around town the other day, I somehow ended up in Hollywood. I don’t get to Hollywood much anymore and don’t usually find myself missing it. But it was a beautiful day. And seeing all the quaint shops — each striving for uniqueness — and the many people on the street — each striving for a unique sameness — I wondered why I ever left. On this day, Hollywood truly seemed like the place to be.

Getting hungry, I started looking for a hip, cool place to have lunch. I passed by several places with tables on the sidewalk and young, hip, sunglass-wearing people sipping coffee and smoking cigarettes. But I couldn’t have lunch at one of these places. I was alone. And, in Hollywood, alone people just don’t sit at sidewalk cafe tables for lunch.

As I stopped at a traffic light I saw a Jack-In-The-Box restaurant on my left — not exactly a cool, hip place to have lunch. But I was tired of driving around, and my stomach was telling me to stop here for lunch.

“What about the recent food poisoning scare?” I wondered.

“Well, yeah, there’s that,” my stomach answered. “But, wasn’t it their hamburger meat that was contaminated?”

“Yeah, so?” I countered.

“Well, you never buy their burgers,” my stomach reasoned. “You always go for their chicken sandwiches.”

“You’re right, of course,” I acquiesced. And in a reckless, daring move, I stopped for lunch.

The first thing I see as I pull into the parking lot is this bum — or should I say a “mentally-challenged, emotionally-disabled, financially-disadvantaged, homeless person”? “Bum” is easier. Anyway, he’s standing there in the middle of the parking lot, completely filthy, hair sticking out in all directions, pants half-way down his legs, obviously incoherent, staring off into space. Probably a Scientologist.

As I enter the restaurant there’s this young rock ‘n roll poser-type — complete with long blonde hair, black tank-top shirt, multi-colored spandex pants and white sneakers — having lunch with his nubile bimbo girlfriend in white spandex pants, black leather boots and some sort of fishnet over a pink t-shirt. They’re like cardboard cutouts.

I approach the cashier and order the “Chicken Supreme” sandwich, “Seasoned Curly Fries” and a Coke. I sit down at the corner table furthest from the door and start in on the curly fries.

In walks this girl. I wouldn’t have noticed her except that she’s shouting “Hey!” at someone as she staggers through the door. She looks to be about twenty, with medium-length dirty-blonde hair, narrow-set angry eyes, small pinched mouth. She’s obviously on drugs.

At first, I think she’s just another whacked-out homeless person, and I hope she’ll leave as soon as she realizes that food costs money. But she doesn’t go way. In fact, she’s brought friends. Two young “dudes” — she calls them both “dude” — stagger into the restaurant a moment or two behind her. They look fairly strung-out on drugs themselves. And, unfortunately, it looks as if they intend to order lunch and eat here.

At the cashier counter, the girl is being extremely bizarre, talking loudly at one moment only to mumble something beyond my hearing the next. I keep an eye on her because she’s so deranged, and I’m afraid she might come near me.

I seem to attract these weirdos. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I look at them. I make eye contact. And weirdos are used to having others look away. So when they catch me looking at them, no matter how fleeting that eye contact may be, they get a glimmer of hope that I might actually talk to them, or listen to them, or give them money, or make some sort of acknowledgment of their existence. Of course, I generally don’t. But this is probably what they’re thinking.

Anyway, I’m at my table in the corner of the restaurant and there are about twenty other tables available. But which table does this girl (and her tag-along “dudes”) choose? That’s right — the one right next to me.

My first thought is to immediately move to another table. But I’m hesitant because I get the impression the girl is paying attention to me (with what’s left of her mind) and she might be insulted if I get up and leave. I don’t want to insult her because I’m afraid she’ll go into some sort of mad, drug-induced tirade aimed at me, and I would then be forced to eat my lunch in my car.

I think she might move to another table, saving me the trouble. I don’t know what makes me think this will happen. Maybe it’s because she reminds me of a wheel on a bent axle: liable to fly off in any direction at any moment, and I’m hoping she will fly off in the direction furthest away from me.

She starts barking at one of her dudes, “Get me an ashtray! I need an ashtray!”

I don’t know if she’s going to start smoking or if she just wants an ashtray to lick the bottom of.

I finally get up and move to the opposite corner of the restaurant. I feel her eyes upon me a couple of times while I eat, but I never look in her direction again. I’ve made too much eye contact already for one day.

I can’t wait to get back home.


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