Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Have It Your Way (But Only If Your Way Is A Rerun of a Post Originally Run In August of 2005)

Sometimes when I am having a very bad day, I will comfort myself with this thought: "At least I don't work at Burger King." This is nothing against the people who do work at Burger King--in fact it's the opposite. I toiled away many weekends and after school evenings at Burger King in high school and I can vouch for the fact that the job is often vile and horrible and much more complicated than it seems to the uninitiated.

When this thought popped into my head this week, it brought with it the memory of an incident that happened way back in my BK days that has haunted me ever since.

The story involves two guys: SA (whom I did have a fleeting crush on) and PL (whom I did not). In the Burger King kitchen there was a narrow walkway one end of which led to the front end and the other end of which led back into the kitchen. There were two garbage cans on one side of that path which were my responsibility as "dining room hostess." (Yeah, I know.) There were also various supplies stored in that area that were used in other parts of the store. One Saturday morning, PL had walked up the walkway to get something while I was in the middle of changing the garbage can liners. He was trying to make his way back into the kitchen, pushing a waist-high white plastic can on wheels, but was having a hard time navigating between the shelves and me. I was pushed as far against the garbage cans as I could go, even wedged between the two a little. While Paul was trying to push, pull, and jiggle the can through, he caught SA's eye and said, "Lardass." Clearly, clearly,clearly referring to me.

I was deeply wounded. Stunned. Could not understand why PL, who had never had a hostile word for me before, would say something so hurtful directly in front of me. The fact that the remark was made to SA, whom I did have a crush on and with whom I often had long, friendly conversations made the whole thing all the more painful. And SA's chuckle--ouch.

This is something I have dragged out on all sorts of occasions and low moments in the twenty-some years since, which is to say I have thought of it not often, but at least periodically--especially when SA crossed my mind or weight issues were nagging me.

In the context of weight issues, I most often thought of how sad it was that at a time when I was only slightly "overweight" and well within healthy bounds, I allowed such a misguided, narrow-minded, mean-spirited comment have so much space in my head and heart. And in an even broader, more political sense, I saw PL, SA and myself as victims of unrealistic expectations foisted upon us by the media. There were still a lot of times, though, when the memory had the power to make me wince, make me blush, make me squirm in echoes of my adolescent agony.

You get the picture: It has never fallen off my Most Embarrassing Moments Top 10 in all of the years since it happened. And never, not once, did it occur to me, as it did this time, that in the white plastic container PL was pushing was LARD, which was what went into Burger King's fryers until the arrival of vegetable oil in the more enlightened and health-conscious '90's.

So, it had also not crossed my mind that there was a real possibility that PL's intention was not to comment on the size of my ass but to make a silly little pun relying on the proximity of my ass to a 30-gallon container FULL OF LARD. The container was (not surprisingly) not spotlessly clean and there were smears of the white stuff visible on the lid and handles of the can so I may have actually had lard on my ass--which means I may have paraded around Burger King that afternoon with a shiny white substance on my (average-sized) ass, but I can live with that.

Lest you think I'm wholly delusional--I do realize that the other explanation, the conclusion to which I jumped and to which I've clung all this time, is still a possibility. In either case, I'm sure PL thought my ass and much of the rest of me was big--I was never an itty, bitty thing and PL was exactly the kind of guy to whom that kind of thing mattered in terms of picking girlfriends, but his making such an overtly cruel remark was out of character. In fact, PL and I went on to forge a fairly warm buddyship that was only mildly overshadowed by the nagging memory of the Lardass Moment. I have never really been able to fit the lardass incident into the context of every other experience I had with/of PL, but that never stopped me from holding tight to my original interpretation of events.

Regardless of the "true" meaning behind PL's words, what the hell is wrong with me? How foolish is it to be haunted by the words spoken by a person who was, at the absolute outside, a peripheral person in my life? A person whose opinion of me should've mattered little even in that moment and progressively less as time went by? An incident I should've dismissed if not that day, then surely that month, that year, and definitely in that decade!

Of course, if I'd done that we'd have never had the singular pleasure of this post and then where would we be?


  1. You have such an amazing attitude! Where WOULD we be without this post?
    Okay, so you were young and oh, so impressionable at the time of this incident. I suspect you lived in a self centered world at the time. It is the nature of the adolescent (I go so far as to say under 25 year old, in most cases) person. It is the task of that part of life to see and evaluate much of what happens in the context of your self. You held on to that memory b/c , in your young and impressionable mind, it had truth and it HURT. And now there is a scar. Scars don't get erased. Sometimes, if you want, you can cover them up with makeup? But you? You are not the make up wearing type - and your scars remain visible to you (even if they are under clothing).

    1. Here's something that someone said to me that's going to stick in a good way. Thanks, Gracie.

  2. I wonder sometimes whether it is possible that any of us would be as sensitive and writerly as we are if not for our various experiences of cruelty, or loss or pain. Who would want to read our blog posts full of smiley faces and balloons? We could hock coupons, I suppose. I think things stick with us. They stick with us and somehow this makes us creative, or crazy, or both.

    1. Crazily creative? Creatively crazy? Amen, either way. :) (Bonus smiley face. Emoticon balloon is unfortunately way out of my league.)

  3. Ouch. This sticks. It's hard to wash off, like the Burger King smell. I wonder about the silly things that we just toss off without thinking, how many ways have I infected someone's consciousness with what I thought was benign nonsense over the years? Your attitude is remarkable and I love the analysis of it all. But these things still stick sometimes, no? The boy I had a crush on in 8th grade told my friend he thought I was "a fucking dog". I have never forgotten that (obviously) and still sometimes wonder if it's true. Why?

    Also, this struck me: "the job is often vile and horrible and much more complicated than it seems to the uninitiated. " I worked at McD's for three hours right after high school and they asked me not to come back for my next shift because I just could not get the hang of anything. There's an art to working fast food well, I ain't got it.

    1. Ah, the Burger King smell...fond memories indeed.

      I have no few memories of the tossed-off, unintentional remark coming out of my own mouth, as well. (Which is saying nothing of all the ones I am completely unaware of.) That's one of those feelings that sticks, too.

  4. It is amazing how the comments or actions of those in the periphery of our lives have such a profound affect on us, like your witty and amazingly positive posts when I read them :-)