An Open Letter to the Patrons of Speedway on 79th and Harlem and other Various Commuters
Wow, it’s been awhile. Didn’t realize. Are things looking up in the Drobick household, perhaps? Don’t hold your breath. I just couldn’t find the energy to find humor in getting a nail stuck in my tire and driving on a donut for a week through pothole-ridden Chicago. Nor did I find a lot of joy in cementing my presence as the dumb girl at work by scraping the entire side of my car against the gate in full view of all fellow employees while trying to avoid hitting my boss’s car. My father told me it was probably a couple hundred dollars damage, to which I replied, “It’s a nine year old Grand Am with NO MIRRORS. What’d I do, take 100 bucks off the selling price of $350?” And lastly, I’m having trouble coming to terms with the fact that my body apparently decided that once I hit thirty, it was going to revolt and make me look like it. All of a sudden, no one’s surprised when I say my age. At twenty nine, it was all, “No kidding? I would have figured twenty four or twenty five!” Now the response is more, “Yeah, that’s about what I thought.” It’s like God pushed a button on my birthday — no more getting carded for anything, sudden wrinkles around my eyes, and pores that my cheap makeup gets caked in so I look dirty all the time. This last indignity prompted a crazed quarter life crisis in which I went to Wal-Mart for cat food and came home with $50 dollars worth of Olay Regenerist cream and L’Oreal loose powder. The good news is, it works. The bad is, I’m almost out of all of it already, and my budget doesn’t really run to expensive skin care.
Anyhoo, that’s what’s been going on. Nothing in particular has jumped out at me as something I could parlay into a good story. Until I realized yesterday that there is a whole plethora of material just waiting for me, each and every morning, at the Speedway around 79th and Harlem. Each morning on my way to work, I stop in for my “giant, ignorant pop,” as Tony calls it; otherwise known as 44 ounces of glorious fountain Diet Coke. And each morning, I wait in line for approximately seven minutes. It’s one of those things that you don’t really notice at first, waiting in line for awhile everyday. I mean, it’s the morning commute on a busy street — it’s a busy store, right? But after four months, I’m realizing it’s not so much busy as everyone else in there is fucking ANNOYING. I’ve divided them into groups.
Group one: The lottery players. Generally, but not wholly consisting of, old black women and older white men. Is this some south side phenomenon I’ve been unaware of? Because I never, ever encountered this in the north suburbs. At 7:15 in the morning, they find it necessary to play all of their “numbers,” spending upwards of $40 bucks on little lotto. In doing so, the line backs up and backs up while they play each individual ticket, “Wait, no, I said, 3-4-9, well, that’s what I meant, no, no — not that one, I meant the daily, I won that one, how much I win? Put that on 7-8-5 — no, not all of it,” until the blond girl with the dirty looking face sucking down half of her Diet Coke freaks out and walks around them to give the cashier her $1.42. See ya tomorrow.
Group two: The Polish construction workers stomping around in their Carhartt jumpsuits, loading up their two for one HOT DOGS at seven in the morning with mustard and onions and ketchup and jovially calling to each other across the store in their native tongue, creating a veritable grease/hot dog water/nasty onion smell vortex that makes said crazy blond girl want to vomit. I love me some hot dogs, but at 7AM? No. And how do you eat two hot dogs for BREAKFAST? In a CAR?
Group three: The GARDA trucks and employees. Is it just me, or is (again) 7:15 in the morning on a Friday at a gas station on a major street a bad time to be getting all of the money out of the lockboxes? Takes out the manager’s (a very peppy young gentleman with disproportionate pride in his job who was devastated because he didn’t remember which brand of cigarettes I buy) register with all their counting money and receipts and such. So now we’re down to one, and with all the lottery playing and lightspeed turnover at the gas station, it really jacks up the system. Also — I realize the benefit of having the truck right outside the door, as you’re dealing with a lot of money. However, I fail to understand the rationalization behind leaving the bed of the truck (the part with all the money in it) wide open directly in front of the entrance to the point when I walk out, it’s almost impossible to not walk directly into the truck. I’m easily distracted, people, and I don’t want to end up on the evening news simply because I was paying more attention to my caffeine than where I was walking.
Group four: The randoms. This is a general category. It includes the man on Wednesday who asked me if I liked porn, the man on Monday who refused to accept the fact that his credit card was declined, and the woman on Friday who was wearing shorts and flip flops with nasty feet. One leg of the shorts had hiked up to her crotch due to the circumfrence of her way too white thighs, and her feet looked like she’d been climbing trees like a monkey for the past week. Being that I’m not an incredibly skinny person, I sympathized with her shorts dilemma — but you know how I solve that? I HAVEN’T WORN SHORTS IN SEVEN YEARS. There are some things you just can’t do. Also? Even I get a pedicure — and if you can’t afford it, please do not share this with the public in the form of your cracked heels. Ack.
Outside of Speedway, there’s a few people I need to mention that I encountered recently. To the gentleman huddled in the blanket on Western and Fulton — Please. I do not possess the necessary faculites to deal with someone washing my windshield while I’m trapped at the light. I’m sure I’m supposed to give you money, but my dad said not to roll down my window past Pulaski. To Reverend Sharon at the Baptist church on California and 290 — perhaps “Deliverance — You will never be the same” is not the best slogan for your ministry. I realize it should bring religious themes to mind — but all I’m hearing is banjoes. To the employees and patrons at JJ’s Fish and Chicken (and here I thought after the waitressing I was done with shrimps, but there it is on their sign) on Chicago and Kedzie where I was sent to pick up lunch last Friday (Friday! Lent! Noon!) I don’t know who was more surprised to see my blond, white ass pulling up in my Grand Am bumping New Kids on the Block, you or me, but I thank you for not mocking me.
And finally, to the 50 something, perfectly coiffed woman driving the Jeep Cherokee today — thank you for the hysterical laughter. I had never before seen a license plate holder stating, “I’d rather be at a Clay Aiken concert!” Quoting Tony, “In which sphere of hell are those available?” Where did you get this? How many of these could possibly have been made? Six? And what in the name of Christ would motivate you to not only pay $12, but broadcast your love for the creepy man-boy for everyone to see? I don’t have the answers to these questions, but one of my friends is totally getting one of those for their birthday if it kills me.