I was peeling potatoes at work, when a huge, smashed carboard box was deposited on the ground in front of the counter. The UPS man was dancing. Tapping and clicking and twirling and shuffling his old brown shoes.
"Hey Brotha!" he sang.
"Oh hey, man. What’s this?"
He slowed to a trot and peered down at the crumpled package that lay there limply.
"Oh this? Some crushed-up box sombody sent ya." He spun his electronic pad to me and I scrawled my name.
"Thanks." He was already out the door, shirt tail flapping like a flag.
I bent down and read the label. RUMBA ENERGY JUICE 100% JUICE said the package. I heaved it onto the counter and tore in. RUMBA ENERGY JUICE 100% JUICE said the label. I pulled a can from the plastic rings. RUMBA ENERGY JUICE 100% JUICE said the can. I read the ingredients.
CONTAINS: Filtered water, fruit juice concentrates (water, orange, apple, pear, peach, tangerine, pineapple, white grape juice concentrates), apple puree, glucose, taurine, natural gum stabilizer, natural flavors, panax ginseng root extract, citric acid, ascorbic acid, caffeine, niacinamide, guarana seed extract, L-carnitine, glucuronolactone, inositol, beta carotene, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin, sucralose, maltodextrin, cyanocobalamin.
I may have the math wrong, but I’m pretty sure those people at Rumba are 100% morons.
"Excuse me, Sir?"
"Yes?" I looked up.
They say that you shouldn’t give unsolicited advice. Just try to help people work out their problems themselves, because chances are, whatever happened to you is very different from whatever happened to them, so comfort and listen, but don’t give advice. There are some situations, however, that really don’t change from person to person. For example, why do people always want to explain to me why they have to pee?
"May I use your bathroom?"
"See what happened was…"
"I think I understand pretty well. Thanks though. If you don’t mind, I’ll just go ahead and jump to conclusions on this one."
But no. I can’t say that to a customer.
"Well, see, I drank some Gatorade, and then some 7-up, and THEN I had COFFEE, and THEN…"
"Uh-huh, uh-huh, REALLY. Wow. Yep. Uh-huh, uh-huh." Like they’re explaining some vast concept. Yeah, I get it, you drank something, now you have to pee. Really, I’ve been there. I don’t care.
This is why people don’t need therapists to help them work through the problem of excess hydration.
"Well, Dr. Murphy, it all started when I drank a gallon of Rumba."
"What can I say, I advise you to pee."
When my dad was in the navy, there was a period of time when he and his shipmates were stranded on shore waiting for their ship to return.
Before he left with the ship, the captain pulled my father aside.
"You’re in charge," he said.
"Of what, Sir?"
"Watching the donuts."
"The donuts, Sir?"
"Every morning, go buy some donuts. Sit over there at that table, and sell them to the other officers for 10 cents each."
"The donuts, Sir?"
The ship didn’t come back for three months. For three months, my father got up early and watched the donuts.
I’ve had people ask me what I do at work. I cook, I clean, I put things in bags, I restock the Rumba and the Tosta Rica, I smile and shake hands and make change. I "watch the donuts." I guess I’m waiting for my ship to come in, too.
The potatoes were bright as teeth in the bowl, and I rinsed them dilligently.
"He’s here, my boyfriend is here!" Brenda ran up the stairs to gaze out the window. Almost every day, the firetrucks pull up, and Brenda runs to the window to catch a glimpse of a particular fireman.
"Now there’s a job, Brenda. Although, I think if i were a fireman, I’d hyphenate it."
She squinted through the glass.
"I am Fire-man." I said.
She wasn’t listening.
"I have a title of my own now, you know." She craned her neck as he disappeared around a corner. "Yeah, I passed my National Certification Exam for Massage Therapy and Bodywork a month ago. My certificate arrived in the mail today. Check it out."
I drew it from the envelope, and handed to her the parchment embossed with "S.J.Aguilar, LMP."
She studied it silently.
"Now this word here–is this "LIMP" or "LUMP"?"
I looked at her blankly.
"Yeah, well, I guess Fire-man over there does kind of take the cake."
Maybe I’m just not destined for greatness. When we were kids, my brother’s chores were to take out the trash, feed Flakie the parakeet, and clean his cage. Flakie’s cage, that is. My brother had a bedroom. My chores were to set the table and fix the shoes. That’s right, fix the shoes. Now I realize this brings to mind magical elves and little hammers, but in reality, it did not really entail any actual cobbling. No, my job was much, much more far-fetched. We were a shoes-off-in-the-house family, and we deposited them under the coat rack in the kitchen. My "job" was to neatly line them up, like dirty-bowed presents under a long-dead tree. Every day, I set the table and then, by golly, I fixed those shoes.
Setting the table for dinner wasn’t so bad, because I could secure the best utensils for myself. I had my favorite fork, my favorite spoon, my favorite knife. A few years ago, I invited a girl over and made her dinner. I let her use my favorite fork. She never called me after that night, but I don’t feel too bad about it. A lot of breakups are for the best. Pangaea, for instance.
I was stirring the potatoes when my favorite wooden spoon snapped in my hand. It didn’t even make a sound, it just gave way and silently broke like a promise. I leaned over the railing that looked over the lower floor.
"I just broke my spoon."
"Too bad you don’t work somewhere that sells them."
"So you’re saying we have more of those?" She sighed and trudged into the back room.
A man took a box of Tosta Rica off the shelf.
"Can I pay for this downstairs?"
"Sure." He trotted down the steps, and I immediately heard the counter bell. I peered over the balcony, and he was looking up at me from the downstairs counter.
"Can I pay for this here?" He waved it in the air.
"Sure." I put the "please ring bell for assistance" sign up at my counter, and went downstairs. "That’ll be 59 cents for the Tosta Rica."
"Thanks a lot!" he said, and I heard the bell upstairs.
S.J. Aguilar, LUMP. I hurried back upstairs to watch those donuts.