Soft Venom

I was having dinner tonight at Wimpy’s Diner in London, savouring one of my favourite meals: Philly Cheesesteak.  Lots of beef, roasted veggies, melted cheese, coleslaw and ciabatta bun all decided that my mouth was an inviting target.  I agreed.  But a couple of tables away, there was trouble in River City.

I was reading on my phone about a 16-year-old girl named Jade who has a chance to make the Canadian Women’s Soccer Team for the upcoming World Cup.  I was enthralled with her spirit.  The energy near me in the restaurant was another thing.  A man’s deep voice kept inching into my consciousness.  There was a staccato forcedness as he talked to his female companion.  I couldn’t quite catch their topics but complaining seemed to sum up his presentation.  She said very little in reply.

More troubling was how he treated the young waitress.  It wasn’t blatant, where someone like me needs to confront him.  No, it was more subtle, but the intent was clear:

You’re not really a person.  You’re a thing, an object getting in the way of me
receiving and enjoying the perfect meal I deserve.

My serving friend was shaken, and more than once.  “Why weren’t certain options available on the menu?  The food was … (enter any negative term that comes to mind).  The service was … (ditto).  I’m upset about all this.”  The waitress returned twice with altered plates of food.  No thank you’s were to be found.  There was a low, rumbling grumpiness that wouldn’t go away.  The fellow seemed skilled in halting his barbs just before the onset of abuse.  Actually, though, I don’t think that’s true.  The series of calmly spoken digs at her accumulated to emotional violence.

I chose not to speak to him.  I chose to send love to her.  In retrospect, I should have included him in that love.  I didn’t talk privately to her about him but I did joke with her when it was time to pay the bill.  I told her about a time when I wasn’t paying attention as I had the machine in hand.  I thought I was doing my PIN number but instead I was at the tip part of the procedure.  Just before I clicked yes, I looked down in horror to see that I was about to leave my server $11,000!  Tonight I told the woman standing in front of me that I just couldn’t afford that with her.  We laughed together.

Did I make any difference tonight?  I’m clear that the answer is yes.  Not a confrontation in the spirit of defending the well-being of a teenager.  Not an empathy session with her.  But yes … a contribution.

Horror No More?

Stephen King is my favourite author.  Yes, he’s a horror guy, but he’s also a master of character development, making them so real that I fall in love, even with the bad guys.  They too have a pilot light of goodness.  Books of terror, such as The Shining and Pet Semetary, have always been enthralling for me as well as scary.

Yesterday I started King’s novel The Regulators.  In the first hundred pages, the occupants of vibrantly coloured vans are terrorizing the residents of a suburban street.  They’ve already killed a man, a woman, a boy and a dog.  Despite all this, I loved reading about the dynamics of the neighbourhood … who’s doing what.  Who’s saying what about whom.

I slept poorly last night.  I’m still pretty dopey.  Stephen, did you have anything to do with this?

I see myself as a spiritual person.  Am I moving towards letting go of the 6:00 pm news, gossip in the coffee shop, and perhaps Mr. King’s depictions of murder?  As for the author, I read fiction and go to international movies to see life vividly displayed in front of me.  I want real people feeling real things.  I want stunning moments between two people.  I want love, sadness, anger … the full meal deal.

No, I’ve just decided.  I won’t stop reading Stephen King.  There are too many “ah hah” moments within those pages, where I recognize humankind, and pause to consider my world view.  To consider what’s important in my life.  To learn.

Bring it on, Stephen.  Teach me.