I happened to walk past my boss yesterday while she was scarfing her lunch and realized I coveted her cheeseburger. (Pictured: not her cheeseburger.) I also realized that I didn’t immediately recognize where her cheeseburger had come from, which was odd, because I thought I had tapped out all of the available places to buy food around my place of business. Anyway, long story short, she told me what the place was called and how to get there and I bounced off to go acquire me a tasty burger. The place is a diner, and I got a seat at the bar, explaining that I just wanted my food to go, and was able to order almost immediately.
An old man comes and sits down right next to me. This is a trifle odd, since there are seven or eight barstools at the bar, and none of the rest of them are occupied, but whatever; maybe it was his barstool, I dunno. He had one of those faces; dude could have been 65 and he could have been 103.
He begins talking to me immediately, no preamble. I suspect he’d been carrying on a running conversation with people sitting next to him on those stools for years. His family is in Mississippi, you see, a bit southwest of Biloxi, and it’s actually snowing in Mississippi right now, and they have no idea what to do about it, and we spent four or five minutes alternately kvetching about the current weather and laughing at how Southerners have no idea what to do with cold or ice.
(I note, looking at a map, that there is very little of Mississippi that could legitimately be described as “southwest of Biloxi,” which is interesting, because that’s definitely what he said.)
Anyway, this goes on for a few minutes, and it’s relatively pleasant and inoffensive, and then he gets real quiet and points his finger at me and thinks for a second.
See, first the Americans and the Russians started putting satellites in space. Then, a year later, they started putting missiles in space. And that’s when things started getting really bad, and that’s why it’s cold all the time now.
I go from participating in the conversation, if not enthusiastically at least not begrudgingly, to nodding and smiling and occasionally staring daggers at the waitress if you have killed the cow the burger is done that’s good enough bring it to me now dammit now while she walks by, no doubt laughing on the inside because I’m sure this crazy old fucker corners people with his insane conspiracy theories all the time and I am just his most recent victim.
Then he points at me again, and goes quiet again, and I listen intently, because this was where the first part of the conversation went off the rails, and if it’s gonna happen again I need to be ready.
“The scientists ain’t gonna tell you none of this, y’see,” he says.
“No, sir,” I reply. “They certainly will not.”
And the waitress cracks up.
And she gets me my burger.
And I go back to work.
It was a tasty burger, by the way.