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  • When I was 18ish and being pursued by a 40 something married psychiatrist, let’s call him Sam, he took me to dinner at a lovely restaurant.

    Dad about fainted when Sam came to pick me up. Granted, I had only moved in with Dad temporarily after having lived on my own, well, with my high school boyfriend, for a year after graduation. I was one of those summer babies who started kindergarten early.

    Sam was younger, by several years, than my father. But he looked older. He had gray in his hair and beard, he had wrinkles. Dad never did have much gray in his dark hair or many wrinkles.

    And, having known me all my life, Dad knew that I would not be told what to do or kidded into following social norms just because them’s the rules. Too much religion and too many rules had already been shed.

    Now, to be fair to Sam, his wife had left him some months earlier and was in California living the good life with her much younger lover.

    Actually, let’s back up for a second. Let me tell you how I met Sam.

    I was a cashier in a lumber yard. Model Lumber was owned by a Jewish family – my first ever encounter with Jewish culture. I was hired by their Japanese bookkeeper after their last cashier quit in the middle of the day. Just walked off.

    Just do your job, she’d said. Don’t get involved in the family dynamics.

    Sure, sounded good to me. I’d never been a cashier. Not unless you count my Jack in the Box days. Where I had to start, as everyone did, at the fryer station. Eventually working my way up to taking orders at the front.

    But, still, I envied Eva, the girl who got to be outside taking the drive up orders when the line backed up.

    She got to write the orders down in grease pencil on a little board she carried from car to car. The board had a built in microphone and her voice could be heard inside as she gave the orders. She even wore a different outfit than the rest of us. A special outfit for the outside girls.

    She didn’t have to deal with the snarky guys at the grill or make change and have her till balance or stand around in the greasy air getting a six inch film that she couldn’t wait to go home and shower off.

    No, she got to stand outside in the fresh air and come to the back door from time to time to chat and flirt and laugh.

    I wanted Eva’s job.

    So I bugged Mr. Manager. I bugged him hard. He’d hired me because my Dad had worked the night shift there part time for extra money for awhile. He’d really liked my Dad. It had been great to have an adult there at night, made his job easier. Eventually Dad got more hours at the paper and quit.

    So, I was kinda his golden girl. Except, I bugged him constantly about changing the rules for everything.

    I wanted him to give me some of Eva’s hours. Eva could work inside part time and outside part time. We could share it.

    Nothing doing, he’d said. Eva can’t work the cash register. Her till never balanced.

    So basically, she got promoted out of the box because she was bad at everything else. Huh. Interesting lesson.

    For months, Mr. Manager and I had a tug of war. He wouldn’t let me go outside no matter what.

    Then, one day I came to work and a miracle happened. Eva quit. Her family was in the military and they’d been transferred.

    Mr. Manager presented me with the outside girl’s uniform. He handed me a new grease pencil, the order board and a special jacket.

    You’re the outside girl now he said, with a bit of reluctance in his voice. Go outside.

    At last. The world was my oyster.

    Our Jack in the Box was located on a prime corner of the main drag in town. In those days, the order box for the drive up orders had a huge Jack in the Box head on it. So there I stood, my hair in a bun against the wind, my shiny new outside girl’s uniform accessorized by a Jack in the Box cap, and a big smile on my face.

    I waved at all the kids cruising on the main drag. I waved at old ladies going to lunch. I waved at business men dragging home from work. I waved at young mothers tired from shopping.

    And guess what? They started coming to my line. In droves. We had cars lined up down the block. There were traffic jams and arguments about who got their car in the line from which angle and when.

    It was fun. I got to know our regular customers. There was the lunch crowd, there were the car loads of young men who came through from several high schools after school, there were the young sales guys who were on their first jobs, young mothers with grade schoolers, the bridge club ladies who came by once a week.

    People asked to have their picture taken with me. What? It was crazy. Next to the Jack in the Box order box. The high school boys came and took my photo. Once a group came through and gave me a copy of the photo they took of me, leaning into their car.

    Summer came. It was hot outside in that polyester uniform. But I didn’t complain. We had work to do.

    Fall came. And with it – rain. I had an umbrella and for awhile it was OK. Then it started getting dark earlier. People weren’t as interested in going through a line and they couldn’t see me standing out there. Our lines got shorter and with so little to do, I got cold and bored. People were still coming, but they were going inside.

    I was alone.


    In the cold.

    With a microphone to the inside.

    I began a campaign to get back inside. Rather than calling in orders for customers, I called in requests to come back in.

    It’s cold out here. I whined. Let me come back in. Please.

    Shusssssh. The window guy replied. Mr. Manager can hear you upstairs.

    Just open the back door I pleaded. Let me in for a minute. It’s raining.

    Can’t. said the window guy.

    Mr. Manager came down from his office and got on the intercom.

    Hey, he said. Everyone in the restaurant can hear you in here. Knock it off. You’re the outside girl.

    But there’s nothing to do out here. I cried. It’s freezing. I’m cold. And wet.

    Keep quiet. He warned.

    Can’t I just come in for a minute? I wailed.

    Turn off the intercom, Mr. Manager instructed the drive up window guy. When you see a customer, turn it back on.

    I banged on the back door. Let me in. I peered through the tiny window to see everyone else warm and laughing and covered in that familiar layer of grease. Ah, warm grease.

    Customers were at the front counter, pointing to the now dead intercom, arguing with Mr. Manager who gestured wildly.

    Abruptly, Mr. Manager marched back and jerked open the back door. I staggered in, dripping water and sniffling pitifully.

    You can come in and get warm. Stand by the door and watch for cars. He growled. The minute you see anyone pull up, get back out there.

    The next day, I came in to pick up my paycheck.

    Mr. Manager had a tight expression of triumph on his face.

    Here, he said. This is your last paycheck.

    I looked up at him, confused.

    You’re fired. He was almost gleeful.

    What? Why?

    You wouldn’t shut up. Everyone could hear. That’s it. I don’t care who your father is. Get out.

    Thus ended my fast food career.

    And began my cashier phase.

    So there I was, tight jeans, snapping gum, laughing and joking with a long line of customers.

    And this guy comes through. This man. I’d seen him before. A couple times. Older. Nice.

    I ring up his items. He pays, leaves. I am ringing up the next customer, when he reappears at the end of the long counter. He just stands there. Sort of tapping the counter nervously.

    Did I give you the wrong change? I ask.

    People in the line lean around each other to see what’s happening up front.

    No. He says. I uh… I… He taps the counter again.

    Yes? I ask, and finish up with my customer who doesn’t leave but waits to see what this man is going to say.

    I’ve been through here a couple of times.

    Yes, I’ve seen you. I hand my customer his bag and look to the customer behind him. The customer takes the bag and moves slightly but still won’t leave.

    This is very odd.

    I was wondering if you’d like to… I mean if I asked you…

    I looked at him fully. What?

    Would you go to dinner with me sometime? He blurted. And then stood there awkwardly.

    A few chuckles and a couple of sharp intakes of breath from the line.

    I smiled at him. Sure, why not?

    My customer moved on and leaned over to Sam. Good going. He said to him as he left the building.

    So there we were, me and Sam, at a white table cloth restaurant, being served by a waiter who tried to look as if the whole thing was normal, but who kept stealing glances at me and then at him.

    Sam leaned across the table. You’re one of the most normal people I’ve ever seen. He said.

    This I already knew. I mean, I knew I had an air of maturity. And unflappability. Though I’d not ever heard the word, I knew its meaning. And he was a psychiatrist, after all.

    Wow, I said. I suppose you see a lot of crazy people.

    He laughed, nodded. I do. He looked as me quizzically. I just feel comfortable around you.


    We told each other the stories of our lives. When we finished, it was desert time.

    Did you notice something? I asked over pot de crème.

    What? He smiled.

    Well… your life history was all about the places you’ve worked and the jobs you’ve had. Mine was all about the men I’ve known (even then there was a bit of a list) and the loves I’ve had. Interesting, right?

    He set down his spoon.

    And so began our short sort of silly affair. He asked for my advice regarding his wife. Told me what she was saying and doing. I helped him. I told him she wanted to come back, loved him dearly and just needed to be able to do it without losing face. Together we figured out a plan that might work with her.

    The plan limped along. Meanwhile, I told him he had the sexist house I’d ever seen. There were white sheep skin rugs on the hardwood floors, books lining the walls, leather sofas, massive fireplace and gleaming stylish furniture. He had a waterbed and boy did he know how to use it.

    One day while out with my best friend, I told her about my new older lover. She said, no way. You are not seeing a 40 something psychiatrist.

    As proof, I marched her right over to his house. He opened the door to two not yet 20 somethings standing on his front porch, grinning from ear to ear.

    Hi. I said. This is my frien-

    Don’t ever stop by here unannounced. He hissed at me, his eyes wide and scared looking. He glanced quickly back into the house.

    She’s back? I asked.

    You have to go. Now.

    He slammed the door in our faces.

    We looked at each other and burst into peals of laughter. We laughed so hard we had to hold on to each other as we stumbled back down the front stairs to the street.

    I wish I could say that it broke my heart. That I had fallen in love with him. But it didn’t and I didn’t.

    It was the best kind of break up ever.
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