Sunday, November 22, 2009

Young Eyes


You never quite realize that you're becoming a "regular" somewhere until you start meeting other so-called regulars.

Every Sunday I go to Burger King to grade papers.  It's not like I'm crazy for Burger King's food (although I will admit that a juicy whopper hits the spot from time to time), I choose Burger King simply because it is the only place on my side of the bridge that has a play area.  A play area is an absolute must.  Clint sleeps all day on Sunday until 3:00, and I need a way to get my work done while simultaneously keeping the kids entertained.  A play area provides just such an environment.

Every Sunday I sit in the same booth.  It's located outside of the play area, so I don't hear all of the high-pitched squealy noisiness, but it faces directly into the play area so I can monitor the kids as I work.  Some time ago I began to notice that these two older men tend to sit in the booth right in front of me.  They look to be in their seventies or eighties.  Sometimes they arrive before I do, and sometimes they arrive right after.

Last week, I was inputting grades into my laptop, a very common practice for me, when one of these ever-so-familiar senior citizens began to complain about my using my laptop.  He stated that the booth area I was sitting in was way too dark for reading (which, hello, Burger King does have this thing I like to call "light" and "electricity"), and questioned (quite rhetorically) how I could stare at a screen like that without straining my eyes.  At first I thought that he was just expressing concern and trying to be polite, but then he continued to go on and on, drilling me about how I was hurting my eyes.  He even got out of his seat and walked behind my booth to analyze the screen from my angle (awkward!), and came to the conclusion that I was crazy for working on my laptop in the dark.  Again, it's not like I'm trying to input grades in a pitch black cavern in the Alaskan wilderness at midnight--we're talking Burger King here, at noon, in broad daylight.  It was so strange--all I could think was "Lay off you crotchety old bastard!" 

At one point, the other old man told Mr. Obsessed-With-Eyeballs to leave me alone.  He said that, like much of the youth of America, I had those "young eyes" that could stare at screens for hours, unphased.  I didn't want to interrupt him by telling him that I actually have the vision of an old lady, because the guy was defending me.  So finally Mr. OWE got off my case and started asking me some more normal questions, like what is it that I do for a living (he thought I was a bookkeeper...does that profession even exist anymore?), and how long have I lived in the desert.  We started conversing, and it turns out that other than a decade-long reprieve to pursue an education, Mr. Owe has lived in the desert since the late forties.  He told me some really interesting stories about what the High Desert was like way back then.  Apparently there were only somewhere around 400-and-some residents living in all of the desert towns combined.  He remembers when Main St. didn't have a bridge, so residents actually crossed right over the tracks.  There also used to be a train station here in 'Tumbleweed'.  All in all, it was a really interesting conversation.

Today I didn't have any grading to do, but at lunch time I took the kids to Burger King anyway, just because it has become our Sunday tradition.  I headed toward my normal booth, and of course Mr. Owe and his friend were there, in their normal booth.  We greeted each other, and then the kids and I proceeded to eat our lunch.  After we finished lunch, the kids ran into the play area and I pulled out a book to read.  Mr. Owe immediately began complaining about my reading the small print of the novel in the "dark."  This time I was just amused by the whole thing, and brushed him off.

Later on, a little old lady joined the men.  Not realizing that I was eavesdropping, she asked Mr. Owe who I was, because she had seen us talking.  Mr. Owe replied "That's Young Eyes.  She's a teacher.  She comes here on Sundays to do her work."

I swear these crazy old kooks are growing on me.