In the Bike Shop: Mashed potatoes, gravy, and lots of profanity

I was trying to be frugal. You know, I’ve got some big bike projects that are just about to reach fruition and ruin my cash flow. Why not save some money and bring lunch to the bike shop rather than blow money on a deli sandwich? A buck-fifty frozen dinner would fit the bill, Salisbury steak and mashed potatoes! Not too many calories and even less pennies. Oh yeah, I was actually looking forward to it, or rather I had psyched myself up to eat it. It’s such a meager portion that you need to savor every mouthful lest it disappear while you were thinking about the weather or bills that need to be paid.

The bike shop was languishing in the mid-winter retail doldrums, adrift in the tides of the economic recession. The bell above the entrance hadn’t made its tinkling tone in a half hour, and the register’s bell had barely made any music all day. What a perfect moment to sneak in a quick eat. Bring the cardboard vessel of frozen sustenance out of the back refrigerator, nestle it into the sad, sad little microwave beside the timeclock. Five minutes to bliss!


I open the microwave’s door to the aromatic smell of highly-processed comfort food, and steal back onto the sales floor with my meal. All I need is the proper tool for the job, and I’m sure to find a plastic fork hidden in amongst the bookkeeper’s belongings in the office. Ah, there’s one standing in the cracked coffee mug full of pens and markers, sitting on the dusty shelf. Then I take position at the register, so I can watch the door and peruse the distributor catalogs for tomorrow’s round of buying.

Peel back the cardboard top, careful not to drip any errant gravy on the counter. A piece of steak scarcely larger than a track cog bathed in luscious gravy beside a dainty dollop of spuds. I use the side of the fork tinges to cut a small portion of Salisbury steak, then spear the meat with the fork point, and dip it into the gravy and potato utopia. The fork taxis the savory cargo to my mouth; I follow the fork with the other hand supporting the cardboard tray, to collect any stray bit that might have otherwise gone to waste. And the taste is everything I had come to hope and expect. So good, so familiar, so satisfying. I chew slowly, preparing to stretch out the ecstasy as long as possible. Then I guide the fork into the lovingly held tray, so as carve off another bit of steak.

Then the plastic fork snapped and Newton’s third law sent the tray catapulting through the air as the contents flew in a rapidly expanding arc across the counter. The aftermath assessment cataloged gravy and mashed potatoes on me, the counter, the register, and the floor, while my delicious steak lay in the dirty floor mat, half-covered by the tray.

gravyWhat followed next was a long, unrelenting stream of profanity, which to the uneducated ear consisted of meaningless vulgarities but in fact was composed of repeating verbal chain (n), varied according to a complex algorithm of the following formula: curse (Cn)= noun (N1n) + present tense verb (V1n) + noun (N2n) + past tense verb (V2n) + noun formed by adding -er to verb (V3n), where all nouns N consist of Judeo-Christian deities, the word mother, or slang terms for human genitalia and all verbs V are either illicit sexual acts or types of divine retributions/ holy condemnation. The other mechanic came out from the workshop in alarm as my curses still singed the paint off the walls.e

My lunch! Ruined! First, New Kids on the Block stage a reunion tour, next my Salisbury steak is steeped in dustbunnies behind the sales counter…why does God hate me?


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