Chapter 7

A giant bucket of ice water soaks me to the bone as I stand staring in disbelief. Right there in the middle of the dining room, for all the world to see, and to make denying this ever happened completely impossible, is a family struggling desperately with Jesus, trying to tell him that they do not want the ass gaskets placed over their heads while they eat.

Jesus looks very confused and obviously doesn’t understand why they don’t appreciate his kind gesture of concern for their own protection. He is sure he’s helping the family out and keeps insisting on putting what he believes is a paper bib, over a little boy’s head. The boy is not happy either.

“Hi everyone.” I say, suddenly standing in front of the table. How I got here I’ll figure out later. What the hell am I going to do? I need to look in charge—but not responsible. “Could you excuse me for a second please?” I ask the Father, who is on his feet and about to take action himself. I grab the box of ass gaskets out of Jesus’s hand and toss it on an empty chair, then push him away from the table in much the same way I nudged Juan away from the customer counter just moments ago. This is not my day.

The father’s face begins to relax a bit and he slowly sits back down.

No other words crawl out of my brain, or my mouth. The mother looks like she just witnessed her son being sexually molested. I will have to come back later and talk to these people to make sure everything is all right.

How am I going to show Jesus what he was doing without traumatizing him too much. I mean, my God, what-the-hell? How could he really not know what those were?  I look over at the bathrooms down the hall.

I motion for him to follow me, to the bathrooms, but I have to nudge him firmly because dragging him inside could be taken the wrong way, and there is already enough of a communication problem going on today.

I check to see if anyone else is in the bathroom. It’s empty—thank God!

Jesus is standing in the hallway in front of the bathroom and looking very confused. I wave him in while I put on a “come on, it’s okay, I’m not a pervert” expression on my face.  He pauses for a minute, assessing his situation, but with some emphatic international hand gestures, he slowly comes into the bathroom, and so no one will walk in here while I’m giving Jesus this little demonstration, I lock the door as nonchalantly as this situation permits. Jesus’s eyes widen. Obviously I didn’t make this last maneuver as smoothly as I could have, his eyebrows have ratcheted up a couple of notches.  I really can’t blame him, I’d be nervous too if some guy walked me into a men’s room and locked the door. I gotta work fast before he panics. The last thing I need right now is a freaked-out employee, screaming and banging on the bathroom door to be let out.

I go over to the toilet stall, and wave for him to join me. He doesn’t budge, obviously reaching his limit of trust with this little excursion.

I point to the silver toilet seat cover dispenser above the toilet. “Look, look,” I say as I put on a big smile and display the large, silver toilet seat cover dispenser, like a spokesmodel showing a prize he could win on some game show. Very slowly he peeks around the stall to see what it is I am gesturing at. No reaction.

I pull out a thin paper ass gasket from the dispenser and show it to him. I can tell he recognizes it, but he still isn’t getting it. I punch the center out. Now I can see he is wondering why—of all places—are paper bibs in here? It looks like I’m gonna have to spell it out for him.

I bend over and place the paper cover on the toilet seat and let the center fall into the toilet.

I look to see if he gets it now. . . His eyes turn to huge white balls with small black dots in the center, and his mouth opens so wide I can see all of his bottom teeth and the back of this throat. I hope this isn’t what it looks like when people go into shock. “Look Jesus, it’s okay.”

“No.”

“Yes, It’s okay.”

“Nooo!”

“Everyone makes mistakes, it’s okay, no big deal.”

“Nooooo!”

I think he’s up to speed about the true function of the ass gaskets, but I don’t think he’s buying the, “It’s no big deal, people put toilet seat covers on other people’s heads every day” ploy.

I notice he is shaking a little. “Okay, look Jesus, I was only kidding. I didn’t expect you to go out and put these on people. I never said to do that.”

Jesus’s eyes glaze over like he is in some kind of trance. It looks like he is replaying the whole scene in his mind, over and over again, but this time knowing full well what he was doing. His face changes from surprised to disbelief, and then anger, and then back to surprised. . . It’s like watching him experience an intense embarrassment—retroactively—over and over again.

“Okay Jesus, just come on out and let’s get back to work. Let’s just pretend this never happened okay?”

“No, NO señor.”

Uh-oh! He called me señor and not Frank. I’m gonna need a better plan than, “Hey, fugget-about-it.”  “Okay, look, stay in here a while and when you are ready, come back out and work okay?”

I can’t stay here locked in the men’s room with Jesus all day. People will talk.

I unlock the door and walk out, leaving him to contemplate this fiasco in solitude, to play it out, step by step, lose all sense of dignity and jump off the cliff of despair, only to begin the journey all over again, like he’s some Groundhog’s Day shame-lemming.

 

As I walk down the hallway toward the dining room, I hear the distinct click of the bathroom door locking behind me. I feel awful. Jesus is completely demoralized and I am partially to blame.

I go back to the office quickly, trying to avoid anyone’s attention, and get the cash drawer I was counting when this whole nightmare started.

Rushing back into the busy restaurant, I put the drawer into the register, and notice my hands are shaking and I’m sweating all over.

Looking to my right I see Roselyn doing her best not to look back at me. She is forcing huge smiles for the customers benefit, but I can tell I won’t be receiving one this afternoon.

I try to calm down and act normal, while everyone around me is either pretending to smile or trying hard not to laugh.

From where I’m standing, I can see the poor family’s table perfectly. Everyone is eating, but instead of having a nice meal together, they look like a family of deer grazing in a field, while keeping an eye out for the crazy-assed hunter. After a few minutes I’ll get up the nerve to go over there and see if everyone is okay. I should offer to buy them all a meal the next time they come in. There’s little chance I’ll forget them, but even less of a chance they’ll be back.

They finish quickly and gather their stuff to leave. The father looks at me sternly as they all rush out the door. You would think I fondled his wife or something. My God, it’s not like they were used toilet seat covers or anything. They’re just paper.  I know I should run out after them and try to make up for this fiasco, bit I can’t. I just stand here, frozen in place, with an apology stuck in my throat. Oh well, the sooner this gets put in the past, the sooner I can begin the denial process.

Mike J Quinn About Mike J Quinn
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