Thirty Seconds Ago… The Honda

There wasn’t anything at the house to eat. It was too late to fix anything, but right at the point when I was about to decide to go home and go to bed, I took notice of the Wendy’s. I made an anxious right turn from the left lane headed towards the drive-thru. The Honda didn’t respond the way that I was used to though. It was a bit sluggish; and had been for a while, now that I thought about it. Pulling into the lot, my parents’ voices echoed through my mind, “Reggie, you need a dependable car.”

“Whatever.”

The Honda had been a great car. It was a gold 1995 two-door Honda Accord that had taken me everywhere I needed to go. Over the last few months though, it had been showing symptoms of meeting its end. However, you always find a way to look past what you don’t want to see; so in my mind, The Honda was practically brand new.

So I pulled up to the drive-thru speaker in my “brand new” battle-scarred Honda and placed my order. “That’ll be $5.35,” the speaker announced. I pulled up to the window and prepared my payment. “Your total is $5.35,” the cashier repeated as I placed a ten-dollar bill in her hand. At that very moment, there was an extremely loud popping sound. The cashier snatched back her arm, and left me wide-eyed and startled. I immediately noticed the heat gauge on the dashboard far into the red area. Still not completely sure of what was happening, I noticed that the cashier was locking and backing away from the window. She was staring at me as if there was a timer on my forehead; and it was ticking down from seven, six, five, four…

At the four count, white smoke enshrouded the front of the car. Not wanting to be inside the car for the final three counts, I undid my seatbelt and launched myself from the passenger side of the car James Bond style. There were now two cars behind mine. The third car in line threw itself in reverse and went out of the parking lot the same way that I came in. I almost suggested for the second car to do the same as I stood in the cold waiting for The Honda to explode. After about thirty seconds of waiting, an explosion never came. I had come to realize that the car had run hot and blew a hose somewhere under the hood. It was steam that was I was seeing; not smoke.

I cautiously made my way back to the car and let it roll into a parking spot. Under the hood it was just as I had suspected; a blown hose that would only take about twenty minutes to replace, and The Honda would be back in action. As I sat in my car to look up the needed parts, my stomach reminded me of why I was here to begin with. I had never received my order, or my change, from the cashier. The drive-thru line had continued. Now all I could hope for is that the cashier had placed my order and change to the side. That way, I would simply walk up to the window, take what was mine, and return to my immobile transportation.

The walk back to the window seemed to take forever. I waited for the car at the window to leave, so that I could jump in front of the next car and sort out the issue with the cashier. As expected, the transaction was nowhere as simple as I had hoped.

“Umm, I ordered a number three and had to pull away because of car issues.” I tried to make it sound as if I didn’t abandon the vehicle in fear of an explosion. The cashier tried to contain her laughter as she looked at me explain the previous events. “See what happened was,” she started with a smile. “In all the commotion, I gave your order to the car that was behind you. I have your change, but you’ll have to place your order again.”

“I just had a medium number three with a coke.”

“Okay, I’ll place that order now,” she said near laughing. “Just wait here so that the cars behind you don’t get your order.” With that, she disappeared out of sight. Another girl peeked from behind a wall at me and quickly retreated in a fit of laughter. It was only the $5.35 keeping me from walking away and leaving the entire situation. I couldn’t wrap my mind around giving away any amount of money over a little embarrassment. I tried to play it cool as if I wasn’t standing at a drive-thru window in front of a line of cars.

However, it got to be too much when I overheard the children in the car behind me. They were chanting, “IN-VIS-ABLE CAR! IN-VIS-ABLE CAR! IN-VIS-ABLE CAR!” I turned to see exactly where the tormenting incantations were coming from as their parents tried to quiet them out of pity for my misfortunes. I gave up. “Forget the food; I’m not even hungry anymore… And the money.” I started walking towards my broken-down Honda. Halfway to the car, I heard the window slide open and, “Sir, here’s your order.” I walked back to snatch the bag and finally make my way to the comforts of my tinted windows.

Until this very day, I still do not visit any drive-thru without checking every gauge on the dashboard.

Thirty Seconds Ago… Elevator Ride

Boom! That’s the sound that should have been made as I badged through the security gate this particular Friday morning. If you didn’t know any better you would have thought I owned the entire Coca-Cola brand. This is not a strange feeling for me though. I’m always trying to make sure my ego is on the lower of its three settings. There’s confident, cocky, and only person on the planet; and this Friday morning, I did not mentally calibrate to function with not even one of the other 7 billion individuals surrounding me. I was walking on air, with the wind to my back, and “Eye of the Tiger” was playing in the background everywhere I went.

Even though feeling like the only person on the planet is a fantastic feeling, it removes the part of reasoning that tells you to take precautions. Since your five senses have shut off everything and everyone around you, does not mean that everything and everyone around you has ceased to exist. This ego trip is usually ended with a very very rude awakening. Rarely do you make it to the end of the day in the same mood. Friday, mine last about 45 minutes.

I start every day over a cup of coffee. I substitute breakfast for that cup of coffee. It’s all I need. Once I got to the coffee bar, they had my favorite blend – Jamaican Me Crazy.

“I’ll have your daily special blend… Large.”

“No dark roast today?” asked my barista. I was a daily regular and would love to think that I’m also her favorite.

“No ma’am,” I responded… And that’s when the boiled eggs behind the glass counter caught my attention. “But I will have the boiled eggs.” The eggs came in twos in little clear plastic cups and lids. Nothing would be denied me today. I saw eggs, so I bought them; didn’t even want them.

“All set,” Ms. Ann said as she passed me my order. I paid, thanked her as always and headed to my desk.

By the time I had reached my seat, half of the brewed goodness had met its end. So without delay, I made quick work of the first egg. I don’t know if I hadn’t had one in a while, or if it was really that good. So I downed the second on to compare it to the first. It was mediocre. The rest of the coffee capped my mini breakfast. Off to work I went.

Not even an hour later, I heard a weird noise that instantly disrupted my workflow. I looked around to see if I could find anything to account for the sound. I did not, so I continued my tasks.

Then again; the sound. This time it was accompanied by a vibration in my stomach. I knew at that moment that I was in trouble. Sweat started to form above my brow and “Eye of the Tiger” had stopped playing in the middle of the second verse. I was instantly aware of everyone around me as I tried to map the quickest escape route to the most private restroom.

“You’ve done it now, genius,” I thought. “Coffee and eggs… You’re not used to that. You should have known better!”

I coolly slipped from my cubicle towards the stairwell. I flew down the steps and resumed coolness as strolled across the campus to the service elevators. I couldn’t chance being on an elevator with someone and holding this kind of pressure. I pressed the button over and over in an attempt to rush its arrival. It had been about a minute and the elevator was still twelve floors from the ground, and seemed to be stopping on every floor.

The risk had to be taken. I stiffly walked around to the regular passenger elevators. The strolling was done. Being cool was over. Humility had set in, and my ego had left me high and dry. All I needed now was a private restroom, and would be ever so grateful to get to one.

Good. No one was waiting. I pressed up and jumped on at the sound of the ding. “Nineteen please,” I said to myself. In a few seconds, I would be just fine. However, I hadn’t calculated that some pretty intern would get on at the fourth floor excited about her job and looking forward to meeting new people.

As the elevator slowed to a stop, I grew angry and nervous at the same time. The young lady stepped inside, glowing of ambition. She smiled and said, “Hello.” I could only nod back in response. It took forever for the doors to close again. There was a little wisp of wind fighting to escape from me, but I would not let this happen to me – or this poor innocent girl. I squeezed a little harder as the sweat beaded across my forehead. The numbers on the wall indicating our position only marked us at floor nine. I looked at the number pad of floor choices simply to realize she hadn’t pressed anything. My stomach turned as I realized I might not be able to keep my body in submission for the rest of the trip. If I were to press another button and scurry off, I might offend her in some way… Not to mention any sudden movements from me might offend her in another way. I decided to take my chances and stand completely still.

“Are you okay?” I guess she had taken notice of my sweating, stiffness, silence and overall awkwardness. The question caught me off guard and startled me. I turned and gave her a blank stare as I released an unfortunate tragedy on both of us. It was a quiet, long release. Worry filled her eyes as she tried to comprehend my state of being. I could only stare and shake my head as what I hoped she could interpret as an apology for what was about to happen to her. An unsettling odor crept from beneath us and ploddingly wrapped itself around our throats. The young lady, now recognizing the situation, slowly started to shake her head as to deny the apologies of my own shaking head. Eyes locked, we both tried to cope; she with betrayal and I with deathly embarrassment. She let out a whimper of a cough as the almost visible smell clouded the space between us. I said, “I’m so sorry.” She didn’t respond. I’m pretty sure it was to avoid breathing any more of the poison.

It took what seemed to be five whole minutes before the doors opened to the nineteenth floor. She rushed off before me and went left. Thankfully, I had to travel to the right to my rarely inhabited restroom. I stayed there for nearly an hour to for fear of seeing her when I exited. When I did come out though, I rushed towards the service elevators to take the less-traveled route back to my side of the campus.

Fortunately for me though, I never saw that young lady again… Up until about thirty seconds ago…

Thirty Seconds Ago… Workout

More than going to the gym to actually workout, I liked dressing up to go to the gym. I liked the gym look. As I looked in the mirror and flexed a bit, I was actually checking out my new kicks. They matched my gray sweat pants and baseball cap; and a black v-neck tee a size too small just to add definition to the cut of my upper arms. So with my gray and black getup on, I decided it was time to start my normal routine for the most cardio with the least sweat. That normally consisted of about fifteen minutes on the treadmill and one round of weights. Ten leg presses, ten bicep curls, ten bench presses, and ten inclined sit-ups is usually how I finished. I often left in a fashion that showed no signs of having worked out at all. I didn’t really need to work out though. I maintained a reasonable size and weight with this routine and was happy where I was.

So this particular day would have been the same; if the other me wouldn’t have shown up. This guy waltzes in with the exact same thing I have on except the colors are all inverted. The hat was identical though. Everything else was a gray to my black and a black to my gray. I instantly felt like my territory was being threatened. Now there were dudes in that gym three times my size, and there were dudes in the gym half my size. I was that middle size that you couldn’t tell if I was in the gym to gain weight or lose weight. I was toned enough to tell I had some workout ethic, but not it didn’t look as though I worked out everyday for three hours a day. I looked natural, and I liked it that way. So here comes this other natural-looking dude with the exact same thing on that I have on. As I was folding my decorative workout towels and placing them in my nice Nike show bag, I slowly look this guy over and noticed his chest was slightly bigger than mine. Whereas I more keen to being slim and keeping fat off, he was more keen to muscle building. He just walked right by the treadmills like they weren’t even there! He carried his muscle-bound ego straight towards the weight bench that I had just finished with and loaded forty more pounds onto the bar. I was even trying to stare discreetly anymore. I felt like he was making this a personal competition, and I needed to know what I was up against.

“Reggie, stop it.” I thought to myself. “You don’t even know this guy. He’s minding his business, so you just mind yours.” With that I zipped my bag and stood to my feet.

He was staring right at me. I was leaving, but his gaze stopped me right in my tracks. He was thinking the same thing I was thinking. I knew I wasn’t crazy. He was intruding on my territory; and my departure was a sign of defeat. He took a swig from his water bottle as gave my sly smirk as he wiped his mouth with the back of hand.

“Who does he think he is?” I dropped my bag right there at the rest bench. I didn’t have time not did I care to take it back to the locker room. I marched to the weight set next to my new worst enemy. He was already in position to lift, so I didn’t have much time to get in position with him. I actually had to take some of the weights off of my bar to match his, so I was nearly sprinting to redefine myself as the dominate average male.

The jerk waited.

As I laid back and gripped the cold metal bar, he said, “Don’t hurt yourself.” I took that as a cue to start. I pushed the bar from the cusps of the rack. This was definitely heavier than the weight that I was used to lifting, but it’s not that I couldn’t lift it; I just never wanted to. I pressed the first five reps out with ease. Number six was a struggle. Number seven ripped open a can of fire in my chest that sent a heat wave through my entire body. My legs were tight from balancing my body on the bench. Sweat popped from my forehead as though my brain was swelling and expelling any unneeded fluids. Yeah… that’s exactly what was happening. An aneurism didn’t seem so far away. This was the immediate problem though. The problem was that the combusted fire can in my chest had sent a heat wave up my arms and locked my elbows. I was stuck. I was stuck and the other me finish his count at fifteen. I heard him drop the bar back into its place and sit up. I guess when he looked and saw me, he knew something had gone wrong.

“Hey bro, you alright?” he asked.There was a genuine sound of concern in his voice. I gritted my teeth and pushed out a “yeeessss” that was worthy of a man taking his last breath. I had been in this position now for about thirty seconds. The elbow locks that had been placed on my arms were about to give out. I started to shake and tremble from the wrist down. The shaking, balancing and sweating felt as though my body was rupturing from the inside out. My feet and legs were now being forced into the air by trying to keep the weights lifted.

My doppelgänger had seen enough, and he rushed over to save my life. When he grabbed the bar, he alleviated more weight from the right side than the left which caused that arm to completely give in. So within a split second, I rolled off the bench and onto the floor as the other half of the weights crashed directly where my neck and head would have been.

The embarrassment was too much to handle. I got up instantly and rushed to grab my bag and escape this prison of shame that I had built around myself. I could tell most of the weight area was completely still, watching me. I heard a few quiet laughs and a “Shawty, almost lost his head”. I almost ran. I kept my composure until I got to the rest bench where my bag had been waiting for me to finish making a fool of myself. I reached down and touched the strap, but my hand and fingers had gone numb. I couldn’t pick it up. I tried with the left hand and noticed I couldn’t even feel the bag. Laughs started to penetrate my very existence.

If I were to die right now, it would only relieve my soul of such cruelty that the human condition cannot bear.

After thinking what I had hoped to be my last poetic thought, I waited for two seconds. I was still very much alive. As a last resort, I stuck on my right foot through the strap and headed out the gym. The noodles on either side of my body just dangled as I gained speed. The glass door flew open as I crashed into it dragging the bag behind me.

Luckily I parked on the side of the building where people couldn’t see me. I had to sit outside my car for twenty minutes before I could manage to retrieve the keys, unlock the door and drive away.

I haven’t been back to that gym. I will never go back to that gym.

And I lived happily ever after… Until about thirty seconds ago…