Educated Burgers


Last Spring I travelled up the East Coast visiting law schools.  Toward the end of my trip I found myself in New Haven, Connecticut.   I wasn't visiting Yale Law; I hadn't even applied there.  A friend of mine was attending grad school at Yale, and I had planned on dropping in for a visit.  Fortuitously, my plans called for me to be in New Haven on April 4th, which was her birthday.  Less fortuitously, I decided to make my visit a surprise.  I made the plans months in advance, but a creeping doubt eventualy caused me to e-mail her and tell her of my visit a few days before I left.  I found out while on the road that she would be out of town for her birthday.  Nuts.

I had to wake up early that day to make my train.  I fought through rush-hour subway crowds while carrying too much luggage to get to Penn Station, but I got there on time.  I arrived in New Haven, tired and disheveled, around eleven.  I had nothing to do for thirteen hours.  I took my friend's present out of my bag and walked to the Yale campus.

A walk around the school killed about forty-five minutes.  I wandered into the stores near campus and eventually bought a Yale pennant for my sister's collection.  Still about eleven hours to kill.  I decided to stalk my friend at the graduate housing castle.  I would look around and get a feel for where she lived, where she worked, etc.  If she couldn't be there to show me around, I'd give myself the self-guided tour.

A lot of the doors were locked, but there was enough foot traffic to nonchalantly penetrate the building.  I eventually found my way onto an elevator leading to the graduate residences.  A female student joined me.

"What floor?" she asked.

"It doesn't matter," I replied, having unconsciously chosen the creepiest possible response to the query.

I decided to redirect my travels to places I wasn't locked out of.  I eventually found my friend's box in the history department and scrawled a note to her on a flyer.  As I left the castle I realized that I wasn't carrying the penant I had bought for my sister; I ran back to the history department, but someone had already taken it.  Drat.  I went back to the campus store and bought another one.

I was physically exhausted from travel and mentally exhausted from my early wake up.  I was in New Haven, Connecticut.  The most exciting thing I could do in New Haven was leave, and I couldn't do that for ten hours.  My friend's present was too big to fit in her box, so I'd have to mail it to her.  Since she had a P.O. box, this meant paying the full shipping price for the post office to put the package under their counter and stick a slip in her box telling her that the package was behind the counter.  I was shipping her present three feet.  I'd just wasted money on a second penant thanks to my absent-mindedness.  And on top of everything else, I was thirsty. 

I walked into a small fast food place, "The Educated Burger."  As often happens, what started as a narrow and precise mission to get a soda expanded into a full lunch campaign.  I ordered a hamburger, fries, and a large soda.  While they cooked my food, I walked to the nearest booth and set the present down.  It took up most of the table (it was a somewhat large book), but there wasn't a larger table available.  I headed back to the counter to collect my tray.  I noticed that the counter worker hadn't put a lid on my soda.  I looked around for one, but there weren't any out.  Huh.  I'd have to be careful.

I walked gingerly to my table and tried to set my tray down.  The present was too big; there was no room for the tray.  I tried to set the tray down on the exposed table and carefully nudge the present backwards, so as to create room.  I executed my plan poorly.  The soda toppled, spilling sticky sludge onto my present and the floor.


No sooner had I said it than my mind was instantly taken off the sweet liquid that was oozing into the pages of my friend's present and gunking up the floor.  I looked around at the faces of the patrons and staff, which were now all turned to me.  My eyes were drawn to the pair of retirees at the next booth, who were staring at me in the way they would stare at a man accused of murdering their children.  "I'm sorry!" I wanted to say.  "I don't usually swear in public!  It's just I'm so tired and angry at myself and annoyed and bored and all I wanted was a soda and now it's gone AND it's ruining my friend's present and it all came to a head and I wasn't thinking and oh God I'm so sorry!"  But I just kept my head down, grabbed a handful of napkins from the counter, and began mopping up my mess. 

I don't remember how the hamburger tasted.  Probably alright.  But as I was sitting there trying to eat it with what remained of my dignity I decided I could never show my face in The Educated Burger again.  Just to be safe, I'll probably avoid New Haven entirely.  After mailing my friend her soggy present (and receiving a stern lecture from the postal clerk about mailing wet packages), I exiled myself to the station and waited nine hours for my train.


I've never had that particular problem, but I know how things can just jump out of your mouth while exhausted.

I understand where you're coming from...

The tendency for pairs of retirees to be present when you do something inappropriate that 98% of the time you wouldn't be doing (and you'd desperately like to explain that to them) defies statistics.

The ONE time in my life that I crashed my car into a station wagon full of Orthodox Jewish kids on the way to temple camp, spun around and hit a second car, and knocked that car backwards into a trash truck, the occupants of the second car were an elderly couple with their grandchild in a carseat. It just figures. They probably left the scene of the accident clucking their tongues about today's youth and their total lack of common decency, going and crashing cars willy-nilly, sending yarmulked tots flying everywhere. Shameful.

See, stories like that are the reason I don't drive. The pressure of knowing that the slightest mistake would lead to expensive damage and liability and such would just paralyze me with fear, which would make an accident more likely. And the inevitable disapproval of the elderly is the cherry on the cupcake. I'll stick to planes, trains, and buses, thank you.

I should also point out that the "FUCK!" was out of my mouth before the soda hit the floor; this was not a well-reasoned "FUCK!" That doesn't excuse it, of course. But it would have been far worse if I had looked at the soda, surveyed the damage, and, after a careful assessment of the situation, announced to the crowd: "FUCK!"

Since then I've endeavored to cultivate cutesy pseudo-swears. It annoys people when I use them, but decreases the probability that I'll offend the elderly the next time I spontaneously swear. Hence: "Gordon Bennet!", "Oh, for the love of Pete!", "Dagnabbit!", "Son of a Biscuit!", etc.

Son of a Biscuit??? Good lord. I think if I heard you say that in person I'd probably loudly ask you what the fuck that meant, just to make up for it. Or at least I would if I ever said anything loudly in public, ever.

I suppose I'm somewhat mixed in my feelings on swearing in public. You'll never find me swearing at children, elderly people, my parents, or anyone who seems likely to be genuinely upset by it. But that's for the same reason that I don't wander into my local Baptist church and announce my conviction that there is no God: I just feel that if you're going to deliberately interact with another person you may as well refrain from doing anything designed to offend. I don't feel that swearing of the simple "fuck!" variety (as opposed to the rather more deliberate "Jesus Christ sucks cock for five dollars!" variety) is inherently evil enough to make an accidental utterance really significantly offensive. Certainly not so much that glossing it over with an "oh, sorry" and going on about your regular inoffensive business won't make it okay.

Not like crashing into cars full of kids, anyway. In my defense, I'd like to point out that there were no injuries and the only significantly damaged car was mine (which was totalled, just to put fault and consequences neatly in order). Still, in the time that I spent as a car-driving individual I did convince myself that I'm not nearly as good a driver as I should be if I'm going to be trusted with a ton of metal and explosive gases around other people. I'm now also fairly happy to stick to public transportation, which in any case tends to lead to a more interesting experience of one's home city than the Los Angeles drive-from-point-to-point model... unless, of course, my uninteresting experience of Los Angeles was only caused by there being nothing interesting in LA anyway. You know, I never thought of that until just now.

Well, it's pretty rare that I say son of a biscuit. It's sort of a stopgap for when I start to say "son of a bitch!" Besides, if someone loves a biscuit very much, and they decide to reproduce, who are you to condemn their offspring?

And I do swear among friends who don't mind it and in places where I'm pretty sure I won't offend anybody (as you will have noted in reading this blog). But I tend to err on the side of caution any other time. I feel like the more you get used to casual swearing the more likely you are to let it slip out in a place where it's not appropriate. Plus, you never know when someone you're talking to will be offended, and I know enough people who are offended by swearing that I'm cautious.

My time as a car-driving individual lasted about ten minutes and ended with the front of the car wrapped around a tree. This convinced me that my fear of driving was fully rational and well-placed, and I haven't tried to drive since.

I can't speak much to the presence or absence of interesting things in Los Angeles. I've been to Los Angeles once, if you don't count trips to Disneyland (which, I know, is in Anaheim, so of course you shouldn't count them). My one trip was to visit UCLA, and was entirely restricted to the campus. This is not to say that I've written off LA; it's just that I don't know anybody in LA that I'd feel comfortable imposing upon to drive me around and show me things, and without a car I feel like a self-directed visit to LA would involve getting to know the area in a two-mile radius of the train station very well.

i have a bad habit of saying FUCK and turning around to see some 5 year old standing smiling up at me. i hate that. i need to work on it. i also used to have a bad habit of saying "jesus! fuck!" i, of course, treat it as two independent and unrelated exclamations. obviously, no one really knows that when i say it in public. again, something i need to fix.

Conversation overheard between an elderly couple as they exit the Educated Burger recently:

He: The nerve of some damned people.

She: Well, hell, Hiram, you are always right. Just who the f*** does that young whippersnapper think he is, cursing in public?

He: F*** if I know, Mabel. These kids f***ing moral fiber.

She: Speaking of which, shall we stop at Sav-On_Drugz for some of that f***ing great metamucil?

He: After those f888ing overpriced burgers, hell, yes.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on January 4, 2006 3:09 AM.

End of an Era was the previous entry in this blog.

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