12/8/04

There Are No Dumb Jokes

"Thank you for choosing McDonald's, can I help you?"

He orders clearly and quickly and hears himself saying please and thank you. When he pulls up to the window, fidgeting with his coat pocket, the cashier is not just smiling, she's laughing. At first he is a little offended and confused, but he quickly decides she seems harmless and pleasant, if in need of braces. She flashes her crooked teeth without a hint of self-consciousness - she seems about twenty-five - and now he's smiling back at her, wondering what's so funny.

"$5.14," she reminds him, and as he's flipping open the console to fish out a dime and a nickel she's telling him a joke: "Fourteen! The age I wish I was." She blurts this out quickly, then giggles with uncontrolled amusement. She seems really happy about coming up with something so fast.

His fingers slip over the little coins. "Fourteen? I don't think I liked being fourteen very much." This is true - he didn't. He starts thinking back on that awkward, painful year and then stops.

"Well, it sure wasn't hard like this," she points out, laughing again, and he agrees with a nod and a smile. When he pulls forward to the next window he can still hear her, still chuckling at her own joke.

It wasn't a very funny joke, he thinks to himself as he takes the bag. Not all that clever, and certainly not worth the big presentation she gave it. More silly than anything else. Plus, it was kind of morbid, all about the loss of youthful freedoms and simplicity - especially coming from a McDonald's cashier. "Maybe I just don't get it," he is saying out loud in his car, pulling out onto 16th street in a particularly crappy section of town.

And he's heading east into downtown, smoothly passing slower traffic and deconstructing her joke in the back of his mind, mouthing the words and sitting in his leather seat and never understanding how you could laugh about fourteen cents in change.

Meanwhile, she's back in the window, giggling, no doubt, about something or other. Her shift will fly by. Her day will be a good one, full of hilarious little coincidences and wonders unfolding before her as he drives to his desk and his computer where he will sit and grimace and determine what is and what is not funny.

1 comment:

penelope said...

Much better, I think!