“Resident” sky: clear blue but a couple of puffy clouds by the old industrial-looking chimney, the tilted monument lights. From left: blond slim young white woman with army style vest and short shorts, nerd square glasses, quick determined almost graceless gait. From right: shortish Giant worker ambling with work shirt hanging from left hand in direction of her work. From left: two arab-looking guys with well maintained closely cropped facial hair, having probably just exited the remodelling store. From right: short polynesian woman with long hair, brilliantly white shirt with more than usual number of pockets. From right: Asian senior, male, thinning hair, a strawberry t-shirt. From left: wide white box truck seen in windows of opposing storefront first, then the thing itself. Customer: ordered small iced coffee and chocolate chip cookie. From right: a former customer, Salvadorean, supermarket worker, looked a little older, wearing deep purple shirt. From right: non-descript hatchback. From left: cyclist, professionally outfitted, making good time. From right: in blue backwards turned baseball cap and blue t-shirt. From left: a county bus, green and white striped, coming to stop. From the right: the non-descript sedans slowing toward, then accelerating past, a light that has just turned green. From the tables: sound of a sigh. (reminding one there are tables and people at the tables.) From the tables: someone’s keyboard being multiply hit, incessantly hit, then someone’s feet shifting as they think. From the left: chunky latino kid in football style shirt pulling basket with large stuffed laundry bag. (Two lines of traffic, now stopped at the light, start to move.) Customer at table out front takes up his cookie and coffee and leaves. From tables: a very low phone conversation, can’t be made out. From the right: white work van with ladders on top.

Customer said C in CSS stood for “cascading”. Customer said he was to appear on county’s public access channel. Customer gently informed attendant that he had forgotten her order. Customers were children, mothers, members of community groups, members of political associations, amateur and professional photographers, convenience store workers, cab drivers, immigrants, people who had grown up and grown old in the area, music enthusiasts, bureaucrats, retirees, tennis players, religious types, soldiers, people who were sick, people who had spent time in prison, people who read a lot of fantasy fiction or were from Georgia and liked sports. Customer was reading religious material. Customer was watching inspirational youtube. Customer said the maintenance man in his building made 66,000 a year. Customer said to note how Hitler’s signature grew smaller as he got older, a clear indicator of Parkinson’s disease. Customer said that even the trace amounts of caffeine to be found in decaf could cause his heart to palpitate. Epidemiology, said customer, is half of history. An easy or awkward moment as two customers, who had a disagreement, sat at adjacent tables, facing the opposite way, back to back. Customer said peanut butter in The Gambia was fresh like you wouldn’t believe: oil hadn’t had time to separate from the rest. Wearing clothes for one season on one part of the body and clothes for another season on another part of the body, was the attendant. Customer complimented lemonade: right level of tartness. Customer asked if key lime smoothie was ever coming back. Customer said the 400 dollars he paid to fly as a passenger in a B-17g was “worth every penny”. Customer said he was paying 17,000 dollars to replace the roof on his home, 4000 of which was for gutters.

Q: did the attendant *really* not recall whether or not they served yogurt, or did he merely pretend not to recall so that he did not answer in the negative too sharply?

A: The former. The customer’s mention of yogurt had made him think of something, — that the store offered frozen yogurt, was that relevant?– which caused him to hesitate before making his reply.

Attendant started at what he believed to be a nearby bug (rather dangerous by the sound of its buzzing) but it was a customer removing the wrapping from his muffin.

Attendant’s annoyance w/ customer (religious nut) caused him to forget or not to feel his annoyance with his coworker (playing something dumb and loud on her phone over a long period); he noted with interest that, rather than these annoyances being cumulative, as he felt sharply the one, the sharpness of the other decreased.

Customer, having risen from stool, pulled down corners of shirt or blouse to straighten it. Having walked ten paces she repeated this gesture: pulling with both hands once more toward the front and then with both hands smoothing down each side –down — down… Posture erect, advancing toward restroom.

3.81 paid with credit. 2.85 paid with a five. 9.65 paid with a 20. 2 dollars even paid with a 10. 2.32 paid for with 2.35

I *did* look up deliquescence, said customer, but now I’ve forgotten it. Customer ordered medium iced coffee with espresso shot and an everything bagel with lox. Infant customer lifted by elder brother customer piercingly screamed. Customer asked had we always had ice cream here, ordered single americano. Child hauled screaming child, his brother, around like sack of potatoes. Customer has figured out why she had called Henry James Henry Miller, she said: it was because her copy of Turn of The Screw included also Daisy Miller. Customer wore Epiphone hat. Customer proved to attendant beyond all doubt that the “other moon” of Mars was called Deimos not Deinos. Attendant paused to reflect on a personal defect:

Q: How could one go on, how could one go to work, be among people, be nice to people –with its implication that one accepted oneself and one’s defect– when one had this awful defect?

A: One’s defects were probably something to think about. One’s defects were not, however, something to think about at work. (One’s work should be thought about at work.)

Attendant wondered why he felt so good; oh right, he’d been smiled at by that nice asian gal. Customer said his mother still recalled how to assemble and disassemble an uzi. Customer ordered two hot turkey sandwichs, a mocha blended iced cream drink and a large peach smoothie. Customer ordered a hot turkey sandwich, a cold chicken sandwich, a medium americano and a medium mocha. Customer ordered bagel with cream cheese, a small coffee and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. (Said no, he wasn’t too interested in the basketball.) Customer ordered large latte with shot. It’s become a nice day out there, he said. There are a lot of dialysis centers, another customer said. Someone is making a fortune. Customer introduced to attendant as Francine. Customer demonstrated good stretch for the anterior tibialis, which she, however, had used for her fibularis tertius. Customer asked what happened to “the old key.” Customer said bathroom could use some work. Customer showed son how you opened straw wrappers from middle of straw. Customer, who usually came with others and talked a lot, came today by himself and sat alone without speaking. Customer was police officer depressed by the work — seeing that side of people was one element of it. Customer was security guard with daughter and Quentin Tarrentino wallet. Attendant woke up thinking “I got to get to it!” Atttendant woke up thinking, “there is absolutely nothing to get to!” Customer’s appearance seemed unintended parody of attendant’s appearance. Customer walked toward the locked door like it was an open space. In one of the attendant’s hands was the feeling of a wet cloth and in the other of the attendant’s hands was the feeling of dry empty air of no specific temperature, the feeling of nothing. (“Two mittens of sensation: a mitten of something and a mitten of nothing on his hands.”)

I Handed The Bill

The charge was 5.20. The customer (wearing a Giant uniform) gave me a ten and said she had the twenty. While I waited for her to find the twenty cents, I slid the five to her on the table, where it sat while she was digging for change. When she handed me the twenty cents she said “I handed you my bill why didn’t you hand me your bill?” I said, “how do you mean?” “I mean is there a reason why you can’t hand me the bill? I handed you my bill.” “No,” I said, “there isn’t.” (I picked up and handed her the bill)

Things materially between me and the homeless woman across the street — relatively little: A few fronds of the dwarf palm; glass of the front door and, at the second just passed, a courtesy shuttle for the airport. Stepping from shower, raising arms above head and feeling bone upon bone lowly rumble within oneself. Customer praised President of Kenya’s recently announced policy of loosening borders to other Africans. Customer ordered peach smoothie and peanut butter cookie — said Charlie Watts was good drummer. Customers tried to balance their enjoyment of the social atmosphere with the intolerable heat of the physical atmosphere. Customer called to preorder something but was forewarned it was literally a hundred degrees inside. While returning the customer’s change, the attendant’s attention was drawn to the cracked skin of his own dry hands, the fine coffee dust underscoring the cracks. A familiar pattern: customer who talks a lot complains of another customer’s talking a lot. (Never a quiet customer.) Customer who seemed a politically liberal version of a customer he knew as politically conservative customer. (Roast beef sandwich with plain yellow mustard instead of horseradish.) One option is I could just never stop being the attendant, thought the attendant, become an utterly quixotic figure; wear my knit cap and black stained apron always and everywhere, at the supermarket, at my next job interview. “Why are you wearing the apron?” they would say at the job interview. “I am the attendant,” would say the quixotic figure.

Customer advised on amazing and surprisingly simple cure for shingles (olive leaves). Customer had twisted ankle seriously with kids: wouldn’t be able to exercise for a week. Customer explored links between dadaism and cubism in his work, using the brilliant colors of his native Morocco. Attendant, while steaming milk, often had the facial expression of doing something far more complicated or consequential than steaming milk. Customers ordered one large iced coffee and three medium iced coffees. Moving arms and torso to left and right without repositioning feet. Customer said she couldn’t understand sports (since the customer asked) artificially creating winners and losers and divisiveness — why would you do that? why would you like that? Customer loved Jane Powell. Customer expressed that he had recently seen Jane Powell in person at an event. Customer asked that the children’s sandwiches contain no onions. Customer asked for fork. Customer spread napkins over the table like a tablecloth. Was customer good with money? No: had a lot of debt, at 20% interest some of it, but had a plan and was paying it down. “Would always be a renter.” Customer showed pictures on phone: here is the picture of the delicious meal she’d been served, and here (scrolling down) was a picture of her totally empty plate. Something had gone wrong with attendant’s attempt to be humble: people were asking was he sad or depressed? Attendant rubbed eyes, washed hands, strode manfully to bakery case, propped elbows on bakery case, stared at street. Customer stood half in and half out of doorway, taking order from someone outside. Customer spoke of Kurosawa and George Lucas and Hidden Fortress and Star Wars. What was a hero? What was an anti-hero? Hector was an anti-hero. Laertes was an anti-hero. Customer spoke of woodpecker that had taken up residence in their yard. Very pretty young gal customer with leathery tough work hands. Distant figures thought to be vaguely annoying, are recognized, as they approach, as familiar sources of annoyance. Customer talked about how you had to show your parole officer you were making money, no matter what, and told stories of how he generated income once he got out of prison.

“Having espied the hidden strange hardened goop, the dauntless and indefatigable attendant, surveying his selection of sponges, chose “old rusty” not “true silver” for the job.” (Sounded like Far Side cartoon.) Customer browsed through her phone, running through the list of outstanding film titles she was missing at an Italian film festival this summer (a chance also to practice her Italian.) Customer said each state should have its own gun laws. Customer countered that each state should also have it’s own military; so each state can decide for itself if it wants to send it’s service men and women to Iraq, or some such place. Attendant asked customer if he could guess the movie from 1932 he’d just seen: it starred Joan Crawford and involved a lot of moisture and… Speak no further said the customer, laughing. (Another customer had just seen a play of Grand Hotel, the movie of which came out in 1932.) The remote but very real possibility that the attendant and a regular customer played against each other in a youth soccer tournament in NJ almost 30 years ago. Resident bird zoomed out of his hole and with a few bounds of his wings (corresponding about to the edges and center of the road) disappeared into neighboring park. Pedestrian laughed off her near stumble on uneven brickwork by bus stop. Customer, summarizing newspaper article he’d read, wept to think of soldiers abroad, had to excuse himself. Customer’s long hair becoming increasingly dishevelled as she works; with each new phase of her intense computer work some new unlikely disarrangement occurs. Customer said he didn’t take a side in the affordable housing debate. It seemed that people were passionate on both sides, but his view, whatever it was, was not passionate.

Customer ordered large medium roasted coffee, cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese — supermarket worker from Somalia. Moroccan customer said he had forgotten the Africa Cup semi-finals were going on today. Customer ordered raspberry iced tea, gave as an example of the grammatical figure of litotes: “he was no mean fighter.” (Further defined it as understatement and said the -es ending gave it away as of Greek rather than Latin origin.) Customer said he had no personal feeling whether the knee braces were helpful or not but was wearing them on orders from the doctor. Customer ordered decaf iced soy latte, small. Customer’s mother had fallen again — gone to the emergency room again — but fortunately nothing this time was broken. Customer brought for attendant large bright yellow tomato from the market. The large yellow tomato formed an interesting color contrast with the orange the attendant had brought for a snack — at least an element of what made the contrast interesting was that the orange was a bit yellowish and the tomato one will think of as being red.

Customer left better than 100% tip on 2.32 purchase. Easier to get into a locked computer than a locked car, said customer, pretty much. Customer, instead of answering question, why do I see ads on some twitter feeds but not others, answered question, why do I see certain ads instead of others on those feeds on which I do see ads? Customer was police officer. Customer said it was such a comfort to have good tenants he would never raise the rents on them just for market reasons. Customer had spent the whole day –“literally the whole day”– cleaning car, which one of his son’s had thrown up in repeatedly during a road trip. Customer, having recently returned from Venezuela, said that by some measures Maryland had one of the longest coast lines in the U.S. Customer’s initial impression of Americans had been heavily informed by the soap opera Dallas, she said. Found real americans much more conservative in their conduct than those characters. Customer studied to curate art shows. Customer said his daughter’s soccer team, formerly The Falcons, were now The Gems. Customer ordered wheat bagel with lox and cream cheese, a sesame bagel with butter, and a plain or everything bagel with butter. Customer ordered medium skim chai and bagel with lox. German economist returning home was given as gift Songs in the Key of Life. Customer returned from Calabria and Rome and environs: medium iced soy chai and cinnamon raisin bagel with veggie cream cheese.


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