I sat at the small, greasy table a few feet from the counter, checking Facebook on my phone. This is the table that no one ever sits at unless they are waiting for a “to-go” order, or unless there are no other tables available. And I, like so many others at the table before me, was waiting to hear my number called out so that I could return to my family with that brown bag, unmarked save for the grease stains slowly spreading from the center that clearly alerted anyone in the know as to its identity. I sat, and I waited, and I couldn’t help but feel some empathy for the poor young man behind the counter. “I feel you buddy,” I thought sadly to myself. “I feel you.”
“43!” he called out, bag in hand, the grease not yet breaching the brown paper walls of the vessel. When no one came up to the counter he shouted once more, “43!” and then he set the bag down and turned away to put more fries in more sacks. A minute later he turned around again, new foods in hand, and shouted “43! 44! 47!” And yet still there was no response.
Starting to get slightly annoyed now, he raised his loud voice even a bit higher and called out “HEY! Forty THREE!” Now I, as someone who had just paid money for food, food that I was planning on eating as soon as possible, was listening very closely to the numbers being called out, because I wanted as few seconds as possible between the time of “now” and the time of “burger in mouth,” but apparently I was in the minority. 47 arrived to get their food, but 43 and 44 were nowhere to be seen. Now in an act of patience-losing desperation, the young gentleman screamed out “FORTY THREEEEE! FORTY FOOUURRRR!” But it was as useful as calling out to one of your children.
“What are you doing!”
“Come back here!”
“Are you listening to me?!”
“Put that down this instant!”
“Do I need to count?”
“Dinner is ready!”
“Turn off the TV!”
“One more step and I swear to….”
Yes, some days I feel as though my whole life is that of a five guys employee, screaming into the void to people who are not listening, or who are listening and just don’t care. It makes one question one’s own existence, doesn’t it? Am I invisible? Am I inaudible? Do you all just hate me? Why won’t you at least respond? Give me the finger! Something! At least let me know that I am here in this place with you, and that we are interacting. Why do you just ignore me?
Even when it is something good, like “I have cheeseburgers and french fries for you,” there is no guarantee that your children will acknowledge that you have spoken. You can be two feet from them, screeching directly into their brains with a megaphone, and they will just walk on as though you are no more than the shadow of a ghost, which I suppose to them you are, or will be someday. But wouldn’t it be nice to feel alive in their presence today at least? Wouldn’t it be pleasant to have someone truly hear you? And to come pick up their damn burger without their number being called 23 times? Yeah, I feel you Five Guys guy. I feel you.