Stress in Paradise

In the big city, you get far more chance to overhear people's unguarded conversations. I am struck by how many restaurant conversations are spent discussing the ridiculousness of somebody who is not present.

Yesterday at IHOP (International House of Pancakes) a man, I won't call him a gentleman, with a loud Southern accent was carrying on about a friend of his. "Ah don know wha they kip givin him all them medications, he's half dead anyway." The conversation moved on to the person's disconcerting habit of buying nine gallons of chocolate milk at one shot. Wha? Wha would he do that?

Does he put it on cereal? the other person asked. "That's a hell of a lot of cereal!" he answered, before going on about how all that chocolate milk must smell in about three weeks.

We were half-way across the room from this guy, and every word was fully audible.

Tonight at the sandwich shop across the street, a woman was talking business on her cell phone at a volume which made it sound like she was on the overhead speaker. Meanwhile, her order, number 239, was ready, and the poor girl behind the counter kept yelling in the actual overhead speaker, "Two-thirty-nine! Two-thirty-nine! Your order is ready! Two-thirty-nine!" It made for quite a racket.

At a Thai restaurant this noon, the waiter, who barely spoke English, mistook the order of two businessmen next to us. The waiter thought they wanted number three and number five, but the businessmen had wanted number forty-seven, and the three and five were referring to the level of spice they wanted. Ooops. The poor kid apologized over and over, took number three and five back to the kitchen, and gave them their meals for half price. All the businessmen could do was glare at him and grumble after he left about how he should learn English.

I have written about it in this weblog before, but that was two years ago: One public place where politeness and camaraderie seem to prevail in Tucson is at the Circle K. There are 110 Circle K gas stations and convenience stores in Tucson. They tend to hire scruffy, loud, friendly people who chat it up with the regulars.

Today, I popped into a Circle K and the rule held. People were laughing, carrying on, teasing each other about quitting smoking after the next pack, and so on. I wonder how corporate headquarters keeps such an attitude going at so many stores.

Also, at the IHOP across the street, which I have gone two a couple of times per visit for the past many years, the attitude amongst the crew is always great, really exceptional. Somewhere above the fray is a good manager.