Sunday, July 10, 2005

Food Chain of Fools.

I have been to the food court.

No, it needs a more accurate name.

How about “Retail Adjacent Grease Trap”?

If they insist on including the word food and want to keep the law-and-order theme, might I suggest “Food Jail”?

I avoid a food court at the mall assiduously. I don’t need any beverage which requires its own wheeled cart. But yesterday, I had to do a stupid errand at Verizon, and when I was finally done (Was getting the ear-piece replaced for free really worth an hour of my time?), I realized:

A) Daughter, who was at a play-date ten minutes from the mall, had to be picked up in half an hour, and
B) I was about to fall down from hunger.

I headed towards the food court fearfully.

Something to notice the next time you’re toying with getting a Cinnabun: color theory. It has been proven in multiple studies that certain colors affect us in certain ways.

Looking at the color pink decreases bad moods and hostility, which is why it is being used in prisons (I think the Strawberry Shortcake sheet sets for the prisoners is a bit much, though).

A yellow room speeds metabolism, but makes people edgy (Cranky, but thin. I could accept that).

The color red makes a person hungry. Many restaurants use it as their main color. Unfortunately, it can also make people aggressive and emotional.

I thought about that as I chewed on my bean-and-cheese burrito at the Food Court. This area wasn’t just accented with red, it was setting the industry standard for red. What wasn’t painted red was neon red; it was as if I was eating inside a stomach designed by Caesar’s Palace. I didn’t notice feeling any hungrier than usual. On the other hand, the burrito was the length of my forearm, and I did a fair amount of damage to it before pushing it away in disgust.

Aggression was another story. Everywhere I looked, people were clearly one word away from finding out what a plastic spork could do if jammed in the throat of their lunch companion.

Seated next to me were a mother and daughter of about fourteen. Admittedly, for the better part of my lunch they were quiet, but it was a poisonous quiet, a toxic quiet.

A reloading quiet.

The girl broke the silence.

“I’ll only wear the top on the weekends, and not to school, and I’ll wear the shorts with a big shirt”

“No. They’re too revealing” her mother said firmly, stirring her coffee with a bit more agitation than it might have required.

Her daughter launched directly into the outer orbit of whining.

“This is, like, so unfair,” she wailed while fishing around for a Boba tapioca ball. “You’re, like, treating me like I can’t take care of myself.”

I watched with a certain interest and divided loyalties. I have been the whining teenager and soon enough I will be that mother, taking something from a pillbox in her purse and swallowing it with a practiced, furtive gulp.

The mother breathed in and out, and said, “You have your whole life to walk around with your butt hanging out of your shorts. The shorts I buy you will cover the tops of your thighs”

“You’re just jealous that I can wear them and you can’t!” the daughter shrieked.

Ow, that’s going on her permanent record. Even in the red din of the food court, several nearby eaters looked up. Her mother grabbed her purse with one hand and several items from the table with the other. Her daughter wailed in anguish.

“You can walk home,” she said, and walked briskly towards the doors to the parking lot. The daughter flung herself after the departing figure. I’d like to think it was to apologize to the woman who gave her life. But more likely, it was because her mother grabbed the girl’s IPod and cell phone.

Taking my lunch flotsam to the trash, I watched a woman with what I imagine were her two children, being as they all shared small piggy eyes and builds that led me to believe they enjoy…um… let's just say more sedentary activities. I must admit, though, for a big gal she moved with remarkable speed and grace, grabbing the boy as he attempted to whack his sister over the head with a tray.

“Grayson...!” she roared, thumping his melon head with one meaty hand while with the other grabbing her daughter who, taking advantage of her brother's moment of distraction, was about to dump a soda on his head. “...You’re working my last nerve.”

“Breanna ate the last fry,” he whined. Then he took off his trucker's hat -- emblazoned with the words “Federal Breast Inspector” -- and started flailing at whatever part of his sister he could reach behind his mother.

The mother narrowed already tiny eyes and snagged both of their t-shirts, briefly holding them at bay.

“Y’all keep this up,” she bellowed, “and nobody gets fries for the rest of the day!”

A nearly identical expression of mute horror crossed their faces. Clearly, this was a woman who knew her audience. I dumped my trash and headed away from yet another happy family, checking my watch.

I had ten minutes before I had to leave and a new Vogue burning a hole in my purse. The food court was loud and pulsating with saturated fat, but it was still cooler than sitting in my car. I took an available seat. There were two women sitting behind me, facing one another. Because of a trick of acoustics, I could hear nothing of what the woman behind me was saying, but every breath uttered by the woman across from her. It went like this:

WOMAN 1: Mumble mumble, mumble, mumble.

WOMAN 2: Oh no, she di’nt!

WOMAN 1: MUMBLE, mumblemumblemumble. Mumble (laugh) MUMBLE

WOMAN 2: Oh no, she di’nt!

WOMAN 1: MUMBLE (slurp) mumblemumblemumblemumble. Mumble.

WOMAN 2: Oh no, she di’nt!

WOMAN 1: (silence)

WOMAN 2: Oh no, she di’nt!

Clearly now, the color red was starting to have the secondary effect upon me, because all I wanted to do was stand up, walk to their table and say, “Apparently, she did. And I’m just thinking out loud now, but maybe you could say even ONE OTHER PHRASE!.”

What this food court really needs is a liquor license.

3 Comments:

Anonymous DC said...

You're looking at this all wrong:

Your daughter wears clothes that cover all of her areas of interest. You probably only feed her fries once a day, max, and I bet she can pronounce all five letters in "didn't" on the first try.

You're the Mother of the Year! Stop blocking and embrace the mall food court for the ego-building adventure it can be...

6:51 PM  
Blogger Quinn Cummings said...

This...

changes...

everything...

Thank you, DC.

7:29 PM  
Blogger Brooke said...

Is there any better phrase in the history of mankind than "you're working my last nerve"? I mean really.

Props to that teenage girl's mom for stranding her at the mall sans accoutrements.

10:02 AM  

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