Monday, October 4, 2010

Smile, lady - you're in chapter three

There's this woman where I work who drives me crazy.

Oh, I don't know her name. I don't even know what department she works in. I just know that I have already cast her as a character in my next book.

Sometimes, I can't help it. I see a person in real life and I know - I just know - that they're a perfect character for one of my stories. One time I was sipping on a mocha in a Barnes & Noble cafe in Springfield, Mo., and I saw America Miles, the protagonist in my novel, Death on Deadline.

Yep, that woman sitting two tables across from me, flipping through a magazine and minding her own business, had come straight from my imagination. She had the hair. She had the bone structure. She even had that little worry line between her eyebrows. I couldn't stop staring. I was mesmerized. She finally looked up and gave me one of those little polite smiles - you know, the kind you give when some weirdo is looking at you - and I had to look away. But it was very exciting.

Not so much with this lady. I see her nearly every time I go to the cafeteria. Our cafeteria is big and it's busy and to my eyes, it looks a bit understaffed. So the men and women serving behind the counters are basically working at full tilt to keep everything running smoothly.

So this lady - whom I have cast as perhaps a pretentious, uncooperative clerk - usually minces in with a self-important swagger and then proceeds to bluster and bitch constantly in line, complaining about anything and everything until the person behind her is about ready to crack.

Unfortunately that person is usually me.

"Geez, these chicken nuggets are taking forever!!" she sighs after two minutes.
"No curly fries today? You'd think there'd be curly fries today," she pouts after three.
"I just don't see what the holdup is in these lines," she whines after four, shifting her considerable weight.
"I'm still here - it's just taking forever!!" she calls to her friend after five.

For the record, her meal is usually ready in about five minutes. Not that I'm counting.

Aaargh. It's so annoying. But I just stand quietly, practicing my calming zen breaths, studying her petulant red face and overly mascaraed eyes so I can describe them perfectly in my next story.

Meanwhile, the poor woman behind the counter is smiling politely, sweating profusely, just busting her butt trying to move everyone's orders through. Maybe I have it all wrong, though. Maybe I should be telling her story - perhaps a tale of revenge against annoying, unappreciative customers.

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