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On Vox: Write shit down

I started my first blog in early 2002, on LiveJournal, after seeing a sticker that said "WRITE SHIT DOWN". It occurred to me that the voice in my head often had some good points, and it was a shame to not anyone else hear it. Further, I've had some weird and interesting shit happen to me in my years, and I believe that one's character is composed largely of their stories, so I should do my best to not forget mine. To that end, I'm going to start writing some of my more interesting adventures here, before their containing brain cells are destroyed. I hope you find me as amusing as I find myself.

Today's story is from way way back... Sixteen years! I was working at McDonald's, as many kids that age do, on 23rd Ave and Bethany Home Road in Phoenix.

I'd been working for the Clown for a while at this point. I knew how to do just about every job in the place, which put me in a position to work pretty much whatever shifts I wanted. I preferred working after school until closing, as this was usually the most fun, and let me make the most money. I worked drive-thru most of the time, but I also worked the grill a lot. I rarely worked the counter, since the counter was for chumps.

I learned early on that there's a type of person who lives for routine. These people have, for whatever reason, settled in to a lonely life where they've made themselves totally comfortable by doing the same thing the same way every day. For obvious reasons, McDonald's seems to be a haven for people like this. It's a place where they can expect consistency, if not quality. It's safe and steady.

One such regular was a guy I knew as Quarter Pounder Rapist. I don't know if he actually was a rapist, but I suspect not. I think I just nicknamed him that because he had a very rapey look about him. I believe it was a combination of hair color, mustache, and type of car. He seemed super-shy and withdrawn. He only spoke at the drive-thru speaker, but never when face to face. If I asked him a question or cracked a joke, he'd do what he had to do to avoid speaking and if he did have to talk, it was as few words as possible. He ordered the same thing every night: Quarter Pounder with Cheese with no pickles, medium fries, medium Coke with no ice. He ordered it so consistently and frequently that I still remember it all these years later.

The QPR was a staple. He was a sign that everything was normal. Whatever weird shit was going on in the city or in the world, you could bet your ass that at around the same time every evening, that dude was coming through. Interestingly enough, the only time I can recall not seeing him was a night when the speaker was broken and people were having to order at the window. I'm guessing the phobia was too much and he just decided to skip dinner that night, which I'm sure fucked him up for weeks.

I didn't know QPR, but I liked him. He was kind of important to me. His appearance usually meant that I was nearing the end of my shift and my day. His existence, and his reliablility, meant that no matter what, I could count on having at least one non-abusive customer during my shift, and that was the best security blanket that anyone working in the thankless industry of food service could hope for.

One night, that changed. It broke apart and was so destroyed that it could never be put back together. That one little pillar in my world crumbled and that was that. It was a completely normal evening.

I was, as per my preference, in drive-thru. It was spring, I think. I remember the weather being very pleasant, which doesn't happen often in Phoenix. A balmy evening always made for a jovial mood. The customers were more tolerable, and the drive-thru booth didn't feel like an oven. My manager, Mike, and I joked around via radio headset throughout the evening like we always did. Business slowed down after dinner, and we entertained each other as we inched closer to quitting time.

As expected, QPR's order came through my headset. Everything was normal. I knew that in a minute, that same car containing that same guy, holding that same five dollar bill was going to roll up to my window. I'd take the money and let him wait at the window for his special order, since it was slow, instead of making him wait in the parking lot for someone to bring it out. He wouldn't speak. He wouldn't demand a "handful of ketchup". He wouldn't even look me in the eye. It would be the most normal transaction of the day, probably. Except it wasn't.

This time... this one fucking time... QPR guy rolls up to the window in the same car, holding the same dollar bill, in FULL CLOWN MAKE-UP. He's not half-assin' it either, like someone on their way to a theme party or whatever. He's in full-on white face professional style make-up with a red nose and everything. I honestly can't say for sure if he was in a clown suit and/or clown hair or not, but I want to say he was. I'm not sure though. I just remember when I glimpsed at him, that motherfucker was a clown.

Let me pause for a second. I want you to understand the effect this had. I don't know if it's ever happened to you before. You think you know someone. You see them every day. You don't necessarily know that they're NOT a clown, but when you actually find out that they ARE a clown well... Well... I don't know. It's just fucked up. I mean, being a clown just shouldn't be a secret. Plus, I'm kind of freaked out by clowns. Now I'm standing there, facing the fact that this rock... this steady figure... he's a CLOWN. Has he been a clown the whole time? HOW LONG have I been serving this meal to this person who just got finished doing god only knows what sort of wacky clown shit? I need you to think about that, because for as untraumatic as this situation may seem, I'm here to tell you that while it's not exactly on the order of magnitude of devastation of like, losing a relative or friend, or maybe finding out that your best friend is a Republican, it's not really all that easy to process either.

Ok... so my world is sort of blurry for a minute, but I'm a professional so I maintained my composure. I took QPR/C's money and rang him up and gave him his change. I did my best, considering the circumstances, to not FREAK THE FUCK OUT. I may have cracked a smirk, but I know that I did not laugh, which is my usual reaction when my entire perception of reality is turned inside out. I held it together.

Mike, however, did not. After I handed QPR/C his change and stood there for a second staring at the register and away from the window, the window automatically shut. I clicked the button on my headset and asked if that special order was coming up soon. Mike asked if the guy was giving me shit or something and all I could say was, "Uhhh... Umm... Not exactly, no..."

Mike walked in to the booth with the order in his hand and in one quick motion did an about face while laughing out, "Oh my god he's a clown!" This tipped me over the edge and I started to burst out laughing, so I squatted down to the floor, trying to hide it from QPR/C. This made Mike bust up even more visibly as he attempted to return to the booth. A split second later, QPR/C drove off without waiting any longer for his food.

We continued to laugh about it, but I felt so terrible. This guy... I don't know who this guy was. All I know is that he was a slave to his routine, which probably means that he was pretty awkward in general. He probably went to great trouble every day to remove all his clown makeup after a gig so that he wouldn't stand out at all, and maybe just this one time he completely forget, or he had to choose between that and not getting his dinner at the right time. Maybe he'd just become a clown and was adjusting to that, while trying to maintain his regular pattern. No matter what, I think for a person like that, what just happened to him was devastating. In fact, I don't think it; I know it, because I never saw him again. Mike and I fucking killed Quarter Pounder Rapist/Clown because we're fucking bastards.

I think about this guy every once in a while. Since that time, I've made it my business to really pay attention to people, and to do my best to understand them through their actions, habits, body language, tone of voice, etc... I learn about people through the things they tell me and through the things they don't. I do my best, when dealing with people, to keep everything I know about them in mind as I speak, and to make my interactions with them as comfortable for them as I can. To this day, I hope that maybe this incident wasn't as big a deal for this guy as I've made it up to be in my mind, but I know it probably was and for as much as I despise clowns, I hope he eventually bounced back without too much disruption to his life.

Wherever you are, QPR/C, I hope things are "steady as she goes" for you. 

Originally posted on pop.vox.com

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