Just got a haircut, after waiting for over a half-hour in the half-full waiting room I was finally called back to the chair. I told the barber that I wanted “scissor cut” (because I hate the noise/vibration against my head), and he replies: “Right, okay, like a 4 or 5? Okay, I see, gotcha.”
“No longer like-”
“You mean like a 6 or 7? Okay. Okay, I see. Gotcha,” he pulls out his clippers and starts giving me a 5 anyway.
When I tell him I wanted a scissors cut, he says “you did not. Your said ‘give me a 5 with clippers.’ Yes, you did, and that is what I am giving you.”
“No, YOU asked about a ‘4 or 5.”
“I told you that was too short and you recommend ed a ‘6 or 7.’ Why would I tell you to give me a clipper cut when I know I hate when barbers do those things?”
“Because you did,” he shrugged, “maybe if you told me in Spanish…
“What, you don’t speak Spanish? Pfft,” he said putting his clippers down and picking up a large, shoddy looking pair of scissors. “How do you understand what the people in the next chair are saying if you ‘don’t speak Spanish.’ I mean come on, this is Florida, EVERYONE speaks Spanish.”
He then proceeds to spend the next ten minutes manhandling my head with his giant hands (good thing I’m sensitive to touch too). I REALLY wanted to rip my apron off dramatically and walk out (wouldn’t be the first time), but I didn’t because “!el Stupido” or something – especially since I knew without even looking that it was already too short.
He then pulls out the razor for my ears and neck which is even worse from a noise/vibration stand point and doesn’t seem remotely phased by how clearly uncomfortable it is for me (as I had a stylist in Baltimore nearly cut my ear off doing that). He then puts it down, shows my hair and it looks like a damned buzzcut – and a sloppy one at that.
“See, what did I tell you? I gave you a great haircut. Huh, huh, huh,” he said elbowing me annoyingly. “Ya look great.”
On the plus side, he charged me full price for it (couldn’t understand how I couldn’t be happy with such an “awesome” cut), and I gave him a $2 tip simply because I already had too many 1s on me to get change from him. Very frustrating and disappointing, and it happens nearly every time I get a haircut.
Probably the reason I avoid them at all costs, just like my dentist…
“The hottest day of the year,” Wes said. “And, of course, the A/C decides to give out. I swear, by the end of the day, we won’t have a museum – we’ll have a giant pool of wax. I don’t want to be the one who has to clean that up.”
“Neither do I,” Jake replied drolly. “Did you ever hear back from that college you applied to?”
“WE applied to, and, yes, I’ve got the envelope in my bag…I can open it now. I’m sensing good news.”
“Let’s hope so.”
“‘Dear applicant,’” he began as Jake cringed. “Must be one of those ‘form letters’ I keep hearing about… ‘Thank you for your interest in our school. We re…gret t-to in…form you that…’”
“It’s okay,” Jake said putting his hand on his fiancé’s shoulder reassuringly.
“No,” he said rebuffing said hand. “It’s not. We were supposed to go t-together, and now… and now, we can’t. Just go. Check the galleries, make s-sure nothings melted yet…”
Jake Norway went through the galleries (normally Wes’ job) straightening wigs and repositioning dummies. He knew his fiancé would tell him they “looked sad” for some reason, but he’s been working there long enough to know that was usually the result of either a slid wig, misaligned eye…or the viewer’s imagination (like Wes with his silly paranormal “reality” shows).
As he was evaluating the Appalachia scene (the one directly behind Rodney’s), he heard the restroom door slam loudly. Fine, nothing strange about that, he’d be out in a minute or so…but he wasn’t. However, he did hear an unfamiliar voice shout his name from that general area – despite the fact that the museum hadn’t actually opened yet. Spooky, but more than likely just his imagination…
He got into the gallery where Daniel was and heard his name called again, but in a much louder, more urgent voice. He then, having finished his tour, checked the restroom next to the curator’s office to see an unconscious Wes sprawled on the floor holding a pocket knife in his hands as blood spurted from his wrists…
Oh right, he pulled his cell phone out and frantically dialed 9-11, hoping it wasn’t too late…
While the doctors were still treating Wes, Jake returned to work the next day to find that his replacements had set up a bunch of fans in the museum (even though fans do not actually “cool” air, they just move it around). There was a large, relatively new oscillating fan in the lobby and several older, smaller fans set up in the individual galleries plugged in the loose, aging outlets.
“Idiots,” he said seeing the ragged extension cords (that looked like the rats had been chewing on them) duct taped to the floor. This was an obvious fire hazard, but he couldn’t leave to replace them as he was the only one working there that day. He probably didn’t want to see the job they did cleaning up the restroom.
He continued his inspection, noting that he thought some of the figures in the first room seemed worried. “Happy,” “sad,” or “angry” were common interpretations, but “worry” was new to him. Bah, he was probably just projecting his own feelings on some lifeless pile of wax.
He goes back to the lobby and checks his e-mail to find an ominous looking message from the park owner…
Wes woke up sometime later to find himself standing rigid and immobile on a small platform in the museum lobby across from where Jacob and some other dude was sitting. Was that Kenny from the go-kart track or Brice from the putt-putt course or…it didn’t matter, he was probably dead anyway.
Then he realized, the reason he was awake now – the ring on his left hand was gone, and he just saw the smug little shit (no older than Rodney or Sara) leave the museum with his mom. That bastard was definitely going to pay for that, and as much as the others tried to dissuade him, he decided to follow him around the 3rd rate park – making damn sure the punk thief saw him.
Finally around 11pm, as said thief was playing an online game, his system suddenly shuts off and he could see the reflection of a certain red-haired boy lying on his bed in the black monitor holding the power cord in his left hand.
“You know what I want. You may as well give it to me – call it an even exchange.”
“Absolutely not,” the boy shouted. “This PC cost my parents $8500, this ring will pawn for less than $200.”
“It’s not about money, my fiancé saved up for months on a part-time minimum wage to buy this ring for me. Frankly, you can’t put a price on love.”
“I don’t care about you and your gay, faggot ass lover.”
“Damned straight…err, not straight. Augh, it doesn’t matter, boy knows a good thing when he sees it.”
“I don’t care about you. I want my power cord back. NOW!”
“Phillip Ryan Thatcher,” his mother said sharply as she entered the room. “What the hell are you carrying on about? Your father and I are trying to sleep. Now go to bed before I bring your father in here.”
“Go on, tell her. It’ll be fun.”
“No,” Phillip said (to Wes).
“Don’t talk back to me, young man. You do not want your father up here.”
Suddenly, there was a noise of loud footsteps on the stairs.
“That’s it,” she continued. “You’re really in trouble now…”
The footsteps stop a few feet from the boy’s door, but neither of him nor his mother saw anyone come in leaving both vaguely unsettled.
“Who are you,” Wes asked cocking his head slightly.
“George,” Phillip’s mom blurted as he (unbeknownst to her) stepped into the doorway.
“Dang it,” the fair skinned boy with shaggy brown hair and a dirty grey uniform shouted in his thick Southern accent. “For the last time, my name isn’t… you can see me?
“Um, yeah, and your little thief here can see me so you may as well tell me.”
“I am not a thief.”
“What was that,” his mom asked sharply.
“My name isn’t ‘George.’ It’s Jonah.”
“George? Jonah? They are kinda close.”
“Jonah,” Phillip asked. “I like it.”
“We were half-right,” his mother added.
“Not the point, the point is your antics woke everyone up.”
“HIS antics,” Wes said pointing to his left. “He’s the one who stole my engagement ring off my finger. Wants to pawn it for $200.”
“I did not ‘steal’ anything. He’s a fucking mannequin. What the fuck does he need an ‘engagement ring’ for anyway?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Jonah said. “You can bet that if someone stole one of my possessions that I’d be mad too.”
“You’d better not have!”
“Three against one. Better hope your dad doesn’t come in here.”
“Like I care what some 60-year-old thinks.”
“Six-TEEN!! I’m SIXTEEN not 60. Stop making me older than I am.”
“TEEN,” Wes said. “He’s three years older than you are.”
“He’s sixteen? I thought he was supposed to be some grizzled old vet.”
“Don’t you dare mock his service.”
“I did not ‘mock’ his service.”
“His uniform is grey, but his hair is dark brown. Give it a good cutting, and he’d look damned sexy. Don’t worry, kid, as you’ve probably heard by now, I’m already engaged…”
“Who are you talking to,” Phillip’s mother said. “I said nothing about his service. I swear boy, I love you, but you’re starting to worry me here.”
“You mean like this kinda service,” Jonah said closing the boy’s dresser drawer loudly and tossing the ring to Wes who catches it making them both visible for a moment.
“Thanks, Jonah,” he said sliding it onto his finger. He turns to Phillip’s mother, bowed and continued: “Sorry for the interruption, Ma’am. Oh, and Jonah…”
“Hi,” he said waving awkwardly as he realized they could see him, but, for the life – err, afterlife – of him he couldn’t think of a single thing to say after that. Thankfully, he didn’t need to as Wes continued:
“You’re more than welcome to visit me in the park if you need me.”
And with that, Wes disappeared triumphantly followed shortly by a slightly embarrassed Jonah who quietly shut the door behind them passing Phillip’s father on the stairs…
Several days later, Wes stood guard as his former colleagues sat down for their weekly staff meeting. The first item on the docket (which his former fiancé had no interest in entertaining) was “strange occurrences” around the museum/park.
“Well,” Jacob said skeptically. “There’s only one fair way to settle this. We need to bring in fair, impartial outside observers.”
“You mean like those paranormal investigators I saw on TV,” Kenny asked (didn’t he work rides?).
“I was thinking more along the lines of scientific investigators…”
“Oh, come on,” Brice said (the mini golf course wasn’t good enough for him?). “It would create buzz for the park – plus, wasn’t Wes a huge fan of that show?”
“Um, yeah,” Kenny chimed. “It’ll be a fitting tribute. You should totally call them after the meeting.”
“Fine,” Jacob sighed as he looked up and thought he saw Wes’s statue smiling at him cheesily. “Compile a list of anything suspicious or ‘paranormal’ that you think the so-called ‘ghosts’ did around the museum and/or park and I’ll present it to them IF they come.”
As the TAPS team entered the aging amusement park, a young employee with caramel skin handed Dave Tango a map, imploring him to “enjoy his stay.”
“Hey, Dave,” Steve Gonsalves asked. “Who are you talking to back there?”
“The employee over there, the one who gave me this map.”
“What ‘employee,’ the park is closed today?”
He motions to where the young man was standing, “what the..? He was JUST here a moment ago.”
“Your imagination is acting up on you again, Dave.”
“Then where’d I get this map from,” he said showing it him. Steve grabs it from it his hands impatiently.
“Hey, wait, there’s two here,” he said handing the one back to Tango before opening his own to find a large drawing of a spider tucked into the inside of the brochure with the word “Boo” written below it.
“What’s going on back there,” Lead Investigator Jason Hawes asked.
“Good, catch up, we’re trying to find this ‘museum’ place.”
“My map says it should be around the corner to the right.”
“When did you get a map,” Co-founder Grant Wilson asked. “We didn’t get a map. Did we, Jay?”
“Oh come on, I couldn’t possibly be the only person to see him standing there!”
“So, around this way… and to the right,” Jay said ignoring Tango’s outburst. “Looks like some kind of food court and…it should be right…around…THERE! Looks like your map was right, Tango.”
“Um, thanks, Jay.”
“Let’s get inside,” he said opening the door and practically pushing them inside. “You two can go first.”
“Yeah,” Grant agreed half-jokingly. “Keep you two from causing any more trouble.”
“Um, guys,” Tango said peering into the main gallery. “This is him.”
“The kid I saw at the entrance.”
“Oh, yeah,” Jacob said. “That reminds me of something I was going to tell you anyway. He was one of our last arrivals, and I still remember the first thing Wes said when we unboxed him was ‘doesn’t he look like he should be standing at the gate-’”
“‘…Handing out maps,’” Tango continued holding up his for the group to see. None of them noticing the boy in question smiling subtly (…except the cameraman who happened to pan up during the exchange).
“Um, yes,” Jacob said awkwardly. “He then insisted on leaving a pen and notebook in the room while we went out to the floor. When we came back, there was writing in it. No clue how it got there, but it wasn’t any of our handwritings.”
“Interesting…,” Jay said.
“Wait, do you still have this notebook,” Grant asked.
“In the desk drawer, I can get it if you want.”
“Please do,” Jay said. “It would be a great help.”
“Do you mind if we take it with us,” Grant asked.
“Why,” Jacob asked. “It’s only two pages.”
“Still. Anything you could give us would be a big help towards our investigation.”
“Whatever, you can have it. Now, if you follow me, I’ll introduce you to them personally. This is the main gallery, the expansive Virginia Beach scene on the left, the manor house scene on the right and the models from both of these scenes are in the notebook.”
“What about the kid on the raft,” Jay asked of the relatively small endcap.
“Huck here is just a mannequin, but around the corner is our Appalachian scene leading into the Hollywood and Ole’ West dioramas.”
“So, anything reported back here,” Steve asked wondering if his cords would reach this far back.
“Nope, but the next room where our newest model, which was apparently part of some planned robotic display give some visitors ‘weird feelings,’ yet none of the reporters say they were ‘scared’ or ‘intimidated’ by it.”
“So, he’s not bothering anyone,” Jay asked.
“No, but if you follow me,” Jacob said leading them through the archway to the lobby. “I can show you the rest of the park…”
Later, as the two lead investigators entered the main gallery, there was a loud knock on the museum door.
“DA FRICK,” Wes shouted.
“Hey, that’s MY line,” Grant shouted back.
“You two,” Wes said pointing to the two younger spirits. “Keep them busy. I’ll see what they want.”
“Right,” they said smiling mischievously.
“‘Keep them busy,’” Grant said testily. “What are we five?”
“Well,” Jay conceded. “At least, we know how many we’re dealing with now.”
“Oh,” Wes said pointing to the older boy. “…And make sure they don’t follow me.”
“Yessir,” he said pounding “Shave & a Haircut” onto the wall behind him as Wes left and the other two pounded their response simultaneously on each side of the wide doorway on the opposite side of the room.
“Actually,” Jay said moderately impressed. “That’s not bad… but can you do it again?”
“Jonah,” Wes asked incredulously. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“You said ‘if I ever needed anything’…”
“I didn’t mean TONIGHT! Can’t you see we’ve got a film crew here?”
“I didn’t choose to have my house burn down, and I sure as hell didn’t make my way all the way out here just to go back and haunt some ruined shell.”
“Okay, fine, just calm down, and I’ll see what I can do for you doing the scene change. Just stay there, and don’t interfere with production – that’s MY job. So, yeah, just – just stay there and I’ll be back shortly. Okay?”
“Good, I shouldn’t be long in there. I promise.”
“Hey, Jay,” Steve said into his radio.
“Is everything all right where you are? We thought we heard arguing near your location.”
“Possible, we had some knocking outside the building a while ago. Could you two come by and do a perimeter check?”
“Um, sure, no problem”
Meanwhile, Wes comes back inside and signals to the older boy to come over: “Just him,” he whispers. “You two keep going.”
The blonde headed boy approached Wes, pulling on the back of Grant’s jacket as he passed.
“What the…someone just pulled on my jacket. If that was you, could you give me another sign of your presence – like pulling on mine or Jay’s clothes?”
“We got a kid outside,” Wes explained. “…But I don’t want to distract too much from your fun here.”
“Gah,” Grant said as Riley tried to pants him. “I said ‘pull ON’ not ‘DOWN.’”
“They must really like you, Grant,” Jay quipped as he and their cameramen laughed.
“Great, you’ve had your fun at MY expense. Now can you try pulling on JAY’s clothes?”
“I just want to get him into the storeroom without being seen or heard. The problem is: I’m probably going to need your help to do it…”
“Hey, there you are,” Tango said entering the museum.
“We finished the tour of the perimeter,” Steve continued. “…And there was nothing unusual there.”
“We’ll check the tapes later,” Jay said. “Now you two go change the digis, and we’ll go check out the ‘Midway’ area.”
“Good,” Wes said as they left. “Now’s our chance. Get in here now, you should be safe here in case they co…”
“Who’s that,” Jonah asked pointing to a broken mannequin (non-human) in the corner.
“Unlike these two here,” Wes said nodding towards Riley and Sara. “He doesn’t have an ‘official’ name, but I always called him ‘Johnny Reb’ since he was in our Southern scene.”
“Works for me…”
“He does kinda look like you,” Riley said tilting his head slightly.
“Well,” Wes said. “That was easier than I thought… and, now, if only we had room for him somewhere…”
“How about that slot across from Daniel,” Sara asked. “He always looks so lonely over there by himself.”
“I always kinda felt bad for him,” Riley added. “As he’s essentially left out of everything.”
“I guess it’s settled then,” Wes said. “Assuming we can find an extra outfit back here…”
“Hey, guys,” Jay said into his radio. “It’s about that time. Time to wrap up and get some sleep.”
So, while the two Lead Investigators were off collecting digis, Tango and Kris Williams were off working in the now brightly lit museum.
“I know it’s gonna sound weird,” Tango said handing her a coil of wire he’d stripped off the otherwise pristine floor.
“I know,” she said with a cheeky smile as their cameraman laughed. “And, that’s why you love you.”
“Not me, I mean this room. It’s, um, different. I’m not sure how, but something seems a bit… off he…AUGH!”
“I swear someone just tapped me on the shoul… hmm,” he said turning around quickly. “Wait…when did he – err, it – get here?”
“You mean he wasn’t there on your tour?”
“Are you sure? It’s not like he could just walk out here on his own.”
“Yes, I’m ‘sure.’ It definitely was-”
“What’s going on in here,” Grant asked entering the back gallery. “I’m not going to have to separate you two, am I?”
“Oh, thank God you’re here. We have a question for you…”
“So,” Jacob asked skeptically as he sat down next to the small monitor the producers set up for them. “Find anything ‘paranormal?’”
“Well,” Jay said. “We’ve actually found a few things. Almost all of it here, the rest of the park was absolutely quiet.”
“Yeah, we can show it to you now, get your opinion on it. Maybe you know something we don’t.”
“Anyway,” Grant said. “This is a video of Jay and I exploring this gallery over here.”
They play the footage of them entering the gallery and a loud knocking on the door which startles both of them.
“See if you recognize this voice.” Jay said. “He clearly was expecting that as much as we were.”
“DA FRICK” Wes shouted.
“I should. He was my fiancé, and a huge fan of yours I might add.”
“Um, thanks, I guess. Wait, did you say ‘fiancé,’” Grant asked.
“Yep, and he’s standing right behind your little monitor.”
“You mean like he was real – not a mannequin – a REAL person?”
“Yep, as were Riley, Sara, Rodney and Chad.”
“So, you know their names then,” Jay said.
“I should. I work here…”
“Hey, that’s MY line,” Grant shouted as Jay resumed the tape
“You two,” Wes shouted.
“That would probably be Riley and Sara, they are the two newest additions. One of your colleagues claims to have met him on the way into the park.”
“Right, Dave Tango, yes,” Jay said resuming the tape. “Good memory.”
“Keep them busy,” Wes continued.
“‘Keep them busy,’” Grant said testily. “What are we five?”
“At least,” Jay conceded. “We know how many we’re dealing with here.”
“…And keep them from following me.”
“That would probably be Chad, the blonde kid dressed as the lifeguard. He’s the oldest one here at 19, and the default ‘protector’ of the younger ones.”
“Yeah,” Jay nodded. “That makes sense. The rest of this doesn’t, so we’ll skip it for now, and move onto the next clip…”
“What the…someone just pulled on my jacket. If that was you, could you give me another sign of your presence – like pulling on mine or Jay’s clothes?”
“Gah,” Grant continued as some unseen force tried to pants him. “I said ‘pull ON’ not ‘DOWN.’”
“Any ideas who could have done that,” Jay asked.
“Not really. However, since that notebook I showed you was presumably written by Riley, I’d say he was the most likely culprit.”
“They must really like you, Grant,” Jay quipped as he and their cameramen laughed.
“Great, you’ve had your fun at MY expense. Now can you try pulling on JAY’s clothes?”
“They didn’t,” Grant added bitterly.
“Of course not,” Jacob said. “It was a distraction. Not sure from what, but they clearly didn’t want you interfering with it.”
“We have ONE idea,” Jay said getting up, signaling his camera guy over and heading over to the back gallery. “Not sure how we could have missed it, but this figure definitely wasn’t there when we started this investigation.”
“Sure, as heck wasn’t MY doing. I’d never let a model out on the floor with an outfit like that…”
“So, what does that mean,” Jacob asked as they sat back down at the folding table the producers set up for them in the lobby. “Is the park ‘haunted’ or not?”
“I can’t speak for the rest of the park,” Grant said conciliatorily.
“But,” Jay continued. “We think this museum area is defin…”
“Nurse! NURSE,” Jake shouted as Wes slowly opened his eyes to find himself in a hospital room. “Come quickly. He’s moving. He’s opened his eyes.”
“Shush, you’ll be alright. The doctor said you were lucky, you should have lost twice the amount of blood you did.”
“Daniel? The robo-”
“Actually, he hates that word… anyway, he slammed the door when he realized what I was… doing, s-sorry…”
“It’s okay. Don’t try to talk.”
“…And immediately starting shouting… your name and then talking to me… holding my arms tightly to prevent… b- blood from coming out until… you got to the door… What happened to him… anyway?”
“Well, you see, it’s a bit complicated.”
“Yes. You see, the park was sold to some outside developer who plans on demolishing it to build ‘vacation condos’ along the lake.”
“Sorry, I haven’t even gotten to the ‘strange’ part – or parts – yet…”
“Heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure are all normal. I’ll alert the doctor of the news.”
“Thank you, Phillip,” Jake said. “As I was saying, the strange part – the first part of it anyway – was that someone moved the broken ‘Johnny’ fr…”
“YOU gave him that name.”
“I’ve since been corrected.”
“Anyway, the ‘model,’ as you call them, was moved back on the floor for whatever reason. No clue why, it just was. The second and arguably more important is that since they couldn’t fix the A/C, they plugged in fans all over the gallery.”
“But… fans just move air around.”
“Exactly, and since they were as old as the wiring here…”
“What,” he asked with a weak laugh. “The building caught fire or something?”
“Yes,” he said annoyed at having his story stolen from him. “…But, when the firefighters arrived, they found five fully intact figures on a bench outside the building.”
“Yes, five – Chad, Joh- sorry ‘Jonah,’ Riley, Rodney and Sara –”
“What about Daniel?”
“Um, yeah, I was getting to that…”
Two weeks later, Joey and company enter the third-rate theme park in the middle of nowhere. Near the entrance, they saw a blonde-headed boy stocking maps in various languages for what was probably the last time. When he saw them, he sighed, took three off the top of his box and handed them to the trio.
“Sorry to bother you,” Joey said. “My name is Joey Westin, and I’m looking for my brother. I’m told we was in one of your attractions.”
“A lot of people work on rides here,” Jake said.
“Actually, I said ‘IN one of your attractions.’ I know it’s gonna sound ‘weird,’ but he was my hero and I’ve been trying to find him since he was, um-”
“Robo-OW,” Jimmy said.
“What did I tell you about using that word?”
“Anyway, his name is – or was – Daniel, and I was going to say broke his leg…”
“You don’t mean Daniel the, um… animatronic from our museum?”
“Possibly. Last I heard from him, he had just failed his qualification exam for the fire department for not rescuing enough ‘dummies’ from their simulated fire. So, anyway, if you can tell me where he is…”
“I’d love to,” Jake said closing his box. “But, the museum burned down two weeks ago. There were no ‘humans’ inside – living ones anyway – but the fire department said when they went inside there was a boy dressed as one of them who apparently said, ‘THIS time, I did get all of them,’ before disappearing in a ‘column of light.’”
“Trust me,” Andrew said. “We’re more than familiar with that column.”
“…Or, at least, HE is.”
“So,” Joey said. “If you could tell me where he is, that would be a great help to us.”
“You see, when they pushed into the building, they found a charred body blocking the back entry to our main gallery. The second one of them touched him, he fell apart. I-I’m sorry…”
“Thank you anyway,” Joey said turning away disappointedly.
“Wait,” Jake called. “He was a hero. He saved my fiancé’s life, and all of the known ‘human’ figures in the museum.
“Oh, and I know it’s not much,” he continued, reaching into his pocket and handing Joey a shiny golden badge. “…But they found this is in what little remained of him…”
Joey pins the badge on his shirt, and his body starts glowing faintly. He looks up, smiles and says: “Thanks, Danny, but I’m nowhere near done yet…”
I was having a rather dull dinner with my mom and her friends in a restaurant I’d never been to before. As we sit down, my mom points out that they have “mozzarella sticks” here (because I apparently can’t read menus on my own) and how terrible the ones we had the night before were.
As I’m looking over the underwhelming menu, a harried waitress comes up from one side of the table and a woman I’d never seen before comes up the other: “Oh, hi, Liz.” “Linda, hi, wonder seeing you here, how are…”
“JONATHAN,” my mom’s friend Barb shouted to get my attention and successfully scaring the living crap out of me. “YOUR turn to order!”
“JONATHAN,” my mom snapped at me for dropping my phone on the table. “That is completely unnecessary! Just tell her what you want to drink and be done with it.”
So, now, I’ve got my mom, her friends, the waitress and half the restaurant staring at me. No pressure.
“We’s got Coke, Diet Coke, Ginga-hale…”
“Water,” I replied only hearing the first three.
“All this shit,” my mom said exasperatedly, “and you’re ordering WATER? Jesus-fucking-God. Anyway, Linda, did you hear about…”
“What ’bout you, ma’am?”
“Um, water with lemon… Wait, Jonathan, you said wanted the mozzarella sticks.”
“Um, no, you asked me about them.”
“So, he wan’s the mozza sticks,” the waitress asked from three tables away.
“JONATHAN, do you want the mozzarella sticks or not?”
“Yes, he does. Thank you.”
Wait, WHAT? I literally just said “no” three times.
“Okay, I’ll put d’em in with ya order.”
A few minutes later, she returns with Barb’s soda, my water and my mom’s water with lemon, and immediately proceeds to take our orders. It’s now, 45 seconds before I’m expected to make my order, that Barb points out that there is a “special board” behind me that I missed before I sat down. Mom is still talking to that lady so, congratulations, it’s bumped up to about 35 seconds.
“Honey dipt [sic] chicken with fries”
“Fries, coleslaw, side salad, apple sauce, corn, lima beans…”
“I said ‘fries.’”
“I know d’at, but ya need a SECOND side.”
“Why? I don’t need a ‘second side.’”
“Ya meal comes wit a second side.”
“And I’m telling you, I don’t want a ‘second side.’”
Why is this so hard to understand?
“So, ya want TWO plates of fries?”
“No, I want one plate of fries. I’m telling you I don’t wa-”
“Give him apple sauce and be done with it.”
“And you ma’am?”
“Um, yeah… I’ll have… um, I’ll have… whatever he’s having, but with lima beans instead of apple sauce.”
Then Barb starts on some meandering story about a feud she was having with one of her neighbors who had allegedly called cops the on her “out of spite – TWICE.” The kind of story that was extremely hard to follow unless you knew what was going on (who they were, what happened and how did it escalate so far). She gets about 2/3 of the way through her story when the waitress unceremoniously plops a plate of bland looking mozzarella sticks in front of me.
“Here ya go, buddy. Enjoy.”
What the fuck is this? When I order it? What am I supposed to do with them, and, more importantly, who the fuck is “buddy?”
“Jonathan,” my mom asked. “What the hell is wrong with you? Why aren’t you eating the mozzarella sticks you ordered?”
“I didn’t order them.”
“Yes, you did.”
“No, I didn’t. I didn’t want them, and I still don’t.”
“Then why the hell did you order them?”
“I DIDN’T. YOU did because YOU wanted to know if they were ‘any better than the ones we had last night.’”
“Oh, for God’s sake, just eat the damned things.”
So, basically, I’m now forced to eat bland mozzarella sticks I don’t want and didn’t order because I did order them and do want to eat them solely to satiate my mother’s mild curiosity. Neuro-typical logic at it’s finest, folks.
After a long tangent about how much money she’s make “inventing a phone [cord] that don’t get all tangled like the ones we got at work” (man, she’ll be disappointed to find out cordless phones have been around since at least 2001 – if not earlier), she finally gets back to repeating the second half of her story for us. I still have no idea what’s going on other than this neighbor lady is (allegedly) “psycho” or something, and worse, nothing was going on on Facebook or Messenger and I had zero new e-mails.
An excruciatingly long time later, the waitress returns and once again plops our food down with the enthusiasm of an abnormally excited rock. Barb got the fish with corn. My mom got fried chicken with fries and lima beans, and I got fried chicken with fries…and a humongous bowl of apple sauce.
Once again, I have no clue who’s eating it, but, my god, that’s a LOT of apple sauce. Meanwhile, the lukewarm fries were undercooked, but the chicken was actually pretty good.
By the time we were ready to leave, it was already 7pm. Mom wanted to get some ice cream t Mauer’s a few blocks away on Market Street, but one of the ladies loitering on the porch of the building next door rather curtly informed me was “closed” (no details, just “closed”). In the car, I made the mistake of asking what Barb’s rambling neighbor story was about.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” my mom replied.
“What was Barb’s problem with her neighbor and the police coming to her house?”
“Who’s house? What neighbor? Who’s calling the police for what? I have no clue what you’re asking.”
“Augh, that’s what I just asked YOU. Essentially, you want me to know the answers to the questions I just asked you so you can repeat the answers back to me in which case I wouldn’t need to ask them to you in the first place”
“Jesus-fucking-Christ, Jonathan, what the fuck are you talking about? God, ‘houses,’ ‘neighbors,’ ‘police?’ I have no clue what the hell you’re even talking about?”
“What the hell was Barb talking about in her long rambling story about having her neighbor call the police on her twice in the past week?”
“Thank you, Jesus, THAT I understood. It wasn’t a ‘neighbor,’ she was renting a property she owned out as apartments, and the current tenant was three months behind in her rent so Barb was forced to evict her, but she refused to leave so…”
Bo – ring. See? I knew asking was a mistake.
Now that I’ve “stressed [her] out,” she decides to go to Weis to pick up a gallon box of ice cream leaving me in the car as she shops. It’s not much, but it’s a break…
It’s just after 10am, and I am standing on the dock outside the newly renovated Waterside Marketplace waiting for the ferry to cross the Elizabeth River to Portsmouth. The weather app on my phone says its 65 degrees and cloudy, but the chilly ocean wind makes it feel colder than that.
The small paddleboat arrived around 10 past the hour, it dropped off about a half dozen people and let the three of us who were waiting on dock onboard. The inside had a rusted floor with benches along the sides. Apparently, there were more benches in the center of the boat at one point, but they were removed, possibly to make room for the three beaten up fare boxes. The bench wasn’t all that comfortable, but it didn’t matter since it was only a 10 minute ride across the river to High Street landing.
Portsmouth is a charming, quiet town that kind of reminded me of a cross between Federal Hill and Fells Point. Unfortunately for me, I was visiting on a Thursday morning so nearly everything was closed: The Naval Shipbuilding Museum (for refurbishment until “early 2017”), The Lightship Portsmouth (open weekends only), Virginia Sports Museum (permanently closed) and a half dozen “historic homes” (also open weekends only).
That left the Arts & Culture Center (which was “between exhibitions”), the Virginia Children’s Museum, the TCC (Tidewater Community College) Gallery and the exteriors of various buildings. Oh, and I could purchase cheap looking, neon colored t-shirts at the visitor’s center which is coincidentally where I had to go anyway to get the ferry back to Norfolk – and it was only 12:30 (it would have been noon if I hadn’t stopped for lunch at Jimmy Johns on High Street).
I arrived back at downtown Norfolk around 1:25 where it was a balmy 69 degrees with partly cloudy skies, and I was nowhere near ready to pack it in for the day so I walked over to Nauticus (though most of the parks were closed off due to construction of the various tents for next week’s Harborfest). I walked up the ticket counter and the somewhat disinterested cashier sold me a normal base ticket for $15 (included a movie and a limited tour of the attached battleship). I couldn’t decide if I wanted a snack or to just upstairs to see the exhibits on the 3rd floor first so I chose the latter.
The museum itself is hard to quantify. It has some exhibits that are geared towards kids (like the entry on port Norfolk, the touch a shark tank or the small “aquarium” area – which makes the former National Aquarium in DC look HUGE by comparison), but the majority of the labyrinthine museum space is ship life, Naval history, Naval recruiting and the nearby Naval base – not many of which would be of interest to the 3-12 set.
The exhibits are small, superficial and dated with broken or worn out “interactives” and little to no flow between the tightly packed exhibits – which you can’t really skip as there is only ONE path through the exhibit area (as I found out when one of the barely crowded rooms was too noisy for my tastes). The only place in the gallery that wasn’t claustrophobically small was the end where the theater, the NOAA exhibit and the stairway to the actual Hampton Roads Naval Museum\walkway to the USS Wisconsin (which were both on the second level). Though I didn’t partake in either this time as I fell asleep in the 3d movie and took that as a cue to head back to the hotel… at 3pm in the afternoon.
Not yet, first I stopped into their gift shop (my favorite part of their museum), and then I went into their café next door… but they were closed so I looked around thinking I might be able to take some snacks back to the room with me. Then a black man in black shirt hauling a large trash can behind him comes up behind me:
“Ya know,” he said. “We got a full menu.”
“Yeah, thanks, but it’s closed. There’s no-one back there.”
“What was that? I said look up there. We got a full menu up there,” he said pointing up to the large black and white sign hanging from the ceiling that I’d have to be blind to miss (I couldn’t read it with my crappy vision, but I couldn’t miss it when I came in).
“And it doesn’t do me any good if it’s CLOSED because there is NO-ONE back there.”
“’No-one back there?’ I work the café. I’D be the one ringing you up. Now, if you want to order something. Order it.”
With that said, I immediately turned around and decided to get dinner in the hotel and then get a start on my packing. It’s going to be another long day of traveling tomorrow – and my toes aren’t even remotely healed yet…
Welcome, new resident(s). My name is Jonathan (yes, contrary to public belief, I am a man), and I’m the writer of this blog, and de facto mayor of the Uncanny Valley (mostly because no else wanted the job).
I don’t generally write this blog with the intention of other people reading it, but I’m glad you’re here because it means I’m not alone in this journey (though it often feels like it). I often post sad stories here, but I’m proud to say that don’t participate in the “outrage of the day” thing like other pages do (seriously, whenever an Autistic child\teen is beaten, raped or murdered, it’ll appear at least a dozen times on my FB “News Feed” so it’s not a huge loss on that front).
Speaking of FB, some of you found this blog through its corresponding FB page where I post funny, sarcastic and sometimes depressing memes there, but I’ve been making a conscious effort to post more positive images lately. I also post any photos of places\events that I don’t have enough “good” shots to create a full “gallery” around.
I’m not sorry for what I post here, and I stand by what I write. However, I hope you enjoy my entries about “Adulting” with Autism or as I like to call it: “Life in the Uncanny Valley.”
Came back from my Primary Doctor this afternoon (after trying to get an appointment for the past month or so), I arrived about 20 minutes early to get paperwork and whatnot out of the way. But all they did was have me sign in. After a half-hour of waiting, the nurse calls me back to get my vitals.
While she was checking my BP, I was telling her about my diet and getting out more…and when I stepped off the scale she looks at me and says: “you’ve gained 15 pounds.” She leads me around the corner to an exam room and tells me the doctor will see me “shortly.” Finally, another half-hour later, the door bursts open and another nurse comes in:
“You forgot your co-pay at the desk,” she said shoving a receipt or something in my face.
We can’t forget what’s really important here now, can we? I checked my bag…and, naturally, my checkbook isn’t in there (it was back on my desk). She informed me they didn’t take cash so I either forked over a credit card… or forfeited my entire afternoon. She returns 10-minutes later with my card and a receipt for me to sign, and 10-minutes after that, the doctor finally comes in the room.
He looks at the chart he picked up from the rack in the door and asks what brought me to his office today: “Alternating diarrhea and constipation,” “occasional severe pain in my stomach,” “queasy, bloated, semi-nauseous feeling that is sometimes relieved by eating and sometimes made worse by it.”
He stops me and informs me of what I already know: “That’s definitely Irritable Bowel Syndrome.”
“That’s odd, YOUR nurse prac on my last visit said it was ‘Kidney Stones’ with a ‘Urinary Tract Infection.’”
He looks at me sourly, gets up, takes his laptop with him and leaves the room. Ten minutes later, he returns with another sour look on his face but says nothing. After sitting down on his stool again, he asked in a professional tone if I had “any other issues” to discuss with him.
I asked him about my shoulder, he grabs it, lifts it up (though I only got it up halfway)\towards him (yep, halfway again) and back behind me (less than a quarter, but it definitely hurt the most). He asked if there were any “continuous, repetitive motions” I made on a “regular basis.” I told him, “yeah, but I use my RIGHT hand for that.” Hey, that’s the same look he gave me too.
He then shrugged and said it was “probably mild Tendinitis, nothing to worry about.” If this is “mild,” I’d HATE to know what “severe” feels like.
Speaking of severe, I mentioned the other pain and swelling my IBS was causing (that and a failed, um, “experiment” I won’t get into here) – that it was making it painful to sit down and next to impossible to sit still though I conceded that was “probably my Asperger’s or ADHD,” he shrugged both suggestions off – which I wasn’t sure if that meant he didn’t believe it or took it for granted.
Regardless, he said of my rectal issue, there is only ONE way to check it. I asked if he was SURE there wasn’t some “less invasive” method of doing this, and he looked at me like that was the dumbest question he’d heard all day. Let’s just say if I thought having strangers touch my shoulder was awkward… (yes, I know, gay man in his mid-30s should be totally used to that by now… but I’m not – I can’t stand people touching me).
Fortunately, he didn’t find anything too bad: some redness, irritation and “minor hemorrhoids” (yes, I definitely felt it when he found it) saying some over the counter medicines (which burn like Hell for 8-10 hours after application) and they’ll “be gone within a week.”
The doctor directs me back to the payment counter, and the nurse asks me about scheduling a “follow-up appointment.” I know, I should have, but I need a chance to recover first…