Sunday, June 7, 2009

Straight outta Seinfeld

There are many aspects to Pittsburgh area living. There are disadvantages and disadvantages, opportunities to grow and learn as well as opportunities to have your purse stolen or be harangued by a crazy person. You can drive past the theatre (that’s “re” at the end, not “er”—as IF) and be surrounded by the cultured and privileged few in furs and heels, but you can also drive past a pyrohi festival or a bunch of people tailgating somewhere and see the very common masses.

Saturday was a day for the masses, I’m afraid.

I planned to meet my gal pal and take a nice, long walk after lunchtime. We consulted our schedules, consulted various other schedules (OK, no baseball game, we’re safe), and decided the North Shore would be an optimum place; it’s in the middle, there’s a fairly new bike and walking path, the views are lovely but we’d avoid the nonsense of parking too close to the big arts festival.

We confirmed the time and I began the short drive. Why so much traffic? Boy, was the arts fest really this popular? We always go on weekdays… I continued on my trek, and then the cell phone rang. My friend was sitting in the Fort Pitt tunnel, not sure why… We decided to keep the plan but see what developed. Five minutes later, it all became clear to me. People were partying in the stadium parking lots, grills going full tilt, country music blaring, there were hundreds of Y108 signs (a local country station—no, I’m not a listener)… It suddenly hit me that there was a B I G concert today. I had a vague recollection of seeing Kenny Chesney’s name in the paper that week. Bet it’s him, I thought.

I called my pal, who still sat hopelessly in the bowels of the tunnel. I told her the sad news while she watched the other, non-concert-bound lane move past her, and we made the revised decision to hit the South Side instead. North, South, who cares? They both have trails now, and on Saturday, only one neighborhood featured a bunch of sweaty, scantily clad people drinking heavily and singing along to a country crooner.

(On a side note, I’m biting my tongue here because I could easily write an entire column on the hideous nature of many concert-attendee outfits. I saw far too much flesh that should not be revealed in the light of day. I saw cute ensembles that had to be 2 sizes too small for the unfortunate people wearing them. I saw sizeable portions of female rears peeking out, and enough cleavage to swallow a small town, and orange-peel skin gone wild. I won’t go on—there’s no need—but much of what was exposed in those hot, sunny lots was darned unpretty. Sadly, no one there was peddling any shame.)

So, on I drove, south this time, crossing two more bridges and finding my slow but steady way to the new meeting place. A-ha! A parallel parking place, with time left on the meter—I snagged it, slapped sunscreen on my pasty arms and legs, and scurried to meet the friend. We hit a restroom (always a must after 45 minutes of car time) and then found trail access and got moving. It’s a decent trail, albeit a tad hard to follow at times and poorly marked; we talked and visited and stepped out of the way of the hundreds of mad bikers speeding past us like the slow-moving scum we were. After what seemed like a mile, we surmised we were close to the busy part of Carson Street. Hey, let’s leave the trail for a bit, hit Carson, and get a water. What a great idea!

We came up right by Bruegger’s, and popped in to accomplish our simple task. Not so simple, apparently. Three people were in front of us in line to pay; they were together, had their order on the counter, and the front one, the only fellow among them (I use the term loosely), was throwing a hissy fit right there. Yes, I mean hissy fit. I was more masculine than this guy. He and his two older female companions were dark-skinned, probably Hispanic; as his voice rose, his accent became more pronounced.

“I am going to make a scene and be rude as s*** because he threw a pickle at me!” This spoken in the petulant manner of a wronged man-child. “I’m not paying for this sandwich because I didn’t want the pickle and he put it on there anyway!”

Now the manager (a.k.a. alleged pickle-thrower) stepped up to the cash register and stood next to the girl who was cashing folks out. “I'm the manager, and you cannot use foul language here! That is unacceptable and you need to leave the store! Please leave here right now.” What made the whole exchange so comical was the fact that as effeminate as the tantrum boy was, the poor store manager was every bit as much so. One was dark and street-wise; the other was slight and fair and, at this point, absolutely indignant at the behavior exhibited by the Mexican thug.

“You need to apologize to me for throwing the pickle!”

“I did not throw a pickle at you! You’re crazy!”

As they continued to shout at each other with increasing emotion, the other folks in the store looked around in disbelief, and my friend and I looked at each other, stifling laughter at the absurdity and wondering silently if we should take our water search elsewhere. The cashier had stood without comment next to the manager, but now she motioned for us to step forward while the argument went on. There we stood, paying for a bottle of water while the crazy border family stood right next to us. It was an awkward moment; I could sense the acute embarrassment of the two women. Finally, as the girl made change for us, the ladies turned and left the store, minus their sandwiches and their spoiled girly man. We followed them shortly, and as we exited, the crazy Mexican guy tried to coerce us into involvement in the bedlam. “He just admitted he threw the pickle. Did anyone hear him admit that?”

I could feel him looking at us as we passed, and I said, “No.”

He began to rant again, and the thought crossed my mind that perhaps he was unhinged or armed or something, but by then I was reaching for the door handle and we were stepping into the bright, logical sun. As we made our way back toward the trail, we started to talk about the ridiculous scene we’d witnessed, but my observant friend hushed me when she saw we were walking right past the two women who’d fled the place in shame. There they stood, waiting at the car, avoiding our gazes just as we avoided theirs.

Yet the beautiful day took away our need to rehash the silliness. We talked briefly about how thankful we were that we don’t have that kind of anger, what a shame it is that young, green people end up in management positions and have to deal with such moments, and—most of all—how amazing it is that God loves everyone. And then, we were back on the trail and moving on to better, more productive topics of conversation.

You see how multifaceted this city is? Where else could you get stuck in a huge city traffic jam but be surrounded by people wearing ten-gallon hats, micro-minis and boots? Where else could you park in front of BCBG Maxazaria, then practically get knocked to the ground by people zipping along on bikes in outdoor gear? Where else could you walk past picnics and filch blackberries from wild bushes while gazing across the river at giant coal barges, expensive sport boats, and jet skis? And where else could you step in to buy a bottle of water and instead experience the drama of witnessing two flamboyant young men shout at and threaten each other over what may or may not have been a thrown pickle?

Quite a day, all in all. And the weather was wonderful—thankfully, it was only stormy in that bagel shop.


chris h. said...

Hmmmm, my "Kenny Chesney" story is from Friday night -- we were having our usuals at our local bar when a group of girls left their corner table carrying a large cooler. As they left, they told the guys playing pool, "We're going to Kenny Chesney." This was at 10:00 the night before! I have no idea if they were stocking the cooler for the next day, planning to go right then, or what. (It's the only way I knew Kenny Chesney was playing here...I'm so out of the loop.)

Mel said...

I live out of the loop. I like it there most of the time. I hope those girls weren't heading to his hotel to be groupies!