Friday, October 9, 2015

Icky Old Men

Icky Old Men

We are about to meet Judy and Ruth Ann — two hawt gurlz who work the same shift serving drive-through ice cream. They are not sexay chix, but are both perky and kind of pretty. This may have been an unspoken qualification for their being hired. They neither knew nor cared.

They have never given any deliberate thought to the perks of being pretty. The blessed ease of acquitting their lives comes with the same presumption of privilege as being free, white and 21, which they will be in a few years, as well. On the other hand, they are well-acquainted with the burdens of their pulchritude.

People look at pretty girls. People stare at pretty girls — especially boys do. It’s usually kind of nice to be looked at by boys — especially the kind of young men who exude virility and strut their masculinity like a mating Greater Sage-grouse. The attention feels nice enough to move you to join into this self-reinforcing behavior by wearing pretty-damn-attractive outfits, holding and moving yourself with more than a hint of competitive pride, and, you know, being preternaturally perky.
Come to think of it, that may also have put them into final consideration while being interviewed. But we shall never know, they shall never care, and it is of no further consequence.

Nonetheless, the point is that pretty girls often resent being looked at by people to whom they are not attracted. That is to say, dorks, fatties, uglyies, ewwws and, especially, older men — to not put too fine a point on it. Being watched by really old men is especially icky and ewww-worthy, which is the point we are about to address here. But first, let me suggest that being pretty inherently carries the natural and unavoidable consequence of being watched. And, acting so as to emphasize your most attractive attributes is just asking for attention.

Realizing that this is becoming politically incorrect and a seriously slippery slope, let’s just get on with the story. I can assure you that none of the dismal things you were beginning to become anxious about occur here, and you don’t need to go getting all in a tizzy about it. Okay, here we are now, back at Judy and Ruth Ann’s ice cream job.

The service window provides a bird’s eye view (pun intended) of people and the interiors of their cars. Our pair (pun not intended) entertain themselves by commenting to each other about the world that passes just slightly beyond their small portal. They see all kinds of people in all kinds of vehicles at their drive-thru. They take their window of opportunity (pun intended again) to take delight in inventing the wittiest observations, concupiscent comments, and captious criticisms. [It’s okay if you pause a moment to look them up. I got carried away with a little lilting alliteration.]

Judy and Ruth Ann have not only invented, but are indiscriminately indulging in a voyeur’s game. They think nothing of looking at their customers and, not only impinging on their privacy, but exploiting them for comedic comment, callous critique, and covert commemoration. Put that way, we would have to recognize that our gurlz are being revolting, rapacious, and reprehensible. Perhaps there is some karmic justice at work here. [But, if you will excuse me for my devolving detour, this is also of no consequence.]

Judy and Ruth Ann have developed a particular attitude toward old men and have perfected a stereotype of “Ickyest Old Nasty Man Ever,” or I-ON-ME, which they pronounce as “eye on me.” And so, they began a game. The gurl who served the ickiest old man during each shift, got to demand a dollar from the other gurl. They would say in unison, “Think ewww!” and giggle. And, when serving such a specimen of icky old man, instead of enunciating a proper “thank you,” they would indulge themselves in the subtle insult of the homophone, “Think ewww.”

We will take a few examples. Their next I-ON-ME was by himself in a decrepit beige Buick. The wisps of his thin comb-over fluttered in the breeze that whipped around the corner of the store. A thin and dirty tee almost covered the bulge of his stomach — almost except for the greasy mark where it rubbed the steering wheel. His piggy eyes widened slightly as Judy leaned out the window to deliver his confection. The corners of his mouth tightened into thin creases that Judy was sure would turn into a lecherous grin as he drove away.

Another I-ON-ME drove up with his wife, an unadorned hag who elbowed him in the ribs when his eyes followed Ruth Ann for too long as she sashayed back to the machine to draw their cones. Judy, watching from the back, saw the outlines of the minor altercation. “Ouch, that’s going to leave a mark,” she thought, followed by, “But he had it coming.” Of course, she took the opportunity to fill Ruth Ann in on the juicy details. They both hooted in unison, “Think ewww.” And, so it went through yet another tedious day.

Judy and Ruth Ann had identified their prime personification of the classic I-ON-ME. This old man came by every couple of weeks and he was the creepiest of them all. He had a streak of crinkled white scar tissue across his head that ran from above his left eyebrow in an arc over his forehead to just behind his left ear. He was creepier than creepy. He was ickier than icky. He was, by mutual consent, their actual “ickiest old nasty man ever.”

And, he came by that day. The old man placed his order, let Judy drop the change into the tip jar, and took a few napkins from the dispenser while he waited. When his chocolate-dipped medium twist was presented, he accepted the cone and, this time, allowed his finger to twitch, gently brushing one of Judy’s fingers. He could see her wince and they both recoiled from the transaction more quickly than usual.

Besides the fact that old men were icky by definition, this old man was, like, over the top. Judy couldn’t stand to look at him. As she drew her offended digit back, she looked away, down and to the left as she offered her obligatory departing salutation, laced with a hint of beleaguered, dismissive contempt: “Think yeeuwww.” She hastily closed her window, a defense against further offense, and turned to tell her story to Ruth Ann and collect the dollar that was hers by rights on this day.

His name is John and he lives in his car, being homeless and veritably destitute. John has, actually, been staring at Judy with a particular intensity. As the girls had begun to notice, he has been coming by twice a month with the explicit purpose of looking at this girl. John had formed the habit shortly after he discovered where she went on weekday evenings after school. He came back twice a month to spend a few precious dollars of his disposable income to indulge in serial attempts to cop a look at her.

John knew quite a lot about Judy. He knew where she lived and where she went to school. He knew that she had wanted to go to university and that she had been accepted at the state school, but failed to win a scholarship. He knew that she now intended, instead, to work part time while seeking a degree in cosmetology at the community college. But, contrary to what you may be thinking, John was not your common, run-of-the-mill creep.

John had been a real, live, honest-to-god, rocket scientist. He was once employed by a contractor that was part of the NASA Apollo moon program. Unfortunately, he had been seriously injured in a rocket engine test when he stepped out from behind his bunker prematurely. A piece of loose debris hit him in the head, producing a grievous wound. An estimated twenty percent of his brain swelled out of his skull and had to simply be scraped away and discarded by his surgeon.

He had required two years of hospitalization and intensive rehabilitation therapy before being transferred to a nursing home. In that time, he was beset by the realization of an appalling string of losses. He had all but lost his life. He lost his job. He had lost contact with (to say nothing of most memory of) his friends and family. His beloved wife, three months pregnant at the time of the accident, divorced him shortly before the child was born. He had to re-learn how to walk and talk and even how to feed himself.

Once transferred to a nursing home, his occasional programs of occupational therapy continued. John had, by nature, an indomitable spirit and the consuming ambition that a top engineer commits to his projects. He worked hard to participate in, and succeed in, his rehabilitation. And, eventually, he was able to take care of himself well enough to move into his own small apartment. He received a small monthly pension annuity, paid on the first day of the month, from his former employer. He also got a similarly-small disability payment, paid on the second Wednesday of the month, from the Federal Government. His state of residence also provided a loose assortment of support services. It was enough.

Still, as the years wore on, John discovered that the mental strain of maintaining a home, with its financial and social demands, was too much of a burden. He began living out of his car and became an officially-homeless, but psychically-unburdened, and certifiably-icky old man. He was happy enough… and, he had a project to live for. By this time, a granddaughter had been born and her name was Judy.

Judy looked back at Sarah and demanded her dollar right now. The ickiest old man’s finger had just touched hers. She was going to go wash it and take a break while her shattered nerves settled back down.

John had been putting a little money aside, on a regular basis. Not having to pay utilities or maintain subscriptions to Reader’s Digest had its benefits. He was satisfied to live a simple life. He had discovered places to do the things he enjoyed — a little reading at the library, a little drive out to the park, a little dumpster diving behind his favorite stores, restaurants and markets.

John finished his ice cream and smiled, licking sweetness from his mustache and flipping crumbs from his beard. Today, John was celebrating the culmination of years of planning and patient execution. He had just come from his lawyers’ office. His insurance policy had been in place for three years. The fiduciary arrangements of his estate were in order. His grand-daughter, Judy, was ready to get on with her life. The ickiest old man was ready to go have his fatal accident.

David Satterlee