The viability of a third party candidate
It was a Wednesday night. I was alone, it was a hot night. I was bored off my ass. I had been watching broadcast television, drinking tequila straight from the bottle, and eating chocolate chips out of the bag I kept in the freezer for just such an occasion. At first, I had improvised the tequila/chips combo in a moment of somatic desperation - something, anything to alter the equation of days-long maximum-difficulty Civilization 2 campaigns in my high-security cubicle, so carefully chosen for its single avenue of approach, the autopilot drive home, the "President's Choice" frozen pizza, the unrelenting tropic noise of my window air conditioners, and broadcast television. The Tq/C combo was so good, I had actually bought more tequila and chips, I kept the freezer stocked. It was Raleigh, North Carolina in the summer. I had covered the windows with aluminum foil in and effort to keep the apartment from being heated into a hotter-than-two-rats-fucking-in-a-wool-sock cockroach incubator. I would jump rope with a weighed rope set during commercials, 2 1/2 minutes at a pop. Sometimes, I would hear a noise, and hope that maybe it was somebody breaking into the house. I would run the "Intruder in the House!" drill - sprint to the closet for my pump 12 guage. Then it was time to creep around the house, clearing each room. Nobody ever did me the favor of breaking in, so I'd jump up onto my bed and manually cycle the gun until I had emptied the magazine. This kicked off the "speed load" game. How fast could I get the shells back into the gun? Quick! Reload, White - they're coming in the windows! When dropping by, by friends would always loudly announce their arrival, "Hey! Igloo! Sandy here - don't shoot, ha ha?"
I was losing my fucking mind. I had become the guy with aluminum foil on his windows.
I had to get out. I had to make myself leave the house. The problem was that I had come to hate Raleigh so much that the sight of it made me crazy and desperate. Maybe that was the real motivation behind my window foil job. My left brain threw out the idea that the foil, being highly reflective, would drastically cut the solar heating of the apartment. In hindsight, though, the left brain, gullible geek that it is, was sold a bill of goods by the right. The right brain just wanted to stop the massive influx of Raleigh radiation, a high energy shower of particles that looked like "cosmic rays" drawn by Jack Kirby, a potentially lethal radiation that induced ennui and self-loathing. That window foil was a denial of geography. With the foil on the windows, I could pretend I was in some kind of low rent space station, an earthbound Mir or a biodome, jumping rope to maintain my bone density.
I had to get out. Make a game out of it. Collect all the pocket change in the apartment, then decide where you can eat with the proceeds, within walking distance.
$3.27. That really narrowed it down - The McDonalds at Cameron Village.
I put on a shirt and shoes and walked up to the McDonald's. I hate McDonald's. I had loved it as a kid, but I had come to hate it as an adult. It was the banal totalitarian tyrant of the American palate. It was a nutritional Auschwitz. For the ethnic foods of the world, it was the culinary equivalent of having the USS Nimitz show up off your coast and commence the bombing of your airports and munitions dumps into rubble. But a game is a game, and the rules are there to make the game a challenge. So it was time to walk to McDonald's see what kind of dinner you can get for $3.27
Up the street in the intense humidity. Across Hillsborough Street. Down through the beautiful homes built at the turn of the century. People were inside, eating dinner, in the air conditioning. The silver haired Spanish professor with the worst faux "european" accent I've ever heard, quietly reading a book in his big stuffed chair. The pretty young mother with long auburn hair, walking over an extra helping of string beans for the kids. The crazy old guy with his obese beagle. I found out the guy was an Eagle Scout when his dog got loose and I walked him home. We had become Eagle Scouts 50 years apart - 1936 and 1986.
Into the McDonald's. The air conditioning was so powerful that I was instantly chilled. There was a young black gal and a roly-poly little white guy behind the counter. The white guy was running the register and the black gal was filing her nails, leaning her hip up against the counter.
"Burp and piss! Shit and fart. Burp and piss and shit and fart. Burp and piss and shit and fart!" It was the white guy. He kind of sing-songed it, clicking out the words with a kind of syncopated beat.
"Ronald, you better cut it out! There's a customer in the dining area!"
I was standing maybe 5 feet from her. She didn't look up, just kind of waved her nail file in my direction.
"It's my song! You love my song!" Roly-poly looked up. "Welcome to McDonald's, Cameron Village! Can I take your order?"
"Yeah, I'd like the Big Mac meal, with a Dr. Pepper?"
"Your total comes to $3.25."
"Don't do the song Ronald. You'd best not do it now!"
"Burp and piss and shit and fart! Burp and piss and shit and fart!"
Now the song had a dance, a kind of James Brown sidestep. Ronald was hustling all over the back, scooping the fries, taking the burger off the rack. His undirected obloquy continued unabated, until...
"Welcome to McDonalds, can I take you order?" It was Ronald, drive-thru Ronald. "Two 12 piece chicken mcnuggets, two large cokes. Your total comes to five thirty six. Drive around please." He was wearing a wireless headset. He was still putting my order together.
"Burp and piss and shit and fart! Burp and piss and Welcome to McDonald's can I take your order? A super sized quarter pounder with cheese meal. Your total comes to four 15 drive around please. Burp and piss and shit and fart! Burp and piss and shit and fart! Here you go sir, enjoy your meal."
I stood there and watched him take three more orders, over the headset, while he prepared the food. Zirconia stood there and filed her nails. This guy could take the multiple orders, give back the correct price with tax, put the food together, run the front and the drive-through, all in his head, all while singing his fucked up little song and doing his crazy little dance. I realized that I may be looking at the only McDonald's idiot savant in existence, and his name was Ronald.
"Ronald, you so crazy! You as crazy as the day is long! What about the customers Ronald? What about them?"
Around the corner in the dining area was a wild haired older white guy. He had thick aviator frame eyeglasses, and his mad scientist fro was held in partial check by a red white, and blue terrycloth sweatband. He was wearing cut-off jean shorts and penny-loafers without socks. He was holed up in the far back corner, hammering away on a beat-assed old Toshiba laptop big enough I imagined it being powered by factory reconditioned lead acid motorcycle batteries. On the back of the display, where I could see it, was a bumper sticker. It read "ROSS PEROT FOR PRESIDENT."
In the table across the aisle were three black kids - boys in their early teen years. They were giggling to themselves.
Mumbling to himself, Laptop Perot picked up his Big Mac. In unison, the three boys mimicked picking up invisible Big Macs.
Laptop hurls down his burger and growls. Three invisible burgers are hurled down and the boys growl.
"If you hooligans had been properly educated, you would know better than to stare. I have critical work to do here." LP waves an angry finger.
The Alpha boy waves an angry finger back.
"Erea hr munph, craiterg keern holdb dirked winder blerg!" It is the white nonsense sound of empty authority.
"Manager! Manager! The city code guarantees a civil dining environment and these street hoodlums are engaged in verbal assault."
Zirconia looks up from her nails, one thousand samurai sword layers of lacquer.
"Sir, the manager is in the back. She can't hear you." She vaguely indicated "the back" with a wave of her nail file.
Seemingly flummoxed by this monad of indifference, Laptop turned to Ronald.
"Burp and piss and shit and fart! AND FART AND FART AND FART!"
Laptop Perot walked back to his table, muttering. Suddenly, he stopped as if he had just run into an invisible wall discarded by a thoughtless mime. He shuttered, he clutched at his throat.
"I'm being gassed! I demand humane treatment! MANAGER! MANAGER!"
An overweight dishwater blonde in her 40's entered the dining area through the "combination lock" door. She was wearing a McDonald's uniform, and had the look of a reheated den mother.
"Sir? Are you alright? Was something wrong with your meal?"
A lanky black boy with a mop and caster bucket rolled out of the men's bathroom. "Miz Johnson? Is everything ok out here?" The kid looked nervously towards Perot.
"It's OK Dequan. Everything is ok here, right sir?"
"There are toxic concentrations of chemicals back here! OSHA regulates the safe concentrations of those chemicals. Has this high-schooler received hazmat training? AH GOD! MY EYES - MY PRECIOUS EYES ARE BURNING!"
"Please, sir? You have to leave the store now, please sir? You have to leave now, please sir!"
"Miz Johnson? Is everything ok? I mixed the bucket just like I always do. I'd didn't change nothing..."
"It's OK Dequan. It's OK."
"Because I can go back..."
"DEQUAN! Go back to mopping the women's room!"
"Yes ma'am. I'm going."
Laptop Perot had jammed all his stuff into a rolling bag, a ratted out air commuter bag, and slammed out of the McDonald's, swatting at the air around him. He loaded his bag into his rusting wood-decaled Chevrolet Caprice station wagon.
Overlooking the parking lot was a parking deck for the nearby professional building. From the top of the deck, two stories up, the three black boys poked their heads over the bounding wall. Together they shouted, waving their fingers in scolding.
"EREA HR MUNPH! CRAITERG KEERN HOLDB DIRKED WINDER BLERG!"
"Damn you miscreants! The authorities will deal with you! Deal harshly!"
The boys began throwing stuff down. Empty plastic bottles, gravel. Now whole handfuls of garbage and gravel.
"GOD NO! STREET VIOLENCE!"
The old man viciously cranked the wagon, and the heavy V-8 blasted ring rattling blue smoke. The automatic transmission's clutch plate rang like a church bell, and the beater laid track out of the parking lot, pulling a swaying Hollywood exit across 5 lanes of blacktop, blue smoke roaring from its rear.
The boys laughed. I laughed.
I really had to get out more often.
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3
the viablity The myth Ten
of a of Thousand
third regeneration Singing
party through Tomorrows
candidate violence ...