(names that have been changed for security reasons have been changed again for no reason)
In Jalalabad, Afghanistan, we had boarded our two MH-60 Black Hawks and set off for the short ride to Abbottabad. I looked to my left. Jeff, with whom I had gone through BUD/S, nodded a familiar nod. It was part “here we go again”, part “this might be the last time we see each other.” I scanned the rest of SEAL Team 6, and tried to repress a sigh as I locked eyes with the last-minute addition to our team, Joe Biden. None of us were happy about this. From a mission standpoint, it was a potential disaster, but the social aspect I would come to learn would rival hell week. We weren’t expecting him, but he showed up 5 minutes before we left and pulled rank on everybody.
“I’m the Vice Commander-in-Chief, guys. You can call me VC. Just kidding! That sounds like I’m Viet Cong, and I ain’t no gook, man!” he had shouted jubilantly upon his arrival.
On the Black Hawk, Biden interpreted our eye contact as my wanting to hear him talk, which he did. During my training I carried a 160-pound man on my back for 3 miles with a collapsed lung, but what my special operations training hadn’t taught me is that when you make eye contact with Joe Biden, you have about .2 seconds to look the other way before you are locked in a one-way conversation about everything in his field of vision.
“These helmets are pretty, rad, man. I can’t wait to get this son of a bitch. You got some Mexican in your blood, son? You look kinda like Carlos, my lawn guy. Are we in Pakistan, yet? This isn’t my first time in this shithole, guys. Get this: Not one 7-11 in the whole damn place. Ironic, right? The food here can give you the squirts if your bellies aren’t used to it, but we’re not here to dine. We’re here to shine.” I figured he rehearsed that one for weeks.
He had tried to pal around with us back in Virginia Beach while we did two weeks of practice raids on a full-size mock-up of Bin Laden’s compound. He kept telling us that he played football in high school and how he had wanted to enlist and go to Vietnam, but his asthma kept him out. “Damn 1-Y Army classification,” he would say no less than a dozen times during the mission. “I’m not going to let that stop me this time. I’m the VP. That doesn’t mean vagina pounder, boys, that means Vice President of the United Fucking States. Let’s get these gooks.”
No one had the time, effort, or desire to tell him he was using the wrong ethnic slur. Perhaps if he hadn’t had six draft deferments during the Vietnam War he would have gotten it right. I think Tim Yakuza, our Japanese-American medic, had to stitch his own tongue from biting it so hard.
It seemed like an eternity before we approached the compound, and Biden just...Would. Not. Stop.
These words are for your children and your children's children. I was finishing off my $200 Whole Foods gift certificate splurge (lasted 2 weekends!), and the late 20-something cashier, whose beard clearly had a college education, put the frozen shrimp on top of the bananas in the grocery bag (this not a euphemism). Vexed am I when this transgression occurs, and I cannot sit idly by, especially... when I have the rare privilege of acquiring a premium-priced Whole Foods banana, which uses white people in the supply chain.
Me: "You know frozen stuff bruises bananas, right?"
He, defensively: "I didn't want to smash the vegetable rolls."
Now, I could have responded to his “I couldn’t have kicked your dog because I was busy knifing your cat" defense, but this was not a confrontation. I just didn’t want my bananas to be chrisbrowned.
A little about me, your internet neighbor kid. I’ve worked many customer service jobs--as a teenager, in my 20s, in my 30s. We all have, we all do. Important to this less-than-worthwhile use of words is that I worked at grocery stores for 4 years. In fact, my first job was bagging groceries and taking them to people's cars (wearing a tie, Wisconsin winters, no tips, uphill both ways, etc.) Some of my internet neighbors here did the same. We had to have off-the-floor training prior to ever touching a customer's groceries (again, not a euphemism). We were timed. Although plastic killed the paper-bagging star, there was (and still is) technique. Your attention span here is limited, so here are the absolute basics: (1) Don't squash stuff. (2) Don't make it too heavy. (3) Don't put bananas with frozen stuff.
Although the third might not be intuitive like the first two, I'll assume life experience, or your grandmother, has taught this to many of you. However, this well-kept gentleputz’s repeal of bananacare is not the bone that I pick; it is said reaction to mentioned situation. And this is the reason for which my mental fountain pen leaks this day. I have the same reaction to bad customer service as I do for lactose. I can take it, but sometimes it causes a stink. The correct response by this Wholeass would be “I didn’t know that. Sorry. Thanks!" or “Oops, sorry!” Clearly I must have been talking down to him and I have no idea that he and his beard are only between jobs before he gets his master’s degree in Pitchfork history. But I also know that he'll never put the bananas next to frozen food again, because he craves knowledge of insignificant things. Like the fact that frozen stuff bruises bananas.
Note: These words are not for your children's children's children, for they shall have no frozen food items in the encampments.
Comedian Paul Thomas’s satiric mind emerged from the pandemic unbowed, leading to Intimate and Appropriate, an incisive collection of scenes steeped in the selfie-righteousness of a country that has lost its mind. With grounded characters and the logic of an ancient Midwestern philosopher, Thomas delicately stomps through the “mine” field of identity, language, and recycle bins, putting a hall of mirrors up to a narcisstocracy that kinda seems to wanna offend itself.
OCTOBER 18-21 8PM
The Den Theatre
1331 N. Milwaukee Ave.
(Wicker Park) Chicago