Las Vegas has hardened me. If someone that I meet tells me a helpful hint, I automatically think, “Now, what’s in it for them…? Why are they trying to save me a dollar fifty on produce?” It’s not that I have been duped. In fact, I have not. But I find myself (as a general rule, mostly while I drive through the less-desirous parts of town) whispering under my breath, “We’re not in Idaho anymore. We’re not in Idaho anymore.”, simply as a reminder to stay off the 5:00 news. Depending on the degree of creepiness of my current location, I am tempted to repeat it three times and discreetly click my heels.
Monday morning did nothing to dissolve my fears. After picking Ethan up from Preschool, I decided that it was high time we got started on his Valentines. I had the tags and tins, all I needed was the candy. I decided that since it was not yet lunchtime, I would make a “quick” stop at Smith’s and pick up some red and pink M&M’s.
Arriving at Smith’s we stop, as usual, in the breezeway to grab a cart. This time, there was a new addition to the water-softener salt display; an old, shabby-looking man was perched atop the nearest bag. I gave him the slight, courteous, obligatory smile and moved to grab a cart.
“Do you like breakfast?” asks the old man. It seems he thought that my smile opened our relationship for conversation.
“Uh, I’m sorry, what? Sloan, wrong foot. Give me your other foot.” Trying desperately to move quickly, though I know that my situation will only make my children move slower.
“Do you like breakfast?”
“Um, yes, I do. Sloan, look at what you’re doing. Put your foot in here.”
“Do you like FREE breakfast?”
That was cryptic. My mind is reeling. What do I say? Thinking that this man is going to soon offer an invitation to a free breakfast in his company:
“Oh, well, who doesn’t? Sadly, we’ve already had breakfast.” Pointing to the two and four-year-old witnesses. “Ethan, on the count of three, jump. One, two…”
“Oh, well, Denny’s is giving out free breakfast. Just thought I would let you know. Take the kids, it’s really good. I…” he trailed off, mumbling incoherently.
Oh! Now I know what’s going on! This poor man received a free breakfast from a good Samaritan at Denny’s and is trying to spread the love. I turn, finally feeling at ease, to thank the man for the tip and wash away my guilt at thinking that he was homicidal.
He was no longer looking at me but instead had his head bent low, as his clicked his dentures out of his mouth, into his waiting hand. I quickly move the cart toward the entrance, before Ethan can notice that he is able to examine his teeth from an outsider’s perspective, and say something embarrassing. (We have not yet had the opportunity to cover the existence of dental prostheses.)
“We’ll have to keep that in mind, thank you for the tip. Have a nice day.”
Last night, I get around to telling Josh all about my new friend, laughing at my own stupid conclusions. At least I was able to figure out that the man was really just mistaken and confused instead of scary.
“Denny’s?” asked Josh after I was finished laughing.
“Yeah. I haven’t even seen a Denny’s around here. Funny, eh?”
“They were giving out free breakfast at Denny's on Tuesday. All the guys at school were talking about it. I guess it was a really great deal…”
“Oh.” I said quietly, the smile fading from my face and the flush of embarrassment rising in my cheeks. “I stand corrected.”