A thirty-ish man has become a new regular over the last couple of weeks in my favorite neighborhood café. I wish I could say I welcomed him, but truthfully he’s a hard guy to get used to. First off, his voice is always much louder than it needs to be. He likes to say hello to people, so I hear his voice a lot. I’m sure everyone else does, too.
He always wears his uniform when he comes into the café. He works for a well-known fast food chain that I’ve dubbed “the evil empire.” I don’t like their food, their ad campaigns, or their influence on our culture. And, I don’t trust them. I’m disappointed when I’ve learned that my kids have eaten there. So it’s just one more strike against this loud fellow that he work in their store, the one a couple of doors down from my favorite cafe.
A few days ago, I almost said something to him. He sat at a table pretty close to mine, and he started using his tabletop as a drum set. He was apparently channeling Buddy Rich, or Micky Dolenz, or Ringo Starr. A couple minutes after the table-pounding started I stopped what I was doing to watch him. Within about fifteen seconds my annoyance with him softened. He had given himself over to his drumming so completely that he may not even have known that he was out in public.
When he finished, he took out his cell phone and placed a call. Call me a jerk (maybe you’re right!), but I eavesdropped. The call was to his dad. I won’t go into the details here, but I realized beyond the shadow of a doubt that this loud-mouthed café drummer wrestles with some significant intellectual challenges.
I pictured him at work. I realized that his manager and co-workers probably struggle with him the same way I do. They make sacrifices so this man can have a job, and experience a sense of pride and belonging. Then, I remembered that his company, the one I’ve dubbed the “evil empire,” actually has created some awesome programs for kids who have developmental challenges.
I still turn off their obnoxious ads when I hear them on the radio. I still don’t want my kids eating their food. But I’m going to come up with a way to fit them into my thought universe in a positive way. And to come up with a different nickname for them.