Just a Little Small Talk at The Cafe

I’ve worked from home and co-parented with my wife for two years now. Neither of us has a job outside the house. We’re Little House on The Prairie without wood to chop, bears to kill, witches to burn, and I suppose there’s no prairie, and, well, we don’t have daughters. Clearly, I didn’t watch that show. My point is this: we’re home almost all the time with our boys, and though I’m up in my office for much of the day, it feels very different from taking the train into Manhattan for work. Mentally, I’m always here. I go for days without talking to anyone but my family. As idyllic as Little House on the Prairie seemed (to my wife), it’s a close cousin to The Shining.

There are a few places in my town where I can go to work, and they’re always smattered with the same people. I’ve named most of them based on their hair and computers. There’s ” Toupee ThinkPad Guy”, “Way too much gel MacBook lady”, and “Creepy black-haired staring into the middle distance dude”. When I try to acknowledge them with a nod or smile, as if to say “Hey, we both come here at the same time!”, they stare right through me. Either I’m in a movie and haven’t figured out that I’m dead yet, or they’re zombies. Or, maybe I don’t know how to be around people anymore, and I’m a weirdo. Let’s go with option #3, especially considering that my default facial expression has been described as having a “What the hell do you want?” vibe.

Since I’m out of practice, I have a tendency to say awkward things to people in order to strike up casual conversation. Recently, I did it while getting my haircut (which you can read about here …) and a few days ago, it happened again with the cook at my local cafe. I like the food there — specifically the breakfast burrito (because I’m CLASSY). Before I continue, let me be clear: I’ve come to this cafe at least 50 times and have never spoken to anyone but my server, and even then, rarely beyond the social contract of ordering food and drink. But on this specific day, I’d received some good news and had two espressos, so daddy was ready for some small-talkin’.When I stood at the counter to pay my bill, I yelled back at the cook, “Hey man, where do you get your eggs? They’re so good! Seriously, they’re like the best eggs I’ve ever had.” He and the cashier froze and stared at me, as if considering whether I’d taken Extacy.

When someone you’ve never witnessed show any excitement over anything suddenly gets inappropriately fired-up about eggs, there are probably drugs involved. Here’s how the cashier and cook at the cafe have experienced me over the past six months:

Silence

Silence

Silence

Silence

Silence

I LOVE YOUR EGGS! OH MY GOD YOUR EGGS!

It’s no wonder they were confused. After taking a moment to process my new identity, they looked at each other, shared a small chuckle, and the cashier responded, “Dude, I have no idea. Mexico, maybe?” He had carefully considered my enthusiastic question, thought it was odd, and decided to tell me that the eggs — those very eggs about which I had expressed a jarring amount of exuberance — came from Mexico.

Look, there’s nothing wrong with eggs from Mexico — if you’re in Mexico. I don’t know a ton about eggs, but I’m fairly sure they don’t travel well. So while I was expecting the answer to be, “A local farm,” and instead heard “Mexico”, I laughed. And they stared at me. Not in a mean way; they’re really nice guys, but at that moment they didn’t realize that saying their eggs came from Mexico was like claiming they got a haircut in Atlantis.

They probably also weren’t aware that there’s an egg shortage in Mexico due to H1N1 contamination. Here’s that headline from August 24th 2012: Mexico facing an egg shortage due to bird flu. Or maybe they did know that, and were totally f’ing with me. Either way, somehow I’m convinced I’ve contracted the bird flu.

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