Picnic In The Park

Free Candy VanI could have been a victim. I could have been traumatized if I let my guard down and chose to eat some, delicious pizza. Thankfully, my mother discussed with me the importance of ‘stranger danger’. The matter I am about to discuss isn’t a laughing matter and should be a warning to children or perhaps mentally challenged adults around the world. But since I take nothing seriously and try my best to make light of difficult situations, I find much humor in the past ordeal I unwittingly took part in.

This story takes place many years before the ‘helicopter story‘ I had just begun working at my job. It is the same job I have this day. My hair is no longer swooshy. I no longer take naps in closets. I was just a kid. I was still wet behind the ears. I was not aware of the sinister people lurking behind the bushes in the park. To me, the world was a great place. It was Disney-esque.

I’ve been writing ever since I can remember. It’s a hobby. I would write all the time. I would sit on break at work, eating my lunch and scribbling on paper or napkins. It was basically whatever I had on hand, I would write something. Some stories never saw the light of day. Others were just ideas I would jot down to remind myself of some prolific idea that could become something grand. One day, while writing on break, a customer tapped my on the shoulder. I will not reveal his real name but I graciously dubbed him, Norman Bates. Like the famed movie character, he had a devotion to his mother that was creepy. Maybe a little borderline, Oedipus Complex. Each morning when he arrived at the store for a meal, he would park his shady van under the protection of a giant tree. The van was white, beat up. Today, with the knowledge I have about the evilness of people, the van resembled something like the photo above.

Norman would park the van and make his way to the back doors. Opening them up, he removed two planks from inside the van and made a make shift ramp. He crawls in the van and pulls out his mother who was disabled and in a wheelchair. Not being a jackass of a son, he kept his mother from moving around like a ball in a pinball machine by latching the chair to the seats in front with a set of bungee cords. At least I knew he cared deeply for his mom. He unlatches her, he drove her down the planks and wheeled her inside. Once inside, he would order his meal. I work with food and when someone takes orders for a meal, it’s all about shorthand. You don’t spend hours writing out the full order, you shorten each word. Norman had to have worked in the food industry. I say that because of how the man would order his meal. Oddly enough, I knew what he meant.

For the longest time, I thought his mother was dead. I really had my mind-set that he would wheel in his dead mother, and using strings, he would make his deceased mother move like a marionette. While he ate he would pull a set of strings to make her look alive. Her arms would dance about, moving up to her mouth to feed herself. Most of the oatmeal would end up on her shirt or on the table. The dead don’t need to eat unless they’re a zombie and that’s a whole different story for another day.

I would spend my mornings clearing off tables. He would chat with me. I felt no reason to seek help or call for an adult. I chatted with many of the people out there. I chatted with the recovering alcoholic who smoked a lot. I chatted with the former smoker who is an alcoholic. I chatted with the big breasted woman who sold houses. I spoke with Gay Bob. I wouldn’t chat with the meanest old man ever. He would just yell at you and demand the world to bow down and kiss his feet. Legend has it, he once worked for the American government. There, he help create bombs that helped with wars and kill countless civilians. Gay Bob tried his hardest to win the old bomb maker over and get in his will. Poor Bob never did get in the will and I bet he never got in the man’s pants either.

I talked to many people in the morning. I was never worried about the consequences that could arise if I actually took Norman up on his offer. Maybe my idea of taking nothing seriously would be different today. I will never know. I can’t go back in time. Never knew a Doc Brown. Norman would read his paper and attend to his mother. I should have been tipped off that she was still alive with her body moving freely about. Rigor mortis wasn’t present. But I am sure when he was around me, there was some part of his body that a rigor mortis type of thing was going on somewhere in his nether region.

To get myself back on track… While I was enjoying my lunch and writing, Norman Bates tapped me on my shoulder. We exchanged ‘hellos’. He stood there and smiled. He had sex offender written all over him. I should have known then and there what kind of person I was talking to. He did sport some nifty rapist glasses. He asked me what I was doing. “Just writing.” I said to him. He smiled and asked what. “Just a story.” He was jubilant. He shared the same passion as me. He too was a writer. It is nice to know other people who write. It’s nice to know that what I do for fun and other people find to be a waste of time, others feel the same as I do. Writing is not a career. Writing is just something I do to release stress and put my warped imagination down on paper. Maybe I’ll never get published. Maybe my stories are just for me and a few select people to read. No matter. It’s what I do and will never stop.

From that moment on, it was all him and I talked about. He would offer advice with writing. With customers, it’s nice to find some common connection between you and them. My mother had a ‘son she always wanted’ that worked at her favorite dining establishment. They would talk about books and movies that I found dull and boring. Sorry, mom. But he isn’t your son. Try as you might, but Luke will never take my place. I’m one in a million. Once it set in, she knew she will never get to adopt him. Instead of that, she did help him out with buying his first house. As much as she tipped him, you’d think he would have to never work again.

I had a customer I would talk with every morning about movies. It was every Saturday morning. We would see a movie on Friday (not together) and come Saturday morning, we would discuss it. With Norman Bates, it was all about writing. I shouldn’t put people down for their stories. I am not too concerned if someone said my story sucked or it was a waste of time to write. As long as I like it, that’s all that matters. Norman did let me read some story/screenplay he wrote. Being such a long time, I can hardly remember what it was all about. I do recall something about balloons and a war going on. Artsy film kind of stuff. Not my cup of tea. Adding to my book of little white lies, I told him “it was good. I didn’t want to crush his spirit. I didn’t want to tell him his story will never make it to the Sundance Film Festival. But it sucked. I didn’t like it.

Jumping forward. I was at work one morning, cleaning tables and delivery food. We met at the counter. He stopped me. He looked at me. He looked me up and down. A small, drizzle of saliva oozed from the corner of his mouth. He wiped it off, almost seductively. “I was thinking…”. He paused. I stood there. It was the moment before the world of puppies and rainbows shattered. It was the moment before I was to be witnessed to my first request of a date. It was the moment where I was standing at a crossroad and had to decide which road I will take. It was the moment I was aware of how sick people truly were.It was the moment I first used the expression, “stranger danger”.

I was thinking that maybe you and I can talk about writing.” I know we talk about writing every so often. I already read your balloon story. What does he have in mind? What more could he possibly want to talk about?  Maybe you and I should meet up at the park and talk about your stories. We can share ideas and critique each others work. I can buy us a pizza. What do you say? Just you and me.”  Did he just say that? Is he hoping that I will succumb to his seductive treats and offerings? I like pizza but not that much. That’s just creepy. Let’s look at all the facts,

  • creepy, rapist glasses
  • you still live with your mom (maybe not true, but I bet it is)
  • you drive a large, white van (non DC Sniper)
  • you want to “talk” alone together
  • the park
  • no adults around

I don’t think this is going to work. Look, Norman.  You’re a nice guy. I just don’t think this is working out. It’s not you. It’s me. I bet there is someone else out there for you. I hope you understand. I just don’t think were meant to be together. It was a tough break up but I think he took it okay. I just couldn’t take the chance of what could have taken place. There is no telling what his real intentions were. It could have been just that. A simple meeting between two people. Just two creative people getting together to talk about their stories. Or, it could have went way worse. It could have been a story made for Dateline. I could have met Chris Hansen. I would have had to point to an area on a rag doll when a lawyer asks me, show us where he touched you.I would be a victim to the lure of free, deep dish pizza but would have received much, much more. I would have gotten something deep dished inside of me.

This is a lesson to other people out there. Don’t fall victim to the offering of free pizza. Don’t be coaxed into a trap of epic proportion. I was smart to decline his invitation. Other people may not be so lucky. Warn your children about the horrors that hide in plain sight. They may seem normal. They may offer treats that no child would decline. They are our neighbors. They are the people we see on the street. They are clones of Norman Bates. If you ever have that funny feeling inside you, it’s a sign. Don’t walk the plank into a van. Don’t let the perpetrator buckle you in with a set of bungee cords. If you find yourself in any of the said situations, be forewarned. There is no pizza. There is only the scars you’ll be carrying with you forever. The emptiness of trusting people. I could be taking the whole meeting up invite out of context. But if really did just want to talk, I do think about it everyday. I lose sleep often wondering, ‘what kind of pizza did he get?’

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I like food. I like the smell of cinnamon.

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