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A Heinous Crime

Baby wanted a bagel. What baby wants; baby gets.

On Friday night, a random commercial popped up while Mrs. Large Man and I were watching ‘All About Eve’, an enjoyable old classic with Bette Davis. In this random commercial there was a random couple getting ready to chow down on some freshly toasted bagels. Mrs. Large Man exclaimed, “Mmmm…that looks good!”

I replied, “Daddy will get up early tomorrow and go to Panera and get you a fresh bagel.”

To which she squealed, “Yesssssss!” Maybe it wasn’t a squeal, but it was clearly an emotionally charged, positive response.

Hey man, I know it was gonna be a Saturday and all, but like Socrates said, “Happy wife; happy life”. Right?

So, I set my alarm for 10:00 with plans to get out early on a Saturday and buy “Baby” a fresh, plain bagel. (She likes plain or sourdough, Panera rarely has sourdough).

Saturday morning arrives. Teeth brushed & flossed. Canine fed and relieved. Jeep Cherokee fired up and rolling. Baby is gonna be happy!

And then this happened…

I pull into the left turn lane in front of Panera, and a white Toyota Corolla with Pennsylvania tags jumps in front of me and turns in ahead of me. Discourteous. A little unsafe. But it’s Saturday, it’s 3 degrees outside, Carlos Santana’s guitar is screaming about this frustrating love they both have for a ‘Black Magic Woman’, and this 62-year-old Large Man just ain’t in the mood for conflict.

Life is too short, right? We are all God’s children, and I chose to treat him as such. Whatever this guy’s hurry is about, I’m quite sure it is not about me. I made a choice not to wave finger gestures, I made a choice not to blow my horn, I made a conscious and definitive choice…not to get angry.

Interestingly though, despite his frantic and unsafe driving, we both parked at the same time, walked to the front door at about the same time, and I actually opened the door for the non-driving, rude, butthead, jerkface, child of God. Why not?
If we lead with love, then love will surely follow. (TLM)

I hop in line; Corolla goes straight to the coffee dispensers. I see that there are still plenty of plain bagels, a few sesame seed bagels, and just a handful of people in line in front of me…this is working out great. AND…I believe it’s working out great because I chose love, patience, understanding and tolerance over hate, impatience, and frustration…I am SO growing as a human being!! If I had only understood the importance of these principles when I was raising my children, or coaching youth league sports (so, your children too), I know this world would be a better place today.

Kindness, tolerance, and humanity…actually, grace. I’m feeling these things as I stand in line and I look back over at the coffee kiosk or whatever the hell you call it, and I smile as I watch Corolla fill up his very Large stainless-steel thermos. I notice that he’s filling up with French Roast, which seems a bit prissy to me for such an aggressive driver, but hey, I don’t really know about coffee, and… I’m still all about grace, love, tolerance, right? I just smile. Then he tops it off with some vanilla creamer, and he walks out the door.

French roast with vanilla creamerreally dainty… I think to myself as he walks out the door. I’m next in line and I drop the thoughts of Corolla for a moment and I start thinking about a palette cleansing pastry to follow up my dark toasted sesame seed bagel, and then it hits me:

Corolla got out of his car, opened up his thermos jug, dumped the contents on the sidewalk, I got to the door first…OPENED the door for him…he goes to the coffee stand (or whatever the hell you call it), pours what I can only assume is at least 20 ounces of French Roast with a floater of vanilla cream, and then…

WALKS OUT THE DOOR! THE MAN STEALS THE DAINTY COFFEE! HE’S A CRIMINAL, AND HE HAS COMMITTED THIS HEINOUS CRIME RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME!! AND WORSE, HE DOES IT WHILE I’M BEING….

…I don’t know, do you guys remember what I was thinking and saying? I know it had something to do with, “kindness and tolerance”, or “love and understanding”, I think here was some grace sprinkled in there too. It was some stupid shit that I didn’t really mean, basically patting myself on the back for not giving an asshole driver the finger because he was being an asshole driver, and now he is also a hardened, thieving, criminal.

“I can help who’s next!”, says the enthusiastic bagel boy behind the counter.

What do I do? I look out the window and I see Corolla opening his car door, and I’m trusting that he’s there because he left his wallet in the car and he’s grabbing it to come back in and pay for his coffee or swipe his Coffee Club card. No. He gets in the car, and he drives away.

He puts his (approximately) 6’ 2”, 200 lb. frame, wearing a white Pittsburgh Pirates baseball cap, gray sweatpants and a white quarter-zip pullover, into his white Corolla with Pennsylvania tags…I remembered all the “particulars” in case the police question me, or I have to be part of manhunt, or a posse, or a well-regulated militia, or something.

So Corolla drives away with at least a $2.79 jug of coffee, and my belief in humanity…both of which he didn’t pay for. I step up to the counter, and I think about how I will report this heinous crime to the enthusiastic bagel boy, and it hits me like a ton of bricks (or a ton of pastry, whatever) …Am I an accessory to the crime? I opened the door. I watched him pour. I silently judged and belittled his flavor choices. I watched him leave. I said nothing…was my silence a crime as well?

Understandably so, my bagel boy had become a little impatient and had some questions of his own. His spoken words asked, “Do you know what you would like, sir? Can I help you?”

His eyes and his body language asked, “Do you really not have your order ready? Haven’t you been in line for like 10 minutes? Do you know the menu is the same as it always is? Do you know I’m only making like 8 bucks an hour? Why are you wasting everyone’s time? Did you just stand there like an idiot and watch that guy steal $2.79 worth of coffee? Do you contribute anything to society?

“Sir?”, he beckoned again.

“Oh! I’m sorry, young man. I lost my train of thought. Do yourself a favor, buddy, don’t get old!” I replied with a nervous chuckle as I snapped out of my trance.

In the interest of time and the bigger concerns of commerce, I kept the crime to myself. I moved on. Shamefully.

I placed my order. The baked goods were packaged with great care. Baby got her bagel. Corolla got away with his crime…and I will live with the shame and disappointment of not speaking up or taking action for the rest of my life…or at least until Tuesday.


And that’s what happened on Saturday morning, the 23rd day of 2022. Thanks for helping me unburden my soul. Thanks ALWAYS for reading!

TLM

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So, this dude I was talking to today inspired me to write a ‘Chronicle’ for the first time in months. For the sake of this entry into the LMC, let’s just call him Andy. This dude and I became friends in 2003 or 4. Then, in 2008, he became my boss. Then, I left his employ, and he became my vendor. Then, I left that job, and we became colleagues. But throughout this journey, we have mostly just been great friends. Now that I manage a sales team of my own, I spend a lot of time apologizing to my friend about my prima donna behavior in the 10 years that I worked for him. None of that has anything to do with what I’m going to write about, and it probably will be scratched in editing, but this is how I warm up. (Hey wait!! It made it!)

It’s the Christmas season, of course, and everything I love about this particular holiday season is all around me. My babies are home; my little Alex Rae brought home her new cat, and while I’ve joked all my life about the atrocities and insignificance of the domestic feline species, Petey is an awesome, chill, little dude, and he makes my daughter so happy that I can’t take it! I LOVE this cat! I (obviously) love having Alex home too. She is the fire, the energy, & the heart of our family home.

My son, Jack, is home as well; a kinder, more gentle soul, you will never meet. Packaged in a giant, 6ft 9inch body, Jack is the “peacekeeper” of our home…not through intimidation though, simply through his own brand of “chill”. If he was into drugs at all, and if I liked The Grateful Dead at all, he’s the kind of chill dude that I would love to sit down with at a Dead concert, spark up a doob and just hang out and take it all in.**

 **(The Large Man does not advocate the recreational use of illegal drugs or the listening to the music of The Grateful Dead at any time. It’s called a “metaphor”, look it up!)

Fathers & daughters, mothers & sons, our total family unit under one roof is the only gift I really need…this year, or any year. I love that part of Christmas, and I know the dozen or so of you reading this love it too.

But, back to my inspiration…

My friend Andy touched on a subject today, and his words struck me like a bolt of lightning, straight to the nuts, while standing in the middle of a swimming pool…”I do everything online now. It kinda dampens the Christmas spirit.”

(When lightning strikes you in the nuts while you stand in a swimming pool, the shock is more intense, and it lingers on an average of about :30 more seconds than simply being struck by lightning in the middle of a field or on a Ferris Wheel. You can look that up too)

My friend’s words froze me in my tracks. It was as revalationary (not revolutionary) as when Kramer first learned about Festivus on Seinfeld. But Andy’s comment was not meant to be funny, he was talking about how he missed the hustle and bustle of actually going to stores and shopping malls, with people and decorations and fistfights over parking spaces.

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style.

In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas.

Yup…I miss it too. Christmas simply isn’t in the air at dubya dubya dubya . amazon .LL Bean .Eddie Baur .Macy’s etc. It’s really convenient, and technically speaking, you can get everything you need for Christmas on your Google machine now, but Christmas isn’t technical. Christmas isn’t experienced via www dot ANYTHING!!  Christmas is about spirit, and Spirit, and Santa Claus, and Holy Mangers, and tinsel and vibrant reds and calming greens and brilliant whites and Elves and ribbons & bows. You ain’t gonna get that online.

AND…this lightning strike to my testicles shot from the words of my slow witted friend is my line in the sand! NO MORE! (Sub-note….this isn’t just a side effect of the pandemic, I’ve been a victim of online convenience for the last 5 or 6 years)

NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!MOOOOOORE!!!!!!! I have to change my Christmas shopping habits & style & strategy.

Some of the most pleasant memories of my youth, and even more so, my young adult life, are from fighting the crowds while Christmas shopping. In my younger days, “The Mayhem Years“, as I fondly call them… my buddy DJ and I, usually did our Christmas shopping for the first time of the season on Christmas Eve – and it was awesome!

There was this one time… DJ shattered a Shakespeare Ugly Stik fishing rod while demonstrating it’s (supposed) flexibility. About the time we finished laughing about the destroyed fishing rod, we watched an old man trip over nothing. My stomach hurt for 3 days from laughing so hard!! And, before you readers get all “judgy”, we did stop laughing long enough to tell mall security that there was a dude on the floor in front of Penny’s with head trauma and a possible subdural hematoma. Yes, we were laughing at someone’s misfortune, but we were responsible about it. We heard later that the man who fell recovered, and then went on to invent oat milk. So that shot to the noggin and the hearty laughter of two buddies could be responsible for much relief to lactose intolerant people all over the world. Whether all that really happened or not, who’s to say…still, it was all in good fun, and the joy of that Christmas shopping experience and those beautiful, laughter filled moments have lived with me forever. You can’t get that online…you just cant!

I want that again! I want that for my children. I want that for all of us.


Next year, I’m going to a shopping mall, and I’m taking my kids with me. I’m making my wife go too. We’re going to pay cash at cash registers and we’re going to say, “To you as well!” after the hard-working retail clerks say, “Thank you, and Merry Christmas to you.” We’re gonna get Cinnabons and Orange Juliuses and Chick-fil-a and those pretzel thingys. We’re going to pay people to wrap our gifts. It will be like Christmas in the 70s without having to drive my Chevy Nova.

And…AND…next year, the whole family will be of legal drinking age, so when we’re done shopping and snacking and eating, and watching people fall or break things, we will go to a bar in the mall and we will have a vibrant red, or calming green, or brilliant white cocktail to celebrate the joy of the season and the commerce that it creates!! (And all the Holy stuff too, just sayin’)

And you guys are invited!!

Merry Christmas & Big Love from La casa del Hombre Grande

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Restraint

I don’t know where I lost that switch. The switch that gets flipped when I get mad or get threatened…the button that gets pushed when I get pushed.

It wasn’t a normal Sunday. It was kind of a sad and lonely Sunday.

On the Saturday before, my wife and I picked up her mother at the Burn Unit at West Penn Hospital. My wife’s mother (my mother-in-law), who I affectionately refer to as Mrs. Lupner, had been residing there for the previous 4 weeks. The poor girl had a cooking accident and burned herself badly. We are lucky Mrs. Lupner is still with us.

Maybe, subconsciously, I was considering how lucky “we” were, and that’s why the switch didn’t flip. Maybe, but that’s not like me.

As a family, we decided my wife was going to be the major caregiver for her mom while she recovered at home for the next several weeks.  I was kinda bummed about that situation, as I like having my wife home to do all the things I hate to do…mostly cooking, lawn care, snow removal, linen laundry, shaving my back, dog maintenance, grocery shopping…I could go on, but you get the gist. She’s also really funny and a joy to be around…she is what you would call, “good company”.

Bummer, yes, but I was also very proud. While my wife was certainly going to be doing all the so called “heavy lifting”, it was going to take a team effort from our entire family to make it work. …and nobody questioned it for a second. Mrs. Large Man was going to stay with Mrs. Lupner until she could get back on her feet, and that was that. The Large Man family unit was proud to do it.


So, feeling lucky, feeling proud, feelings of goodness, may have been residing deep in the cracks & crevasses of my hypothalamus when I was attacked, but they were certainly not in the front and center of my thoughts when it happened. I don’t know what I was thinking; I was probably just thinking about groceries.


I like grocery stores on the weekend, Mrs. Large Man doesn’t. Grocery stores at 10:00 on a Saturday morning, Walmart on Black Friday, and convenience store gas stations when there is a BOGO sale on Slim Jims are awesome! I find the bedlam exhilarating, and I always have.

Now that I’m more of an internet shopper, I really miss going to shopping malls at Christmas time. I have always loved the hustle and bustle of a shopping crowd. It’s great people watching drama; fist fights over parking spaces, two sets of hands belonging to two different people grabbing the last Cabbage Patch doll on the shelf, and the violence and hysteria that ensues. All the unruliness is the true magic of the Christmas season. My Christmas joy is watching people who celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior and the peace that His Holy Presence brings by beating the shit out of each other so their child can have the last Play Station XXVII (or whatever one they’re on now). When there is one toy left, and there are 3 Christmas shoppers looking at it, I guarantee you NONE of the 3 potential purchasers are thinking, “WWJD?” Joy.

***

So, I pop into the grocery store on this chilly Sunday afternoon with no inkling of trepidation. I grab a couple of steaks, some tots, and a bag of salad – the salad is just for looks. My wife ain’t home, there’s no way my son and I are eating salad on “steak night”. But if I buy a bag of Very Veggie, I can feel good about the effort. I check out, load the bags in my truck, and take the cart back to the parking lot cart corral. I will often launch my cart into the cart corral chute from a small distance as kind of a target competition with myself. I probably do this because my mom smoked and drank when she was pregnant with me, but nevertheless, it gives me joy. On this particular day, this particular shot, was right down the centerperfect shot. This is important because of what I’m going to tell you in the next paragraph.

I leave the cart corral very pleased with myself, and head back to my truck, as I’m walking I cross paths with a smallish man with and even smaller young boy accompanying him, as they are walking towards the store. The man was dressed head to toe in green tone camouflage clothing, and the young boy in sweatpants and a plain white short sleeved tee-shirt.

“Right down the middle of the street, huh?”, the man sort of barked at me as we passed each other.

I assumed he was talking about my excellent grocery cart shot, so I smiled and nodded.

“F-ing asshole!” he growled as he continued walking.

Except he didn’t really say “F-ing”, but I’m giving a concerted effort to stop using the F word in my Large Man Chronicles, I’ve been told by people whom I respect that I say, “Fuck” way too much. Shit! I did it again! Damnit!

I digress…

Anyway, the guy calls me an “f-ing a-hole” in front of a small child, and it kinda stops me in my tracks.

I reply, quite startled, “Excuse me, sir, what? Is there a problem?”

“Yeah there’s a f-ing problem, you f-ing a-hole, piece of s#!t! I’m driving through the parking lot looking for a place to park and you’re pushing your empty cart back right down the middle of the f-ing lane and I gotta wait for you like the whole f-ing world revolves around  you.”

Then I said, “Huh?”

Then he started walking quickly back towards me and yelled really loud so that other people in the lot could hear, “You’re a fucking asshole!”.

Which, by the way, could be accurate, but there is no way he could make that determination in the short time we had known each other. We had only exchanged a few words, and he did most of the talking.

As he hurled the last insult, he was walking toward me at a brisk pace. I put my hand up and said, “Don’t come any closer, sir. You are not wearing a mask, and I’m feeling a little threatened here.”

“Why would you walk down the middle of the street with a f-ing grocery cart?” He barked this time in the form of a question.

“I didn’t see you, sir. I guess I just wasn’t paying attention. I’m sorry”, I answered.

Wait, what? Where was my button? Hostile, angry words accompanied by aggressive posturing and body language, all directed at me…by someone half my size, I might add. Nothing. I apologized?

Was it the presence of the small child? Was it surprise? Was it fear? Was it the fact that my friend, Steve, (who I easily outweigh by 60 or 70 pounds) threw me around like a rag doll a couple of years ago, while horsing around on a “male bonding” golf trip, thus causing me to question my own testosterone fueled feelings of invincibility?

Was it maturity?

My follow up comment probably rules out maturity. I asked, “Did it occur to you that maybe I couldn’t see you because of all that fancy camouflage you’re wearing?”

Then he said, “Huh?”

This wasn’t exactly a battle of wits between two titans of intellect.

I looked my extremely aggressive verbal assailant in the eyes, I smiled, and I said, “Again sir, I’m sorry. My mind must have been wandering. I wasn’t paying attention.”

He threw his hands in the air, shook his head ruefully at me, then turned around and walked away towards the store. That should have been the end. My restraint and perhaps fear, maybe the memory of getting my ass whipped by an IT guy (for the record, a very young, strong and athletic IT guy…Steve, from the aforementioned golf trip), or perhaps my maturity, looked like it had diffused the situation. But if that had been the case, it would hardly be worthy of a Large Man post. 😊

As camo man and his young (and seemingly unaffected by it all) son walked to the store, and I walked to my truck, one of a handful of casually observing innocent bystanders said to me from a smoke filled pickup truck cab, “You are a real gentleman, my friend. I would have knocked him right on his f-ing ass, right in front of his kid.” For a Sunday, people were sure using the f word a lot.

Well, as luck would have it, camo man heard this, turned around, hustled back to the spot of our original confrontation and invited the commentator to, “…step out of [his] truck and give it a try!”

A few more words were exchanged, I doubt that these two guys knew anything about each other’s mothers, but they mentioned mothers and sons and body parts extensively in their exchange.

Now that I’m no longer a player in the ruckus, and just an observer, I take on the role of “peacekeeper”.

I walk back to the general vicinity and I speak:

“Guys, guys, guys. Come on guys. There’s a little kid here. This is all ridiculous. This language, this hostility, c’mon guys! I said I was sorry, let’s just leave it be.”

My speech was brilliant, thought provoking, and immediately effective. Camo man said, “Fuck you!” as he erected his middle finger in the direction of the smoke-filled truck. Smokey the Pickup man told Camo, “You’re a dick. You’re lucky this guy didn’t kick your ass”. 

Camo and son walk away. I never saw them again. Smokey looked at me, smiled, and shook his head. Confrontation over.

Full disclosure, Smokey offered up my ass kicking services without really understanding my ass kicking abilities. I’m a 61-year-old, out of shape, diabetic, husband, father, and salesman. I’m a watcher of movies, a writer of stories, an amateur beer sommelier, a singer of songs, admirer of women who dance for money, and an eater of steaks, tacos, pepperoni pizza, and things that require Large amounts of butter. Most of my “active time” is spent sitting down. I’m pretty sure I’m not in the “ass kicking” phase of my life now, but as a man, it was nice to know someone still believed in me.

I went home and shared the story with my son. He was appalled but told me he was proud of me for showing such restraint because he has seen “the switch” get flipped, he knows the ugliness of my post switch condition. Later that night I had a phone call with my wife, shared the story (with only a few embellishments so she would miss me more), SHE was also appalled and told me how proud she was that I could show all this restraint, maturity and calm in such a volatile situation. The next day I shared the story with my daughter; and SHE was appalled as well…but for a different reason. She called me a “little bitch” for backing down. But still, 2 out of three ain’t bad.


Restraint, calm, maturity…The Large Man…rarely in my history have these words been gathered together in a single sentence. I’m proud of myself too. I know a guy who looks a lot like me, who only a few years ago would have reacted so differently. The switch would have flipped, and idiocy would have followed…just for the sake of idiocy.

I may be growing up. What a crazy thought.

Thanks for reading…until next time, be sweet, Big Love…TLM


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