I don't know if this entry will go anywhere. Besides my drafts folder, I mean. Where it could sit until the end of time. This is just something I caught myself wondering about the other day.
I've mentioned before that my best friend growing up was Eric, and that Eric's parents own Polly's Freeze. I've also mentioned that my mom worked there, as did my aunt. I grew up 200 yards from the place. So it was maybe like a fourth home for me. After my own home, then my grandmother's, then Eric's, there was Polly's.
I remember back when we were kids. Eric and I would be walking or riding our bikes down some random road, and we'd come across a discarded plastic serving tray from Polly's. Sometimes we'd find these trays miles away from where they were supposed to be. Which was in the Please return trays here - Thanks bins scattered over the Polly's compound. We'd find them miles away because people are lazy and inconsiderate assholes.
Heh, I think it's funny that I used the word compound there.
So we'd come across these discarded trays, and Eric would invariably stop and pick it up so he could take it back to Polly's. "These things cost money," he'd always say. And I'd always think he was a dork, because it's impossible to look cool carrying an empty tray along the road. It was nearly impossible to look cool being around somebody who was carrying empty trays along the road, but I think I managed it okay.
Okay, now fast-forward thirty years or so.
I go to Polly's now, ostensibly as an adult. A lot has, of course, changed. But not enough to make the place any less of a pleasure. I order the same stuff that I used to order, except that milkshakes don't agree with me as much as they used to, so I get a Diet Coke sometimes with my double cheeseburger and fries. I try to sit at the table from which Eric and I would sit and look for pretty girls. Eric's parents are still there running the place. My mom and my aunt are long gone. The girls are still cute, but now they're all jailbait to me, and I find myself wondering what their mothers look like. And every now and then there'll be a dude working the counter. And that's just plain wrong.
Wrong, I tell you! Like a milkshake poured by a guy will taste anywhere near as sweet as one poured by a cute girl.
But I digress.
When I get my food at Polly's, the drink never comes with a lid. I always ask for one, because I'll be driving with my drink and I don't want to spill it. My food always comes with exactly one napkin. I always ask for an extra one, because I'm a slob. My food always comes with maybe a teaspoon of ketchup. I always ask for more ketchup, because I like ketchup with my fries.
The other day I had a late lunch at Polly's, and I asked for all three of these things. This special treatment, if you will. And for some reason I was reminded of Eric, carrying plastic trays along the road like a dork, simply because these things cost money.
And I got to thinking. Lids cost money. Napkins cost money. Ketchup costs money.
When I was a kid, I always used to think that Eric's family was rich. They certainly had more money than my own family ever did. But as I think about it now, I think that it was more just the fact that they got all of their money from Polly's Freeze during the six months each year they were open. Then all Winter they'd live on what they'd saved.
Not a bad gig, if you can get it, but they were not rich by any means. They worked hard for what they had, as did everyone. I'm sure they watched their spending even more than a lot of families did, because they always knew that they'd have to make their money last through the Winters.
So they wanted those trays returned.
And now, I have to wonder about that lid, and that extra napkin, and that extra ketchup. Those things don't cost me any extra, but they cost Eric's parents. By asking for those extra things, I'm essentially taking money from them.
By bringing those trays back to Polly's, Eric helped to pay for his own college education. By asking for a lid and an extra napkin and ketchup, I'm probably taking away from his inheritance. Now, because of my clumsy and slovenly and gluttonous ways, I'm probably denying his kids, and his sister's kids, and his brother's daughter, I'm probably denying them all the chance to live fulfilled lives. So, instead of being all they can be, they'll probably end up living in cardboard boxes in alleys, fighting rats for scraps of food.