Friday, October 16, 2009


Of all the sagely advice my mom handed down to me over the years, there's one that I've always tried my best to ignore:

"NOTHING GOOD EVER HAPPENS AFTER MIDNIGHT," she'd say to me. Twenty years later, I'm starting to suspect she was right.

As many of you know, I DJ on the weekends at a dance club in the District until the wee hours of the morning. 3 a.m. usually finds me trying to make an uneventful way home with tinnitus and tired toes. That's where we join this story last Friday night -- well, technically Saturday morning. Normally I head straight home, but my tummy was rumbly from a half-hearted dinner and I decided to swing by a 24-hour gas station.

I'm not a big junk food kinda guy. I eat bad enough as is without the added calories of a pantry full of chips and candy. So I bypassed the junky snacks and went straight for the junky meal: one of those bland little breakfast biscuits. But as I stood there with biscuit in hand surveying the gas station cuisine, I heard the voices of ALL my friends, yelling at me in unison that I never have anything to snack on in my apartment.

So I decided then and there, with fresh DJ cash in my pocket, that it was time to stock up on some public munchies. Bag of chips? Sure. Sugary candy? Heck yeah. Salsa? Mui bien! Cheese balls? Sign me up. Couple of donuts? And how. (And, okay, the donuts WERE for me.)

So, imagine if you will, your heroic columnist waddling up to the counter with two armfuls of pure food hedonism, looking like a refugee from "The Illustrated Guide to Binge-Eating 101." As I stood there like Richard Simmons' evil arch-nemesis, I was half-embarassed yet half-proud of my combination weight-lifting/balancing act. In front of me, a woman was wrapping up her purchase... or so I thought.

Instead she was one of THOSE people. You know, the folks who go to a gas station as more of a social outing. And this woman wasn't buying a single thing. No, it was just chatty hour with the clerk. I stood there as she told the clerk what a handsome man he was, and how he shouldn't worry because he'd find the right girl one day.

So I'm standing there bemused at the situation and feeling bad for this kid, who's showing remarkable patience listening to this lady lecture him on romance. But it doesn't stop. She doesn't shut up and she doesn't move. And after a while, I can now verify by experience, donuts start to get heavy. So I try the polite "ahem" cough. The not-so-polite hacking cough. The foot shuffle. The exasperated sigh. By this time, I've lost feeling in three of my Pringle- balancing fingers. I've gone from amused to impatient to downright annoyed. Finally she acknowledges my existence.

"Oh, I bet you want me to move..."

"Gee," I said, "Ya think?"

As she steps back, I attempt to sidle up to the counter while figuring out how to gracefully dump my items using those portions of my arms still maintaining bloodflow. That's when it happened.

The woman stepped behind me, began SCRATCHING MY BACK, leaned into my face with creepy deathbreath, and said the words that every man never dreams of:


How does one respond to this? I can now answer that question. One takes a shimmy forward/side step, twists one's ankle, drops one's donuts to the ground, shivers, and basically recoils in horror. It's a dancestep I like to call the Cootie Shuffle.

"WHOA, lady," I said, recalling the childhood molestation mantra, "Hands off! I'm special! Plus I'm not Jeff."

For a moment, I thought she might apologize and become embarassed. Perhaps she mistook me for Jeff, her long-lost love. After all, I am a pretty hunky dude. Maybe she thought I was NASCAR great Jeff Gordon or mistook my comedic stylings for Jeff Foxworthy or my brute machismo for Survivor host Jeff Probst. Nnnnope.

"Oh," she said. "You look like a Jeff. Or maybe a Scott."

I have never reached into a wallet, paid a bill, and left a gas station faster in my whole life. There aren't enough w's in the world to clearly express my level of "ewwwwwww." I went home, took a much-needed shower, and immediately changed my Facebook status to the tale of my near-molestation.

The next morning, I had a breakfast date with the girlfriend, but, as is my way, slept right through it. So when she let herself into my place and woke me with a whispery "Are you gonna moan for me, Jeff?" I almost started crying.

All day long we laughed at what's now officially become the Creepiest Moment Of My Life, but maybe I was wrong to make non-stop fun. That night, I found myself back at that gas station and thankfully Miss Cootie was off presumably harassing potential Jeffs elsewhere.

"Whew," I said to the clerk, "your new friend isn't here tonight."

"Who?" he said, astonished.

"You remember? The 'moan for me' lady?"

"Oh," he said nonchalantly. "She was nice."

"Are you kidding me?" I said. "People thought Ted Bundy was nice, too. I bet Chuck Manson was a personable guy 'til 'Helter Skelter' came on the radio. She was creepy."

"I politely disagree." he said. and I ended up getting schooled.

"She was nice. She may have been a little weird, but she wanted to know me as a person. She didn't judge and she treated me like a human being and not some retail slave. I like her."

So the moral of the story? Don't be mean to gas station cashiers. Or don't judge people. Or be nice to strangers. Or maybe it's be nice to strangers but not SO nice that you scratch their back and call them random names because that's still pretty stinkin' creepy. Or maybe... heck, I dunno. If you figure it out, let me know. Ask for Jeff. Or maybe Scott.

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