The Untimely Death of Common Sense

Please be gentle with our columnist this week. He’s a bit overburdened with the weight of his position as the great observer of the human condition.


"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." - Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Some people just don’t get it! Or, they just don’t care. It’s possible that I may be overstating the facts in my title. It may be that common sense isn’t really dead at all – but it’s definitely on life support, fighting for its life.  

I’m worried. I’m starting to think I emit some sort of cosmic vibe that attracts strange people and bizarre situations. Or it could be that my powers of accurate observation have been honed so well over the years that I’m incapable of missing even the slightest, underlying nuance in the behavior of those with whom I come in contact.  

Could it be that this skill that I had heretofore considered a gift is actually a curse? Am I destined to spend the rest of my life dissecting, examining and evaluating each encounter I have with another human being? Is that my fate?  

Apparently so! Hey, it’s who I am, so let’s roll with it. 

George Bernard Shaw, a fervent observer of the society of his day said, “The secret to success is to offend the greatest number of people.”  I’m hoping old George is correct, because if he is; I’m on a fast track to fame and fortune.  

Do you think this is easy? Do you think I like it when the little voice in my head whispers, “Hey, this guy is a Looney Tune. He’ll make great copy for your column.”  

It’s always about the column! Everything in my life has been reduced to whether someone or something is column-worthy. I’m obsessed! I can’t even have a conversation with my three-year old grandson without thinking of it as a possible source of new material.  

I’m so ashamed! I never chose this. It was never my idea. Honest! But, since this seems to be my destiny; let’s take a look at my most recent journey to Bizzaro World.  

My wife, Berta, and I were on our way home from dropping off our grandson, Ethan, in West Bridgewater last Friday night. Let me clarify. We didn’t just ‘drop him off’ in West Bridgewater. We didn’t ‘dump’ him there. He lives there. Honest!  

Okay, good. I’m glad we cleared that up. As I started to tell you, Berta and I had eaten a late lunch at McMenamy's Hamburgers so we weren’t very hungry, although I felt like I needed a little something. Come to think of it, I was kind of hungry; well, very hungry actually. Okay, I was starving! But Berta wasn’t very hungry. She just wanted some chili or something like that. 

We decided we’d make a quick stop at a fast food restaurant that’s part of a chain whose name shall remain anonymous for reasons that will become painfully evident by the time I finish my story, and for other reasons that my friend, Karen McSherry, has explained could land me in court. Seeing that I have no interest in being sued for libel; I’d say anonymity is the way to go.  

Berta and I entered the restaurant and stood there for a few minutes examining the menu, letting a couple of other customers go ahead of us in line. The gentleman behind the register, who appeared to be the manager, was rather chunky. I guess you could say he was big-boned. He was a husky guy, you know. Okay, he was very large. Oh, let’s face it; this guy was huge!  

Anyway, this guy was sweating profusely, which seemed strange because this was at about seven-thirty on Friday evening and it was very chilly outside, much like a mid-fall evening. 

While we were standing there, this guy kept yelling something to one of the other workers, a young lady who was in the back making fries. She kept telling this guy that she couldn’t hear him until he suddenly became visibly irritated and screamed about as loud as a guy can scream, “I need you to cover the register because I have to go to the bathroom.” 

I won’t attempt to speak for you, but where I come from this definitely comes under the heading of TMI – too much information! Berta and I looked at one another, turned and headed out the door as fast as our legs would carry us, though not nearly as fast as the manager ran to the bathroom 

“Who does that?” I asked as we walked to our car. “Who screams out, ‘I have to go to the bathroom,’ in the middle of a crowded restaurant while they’re waiting on a customer?” 

“Yeah, that’s pretty disgusting,” Berta replied. “He must have really had to go. Maybe that’s why he was sweating so much.” I laughed so hard I thought I was going to get sick. Berta comes up with a winner every now and then. 

We jumped in the car and pulled out of the parking lot. “Where do you want to go?” I asked. 

“How about Maguire's?” Berta suggested. 

“Too crowded at this hour,” I replied. “And you said you weren’t that hungry.” 

“True,” she said. “Frank’s in Brockton?” 

“That sounds good,” I replied, and off we went toward Brockton. When we arrived at Frank’s there were no parking spaces and there was a long line going out the door. I’d never seen it so crowded. 

I asked Berta if she wanted to try another fast food restaurant that was just around the corner and she agreed. This restaurant is part of the same fast food chain as the place we had stopped previously and, though we’d had issues with its sister restaurant earlier in the evening; I figured there was probably little chance we’d again encounter a large, incontinent guy sweating all over the register, so we decided we’d give it a shot. 

We arrived at our destination, pulled in to the parking lot, jumped out of the car and walked across the lot to the restaurant’s entrance. I grabbed the door and opened it for Berta. Yes, some guys still do that, but that’s for another column. Actually, I believe I’ve already written that one. 

Back to the story. The door was filthy! I’m not talking about ‘dirty’. It was filthy! Disgusting! Gross! The glass was so thick with crud I could barely see inside the restaurant. I won’t describe what I think was all over the glass, but let’s just say that, aside from a boatload of sticky fingerprints; it looked as though someone had either sneezed all over the door or had blown their nose on it. I’ll spare you any further detail. I’m sure that was graphic enough to give you a pretty clear picture. 

I had let go of the door handle so I wouldn’t get any of the ‘mystery-muck’ on me, but for some reason, perhaps because by this time I was mentally frail from lack of nourishment; I risked life and limb and grabbed that nasty door handle and pulled the door open ever so gingerly. I have no idea what I was thinking. I can’t believe I touched that door again, but I did. Thankfully, to this point I haven’t had any symptoms of being infected by flesh eating bacteria. 

Sadly, the interior of the restaurant made the doors look sparkling clean in comparison. The floors were covered with food, straw wrappers and various other unidentifiable bits and pieces of debris and the tables were sticky and littered with cups, food wrappers and the like. Nice! 

As we had done just a half hour earlier, Berta and I looked at one another, turned and headed out the door. “I don’t believe this,” I said, climbing in to the car again, still hungry and feeling very dirty. 

“How about Bickford’s?” Berta asked guardedly. 

“Sure,” I replied. “Why not?” About five minutes and several ounces of Purell® Hand Sanitizer later; we arrived at Bickford’s. By this time I could have eaten the - Well, never mind what I could have eaten. I’m sure I’ve grossed you out enough already. Let’s just say I was very hungry. 

You’re undoubtedly thinking there’s another horror story coming, aren’t you? Some sordid tale about tainted food, a grungy waitress, a hair of unknown origin in my sandwich or a decomposing rodent on the floor. 

Nope! Nothing like that. The restaurant was spotless, the food was excellent and our waitress couldn’t have been more accommodating. She even laughed at my corny wisecracks. Berta kept rolling her eyes for some reason. I think the pollen may have been bothering her. 

I ordered a turkey club with fries, Berta had a bowl of chili and we split an order of onion rings. Bickford’s onion rings are amazing! Everything was delicious. 

We got home around nine forty-five, watched the end of the Red Sox game and went to bed shortly afterward. At about two-thirty the next morning, which happens to be today, the day I’m writing this; my gastrointestinal tract reminded me that I had eaten much too much, much too late, and had gone to bed much too soon afterward - and then there were the onion rings. Oh, those tasty, deep fried onion rings. 

It’s now two-thirty on Saturday afternoon; the day after the great restaurant caper and twelve hours since the onset of my gastrointestinal histrionics. I’m fairly certain those onion rings must be darn near fully digested by now, although I can still taste them a bit, and most of the burning from deep within the recesses of my stomach seems to have dissipated. 

Well, I guess that’s about it. There’s really not much more to say and...

I really have to go to the bathroom. 

Ha! Gotcha! 

Make it a great week! 

Bob Havey is an Easton-based freelance writer. His column, "The View From Here", appears each Tuesday at http://easton-ma.patch.com and his column "Take Me Back" runs every Friday at http://mansfield-ma.patch.com

Leave RI November 07, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Bob, myself and another military attache were in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and we were invited to a coffee ceremony. Having no idea what that entailed and hoping it didn't involve some form of dancing, we accepted the invitation. It was a little over 20 minutes I guess and the young lady made a good size pot off coffee (maybe half gallon) right from the roasting and grinding the beans on rocks. There was no cream or milk involved nor were we asked "how do you like it"? to which I would have embarrassingly replied "regular". I think the coffee to sugar ratio was 50/50. Holy smokes in the two tiny servings of about 4oz each I could've run a marathon it was so strong. It was very well done and we still talk about it. If you ever have the chance to participate ,or, even watch it (anyone) should. Thanks for the column.
Connie Boggs November 08, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Bob, your column has a way of "making my day!" I can imagine Berta behaving as you describe her. I guess everything we experience in life is for a reason, good and bad. Your every day experiences are for your wonderful newspaper column. In my former career I used to meet people and think to myself, "how much money can I raise from this person for such and such non-profit?" Keep up the good work.
Bob Havey November 13, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Coffee ceremony? Sounds like something that's right in my wheelhouse! Thanks!
Bob Havey November 13, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Glad you enjoy it, Connie. Love to all!


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