Did you ever see one of those guys? You know the type I mean. You don't know them, but you instantly dislike them. Well, I saw one on the beach on Sunday.
Late on Saturday, Mrs. P remarked that, if it was nice weather on Sunday, she'd like to take a drive to Atlantic City and sit on the beach for a few hours. I reluctantly agreed, as I hate the beach but I love my wife. So, Sunday morning arrived and the sun was shining. We gathered a couple of towels, a couple of chairs and a couple of snacks and pointed our car towards the familiar Jersey shore.
We found a parking spot two blocks from the beach in a 3-hour limit zone. I gathered our belongings, flinging the folded chairs and small cooler on my back like a Bedouin's camel. We selected a sandy patch of beach (ha ha) and parked ourselves for the afternoon.
That's when he arrived.
About eight or so feet away from our little encampment was a small group of senior citizens engaging in a similar exercise in sun-worshiping. I watched as he swaggered up to the group — puffed chest boasting a chunky piece of twisted gold right out of 1974, swim trunks slung low on his hips, arms bowed out from his sides as though he was stalking down the center of an Old West street about to draw his six-shooter and gun down Black Bart. And, of course, he had a smirk upon his tanned face.
"HEY!," he screamed in a volume too loud for his proximity to the old folks, but loud enough to let everyone relaxing nearby know that he had arrived and was about to honor us with some profound words. He grinned, continuing his opening statement, "It's the guy that makes the Phillies win every time you see him!" (At this point, it should be noted that the Philadelphia Phillies currently hold the worst record in Major League Baseball. While they have played surprisingly well over the last dozen or so games, overall their performance this season has been embarrassingly horrendous. Philadelphia fans, however, possess notoriously short memories and attention spans. They view a brief and uncharacteristic winning streak as the "major turnaround" we've been waiting for, entirely forgetting everything that preceded this victorious run. Then, when the team falls back into their losing ways, these same fans return to scratching their collective heads in disbelief.... Now, where was I....?) After attributing the Phillies' recent good luck solely to himself, he went off on an inane monologue in which he repeatedly professed his love for boiled peanuts. "I love 'em, I love 'em. I love 'em.," he reiterated over and over again. He made his point, meticulously describing the Southern delicacy as being "delicious and soft like peas," then fell back into the "I love 'em" catchphrase. He loudly extolled the virtues of boiled peanuts for — no exaggeration — five minutes. I didn't know this guy, but — boy! — did I hate him!
I had enough. I turned to my wife and offered to get us lunch at a nearby falafel* shop that had recently opened in a location that has been unable to sustain a thriving business for nearly thirty years. Mrs. P happily agreed and I had my escape from that yammering moron,
I entered the falafel joint. I hadn't yet allowed my left leg to cross the threshold when a cheerful fellow behind the counter yelled "Welcome" in my direction. I smiled. "Here's a menu," he announced and jammed a colorful folded paper menu at me. I opened it up and, despite already knowing what I wished to order, I politely scanned the many offerings.
"Two falafel sandwiches, please.," I requested A longtime favorite of my wife, it is only recently that I began to eat falafel, so it was odd hearing my own voice place that order, know one of those was for me.
"Can I get your name?," the friendly fellow inquired.
"Josh." I replied and he scribbled it at the top of the guest check, under which he wrote my order. I handed over my credit card and the fellow swiped it in the terminal and told me I looked familiar. Then he glanced as the receipt printed out, looking back at me to give me the once-over.
"Pincus," he said as he examined the receipt, "Any relation to Michael Pincus?"
"Nope." I answered with a smile that I hoped would end the conversation. I was still curious as to why he needed my name. Aside from several employees, I was the only customer in the place. Another guy was busily assembling my order, hand-forming the chickpea mixture into balls and dropping them into the deep fryer. The friendly fellow came around to my side of the counter making half-hearted attempts at cleaning the tabletops.
My sandwiches were taking an awfully long time to prepare.
"Where did you say you were from?," the friendly fellow said, re-initiating his line of questioning.
"I didn't," I responded, "But, I'm from Philadelphia."
"Oh!," he said, dragging the word out to several syllables, "Where abouts?"
"Elkins Park, just outside of the city.," I clarified.
"Oh!," he repeated his multi-syllabic exclamation, "I was just there! Do you know Frank Schwartz?"
"I do not.," I smiled a little less, hoping this one would end the conversation.
Suddenly, the counter guy passed a white paper bag stuffed with my sandwiches over to the friendly fellow. "Here's you order!," he reported. I took the bag, thanked him and left.
I joined my wife on the beach. I unpacked the bag. The pitas were still warm from the insulating aluminum foil wrapping. As we ate, I offered comment about the falafel place.
"Boy, what a dirty little shop.," I began, "Good falafel, though." I bit off another mouthful of sandwich.
By this time, the "boiled peanut" guy was gone. We enjoyed our sandwiches without further distraction.
*Falafel, for the uninformed or non-Israeli, are deep-fried balls or patties made from ground chickpeas. The sandwich is traditionally served in warmed pita bread with lettuce, cucumber, tomato, hummus (for that extra kick of chickpeas) and tahini sauce (made from ground sesame seeds, for when you've had enough of chickpeas).