It’s a sticky, humid Chicago night and I walk inside a North side Dunkin’ Donuts-Baskin Robbins combination store. I’m in a pair of black, cutoff Adidas sworts. I’m also wearing the road jersey of the God King of Orange City, Iowa, Nick Collison.
He rules what he touches, and I got his jersey on.
I’m at the counter. It’s cold in here and it smells like old coffee and bacon. There’s a guy behind the counter. He’s either 6 or 60. Super tan. Like he lives next door to the sun or Tanquility or Jimmy Goldstein or something. His face looks like a face would look if you sat on it for five hours, stood up, hovered over the face, farted, then sat on it for five more.
There is no name tag anywhere on his person. He’s in a standard issue Dunkin’ Donuts-Baskin Robbins navy blue polo, black pants, and one of those pink, rubber bracelets for breast cancer awareness that says “I Love Boobies” on it. There’s an ice cream stain just north of his right nipple.
He’s wearing a Dunkin’ hat over the top of his brown, pony-tailed hair. Dude is lush. Really trying to incorporate that word into my daily life more. Thanks for letting me.
I’m looking at the menu up above him.
“You an Oak City fan?” he asks.
Mike Tirico is trying to kill me.
“Yea,” I say.
He smirks, like, the world’s smallest smirk, gives me a kind of understated “Pshh”, and then speaks real words.
“You ought to be going for the Bulls,” he says.
I think it’s a joke, so I laugh.
“I’m from Oklahoma,” I tell him.
His face looks about like Perkins’ does when someone bows up to him.
“I don’t care,” he says, “You’re in Chicago. Don’t be wearing that stuff around here.”
I’m surprised by this because, you know, I live in a society where if you don’t bother anyone then you really shouldn’t be getting bothered. I’m just trying to get an egg and cheese bagel and get out of his pony-tailed hair, but he’s gone Godfather II on me and pulled me back in. So, let us dance, lush one.
“Alright, well, it’s just a jersey,” I say, “It don’t concern you, so I’m gonna wear it where I want.”
We’ve been locked in a game of who stops staring who in the face first for a good minute, which doesn’t seem like a long time until you’ve actually stared in one place for an entire minute. Then it seems like a couple eternities.
It’s super late, just a bit past midnight. I turn around. There’s nobody else in here. There was another employee in the room when I walked in, but she’s since gone to clean the men’s restroom. I’m a little at a loss. Dude just keeps staring at me.
“You tough, huh?” he asks.
What is going on? Is he trying to fight me?
I’m skinny and really only like fighting if I get to watch other people do it, plus there’s cameras in here. Still, though, I can’t not say something.
“Are you?” I ask.
He stares me down and calls me a word I can’t type because my Mom reads this stuff. I then request kind of calmly but not super calmly that he chill.
He does, kind of. I look at the menu. I see the cheese and the egg and the bagel and remember my mission.
“Egg and Cheese bagel,” I say.
He rings it up without a word. I wait an uncomfortable five minutes. I watch him the whole time and make sure no spit finds its way into the bagel. He puts the bagel in a bag and tosses it on the counter. I put a five down. He takes it and gives me the change. I put the coins in the tiny plastic box that helps certain schools in Illinois stay open, and walk to the door.
I want to give this guy the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he had a bad day. Maybe he’s going through some stuff. Maybe he’s a Missouri fan and hates anything Jayhawk related. Maybe I have a super hate-able face. Maybe he just looked at me and decided there was something about me he didn’t like. I don’t know.
I should probably just leave without saying another word, I think.
I get to the door, open it, and…
Wait…what’s happening…why am I turning around…dude…don’t…just go…oh man…I’m gonna be that guy…I’m gonna say something…man…I suck…
“Westbrook’s better than Rose,” I say.
I leave as he shouts.