The Highs and Lows of the Lunch Hour

(aka An Introduction to One Two of the Many Neurosis of Belle)

Let’s rewind the clock a bit – back to say, noon today. I was messaging Luffy and we were both whining about how hungry we were, comparing our snack options and our lunch plans. (And actually, let me preface this whole entry by explaining that I’m on the tail end of my latest round of hormones and this makes me a tad PMS-y. You know, mood swings, food cravings, all that jazz….) So Luffy mentioned his plans to pick up fast food for lunch and my brain immediately went OOOHHHH!!!!!

I’m usually very strict about lunch. It’s one of the few meals I look at through the lens of practicality only. Food equals survival and no more. My lunch is pathetically small and rarely varies from one day to the next. And I’m usually ok with this. Plus, it’s not like I starve, which is a stark reminder of how little food the human body actually needs and how bloated today’s portion sizes are. I like maintaining a healthy weight, but I also like indulging in awesome foods. I compromise at lunch and generally stick to veggies and greek yogurt.

But today. Today my stomach was just not feeling its usual fair and had decided noodles would do and nothing less. Garlic peanut noodles from a fantastic Chinese noodle shop in Deep Ellum, to be specific. Luffy, who is a very bad influence, egged me on despite my protests and incriminating evidence (the sugar cookie crumbs at my desk).

Belle neurosis #1: Eating out for lunch.

You see, something happens to me, when I contemplate eating out for lunch. I heap loads and loads of guilt on myself for two reasons: money and healthy eating. It takes me ages to gather the nerve to squash this guilt and treat myself once in a while. I focus on the money I’m about to throw away and the (usually) not-so-healthy meal I’m about to partake in and beat myself up because I have a perfectly good, free, and healthy lunch in the fridge at work. For the record, I have no such guilt with dinner, or even breakfast for that matter. Only lunch. Shrugs.

So I laughed off Luffy’s chants of DO-IT-DO-IT-DO-IT and gave him my patented line “we’ll see” which generally means “ha ha no.” Except that when 1:00 rolled around, I decided that I damn well could treat myself (and my PMS-y, hormone-driven stomach). It’s only $9, that’s nothing! And yeah my waistline could probably do without carbscarbscarbs for lunch, but it’s only for today. Live a little! My neurosis kicked in again about halfway to my car and I debated just turning around and eating my broccoli for lunch instead.

I will not bore you with the back-and-forth that took place inside my head as I walked to my car. Suffice it to say that I made it to the noodle shop shortly thereafter. Now, this noodle shop is located in Deep Ellum, as I mentioned earlier. For those of you unfamiliar with the city of Dallas, let me point out a flaw with the Deep Ellum area: lots of restaurants, quite possibly three parking spaces for the entire district. Parking is terrible down there. Everything’s paid parking and you can never find a spot without circling the block at least four times. Next to said noodle shop though, there’s a little paid lot. One of those where you stick your dollar in the slot that coordinates to the space you parked in. However, I never pay it when I’m picking up lunch at the noodle shop because (1) it takes five minutes and I’ll be damned if I’m paying a dollar to park there for five minutes and (2) I’m right there and I’ll be damned if I’m paying a dollar to park there when I’m right there.

I made my way up to the window and ordered the Garlic Peanut Noodles and stepped to the side to wait. They only had a few patrons today and, after a few minutes, they called a name. Not my name, but a name. After some confusion, the window lady realized they had made a duplicate order rather than mine. Apparently the ladies right before me had ordered 2 (two) orders of Garlic Peanut Noodles and the noodle masters had made 2 (two) additional orders rather than my 1 (one) order. I joked that I would take all their noodles (ALL THE NOODLES!!!!!) and was ecstatic when she said she’d just go ahead and give them to me.

2 (two) ORDERS OF GARLIC PEANUT NOODLES ALL FOR ME!!!!

I was trying to text Luffy and was halfway back to my car with my bonus order of noodles when I got a glance of a man in the parking lot with a hat and a notepad, furiously scribbling what I can only assume to be license plate numbers of all the cars in the lot. I picked up my pace and prayed that I could drive off before he got to my car. I was steps away when I saw him move to the back of mine. I got in and studiously ignored the shit out of my window, preparing to just drive off like tra-la-la-la-la, when he tapped on my window.

“Did you pay the dollar?” he practically growled at me.

“Erm….” was my brilliant response as I tried to motion to the food and noodle shop and thought briefly about explaining my whole FIVE MINUTES and RIGHT THERE rationale.

“Did you pay the dollar? Pay a dollar first next time or I write you an $18 ticket,” he grumbled at me as he charged off to check the pay stand.

Now, at this point in time, I should have realized that he hadn’t actually checked whether or not I had paid, so he could only assume I hadn’t based on my gurgled explanation. Plus, he probably hadn’t had time to even write my license plate number down because I interrupted him. Last, the ticket’s only $18, hardly breaking the bank.

I should have realized all this as I watched him lumber over to the pay stand. But I didn’t.

Belle neurosis #2: Invisible Authority Figures

Let’s pause for a second and I’ll explain. I was a good child. A rule-follower. A goody-two-shoes, some might say. I naturally followed rules and directions, and it honestly never occurred to me to break one. In my adult life, this has translated into someone who is irrationally concerned with following societal rules and regulations. In some weird ways. The speed limit, for instance, never gets obeyed. Keeping off of grass, however, always gets obeyed. Paying my dollar for parking obviously doesn’t get heeded when I think I can get away with it. Being herded by a rent-a-cop through a crowded entryway when there’s clearly a better way to get through and I stay mute and wait my turn as I glare at the more sane people going the other way.

So what happens when my Invisible Authority Figure suddenly appears?

PANIC

In a nutshell.

So that’s what I did as the angry parking lot enforcer walked away from me. Rather than rationally thinking through the situation, weighing the pros and cons, and coming up with a sane solution, my brain skipped right over that into HOLY CRAP territory. I knew I didn’t have a dollar as I never carry cash, but I pulled out my wallet anyway. I checked my coin purse, praying a quarter (or four) had magically appeared. My panic bordered on terror as I tossed the coin purse aside to paw through my purse, looking for pennies or nickels I could scrape together.

I feared the worst (which, as a side note, would only have been to explain the situation to the mean guy and then calmly take the $18 ticket, w/e) when….. a miracle. I suddenly remembered the gold dollar I had been carrying around with me since last Chinese New Year’s or possibly the one before that.

I was saved!

I hopped out of my car and all but skipped over to the evil parking enforcer, plunked the coin into his hand, and sashayed back. My heart was hammering in my chest. My palms were sweaty. I took a deep breath to calm my poor frayed nerves.

And then I realized that I am an absolute idiot. But hey, at least I have two orders of garlic peanut noodles to show for it.

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