On the Buses

This probably isn’t the story you think it’s going to be—but first, let me set the scene. I was riding a Greyhound from Texas to Georgia. It was the middle of the night. I couldn’t sleep, because we’d just hit Arkansas, and that’s where potholes go to die. A man got on, and he told me a story, and this is his story—and it might be a pack of lies.

This guy, he’d had a job in Tennessee, an average sort of job. An office job. And that office had a food thief, because what office doesn’t have a food thief? Every day, without fail, someone’s lunch went missing—usually this guy’s, because he’d been a line cook through high school. His lunches were tasty.

One day, his patience ran out. He decided revenge was in order (and this is where I stopped listening, at first. I mean, we’ve all heard this story. It ends with a sore tongue or a sore bum. It’s funny the first time.)

This guy, though, he made an egg salad. He laid on the chives and the celery, the crumbled bacon—y’know. He made it good. Maybe he threw some tabasco on there. I like tabasco on egg salad, though it’s murder on my guts. Heartburn, and all. I’m getting old.

Anyway, this guy, though—he put in the usual ingredients, plus one surprising addition: sunwarmed mayonnaise. And the salad went missing, and someone called off with food poisoning (sore mouth, sore bum)—only, that person never came back. Because every once in a while, food poisoning is fatal.

So, this guy was sweating bullets. He’d told the whole office what he’d done. They’d been giggling about it all week. He figured it was only a matter of time before someone grew a conscience and the police got involved. He imagined himself hauled off in chains, done up for murder or manslaughter, reckless endangerment—whatever you’d call that, when you deliberately set out tainted food.

The police never came. A year passed, and another year, and his deskmates avoided him, but no-one said a thing. And then his cousin rang up, wanting to share a place in Georgia, and that’s why he was on the bus. He was moving. To Georgia. To be a line cook, again.

Anyway. As I said. Probably a pack of lies. People on buses’ll say anything to pass the time. But on the off chance it wasn’t, take heed. Like…if your office has a food thief, don’t murder him. Or maybe do: the guy did get away with it (if it happened, at all).

Still, I’d suggest a proportional response. Someone steals your lunch, steal his phone. Mix up his app icons and slip it back to him. Or draw dicks on the soles of his shoes. People never look at the soles of their shoes. I’m also a fan of the KICK ME sign.

Wonder if they’ve fixed those roads, yet?—y’know, in Arkansas…?

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