Lesson Learned: Karmic Mothers

This one time I worked in a kitchen. Me and the other two who worked there were alone pretty much all day every day. As with any high-speed, isolated job, we would get pretty punchy by mid-shift. The one lady only spoke Spanish so she pretty much just laughed at us, but me and the other English-speaker would spend hours hurling creative insults at each other from across the room, tying to get one to stick.

Basically, they just involved a lot of laughter. I’m going to tell you about one time.

The exchange started out (as usual) with several minutes of simple threats of general violence: “Get me the garlic salt or I will throw this entire rack of prep pans against the back wall and you will have to start over again.” *Laughter*

Then, the exchange escalated to threats of personal violence: “Hand over the limes now or I will cut the break lines on your car before you drive home tonight.” *More laughter*

I’m not sure if you’re getting the gist of the situation, but the point was to deliver the most mundane command accompanied by a wildly mis-aligned consequential threat. The point of the threat was to make it extreme without going too far. There are things that take a fake threat too far. Being too graphic, for instance. Or involving one’s children (although neither of us had kids so we didn’t have this issue).

Sometimes you learn about the off-limits threats by accident. Like this one day.

The other lady: “Finish the roux for me NOW or I will punch you in the face.” *Laughter*

Me: “You better chill out or I’ll punch you in the face.” *More laughter*

TOL: “You can’t, I know it’s coming and I’ll avoid you with my kitchen ninja skills.” *Even more laughter*

(The third lady liked this part because we were both hopping around doing kung fu sounds.)

Me: “Well, then, if you escape I’ll just find your mom and punch your MOM in the face!”

This kind of line is a gamble. It’s veeeery close to being too far. But no, it got shrieks of laughter. We translated for the other lady, who shook her finger at me and then also laughed. Apparently the image of me traveling out of state and punching someone’s mother (who lived in Kansas) just to even a kitchen-supply score was so ludicrous that everyone needed to hear about it. It became a standing joke.

Punching someone’s mom in the face was my trump card from then on out.

One day a nice lady came in the store when I was the only one working. I went through the usual de-netting of the hair and went up front to say hello and ask her what she needed. She was a smiley, nice, older lady. She looked kind of lost. But then she said:

“I heard you want to punch me in the face?”

.

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