I started volunteering earlier this month at the Northwest Harvest food bank on Friday mornings in Seattle. Basically, I stand behind the table and keep bins of various food items filled, try to keep the line moving at a reasonable rate, and make sure everyone takes just one item from each bin. Fridays are a pretty light day at the food bank -- no more than 1,000 or so people come through -- compared to Mondays and Wednesdays which average over 2,000 people each. The people who come to the food bank appear to be from all walks of life. Many are elderly on fixed income, many are homeless, and many others are simply people who need a little help making ends meet. Nearly all of them are very appreciative, and actually quite friendly to talk to. And I really enjoy the few hours I spend there each week.
So, anyway, I'm standing behind the counter today and the bin in front of me contains bags of pastries. Primarily day-old coffee cakes, muffins, scones, and other stuff. It's all collected from the many coffee shops in the area the previous night. I also have a huge donations box filled with various off-the-shelf cakes and donuts and things like that. Some of it's Entenmanns (which has me drooling) and some of it is a bit more foreign.
In walks a guy, possibly nearing 70 years old. He's wiry, no more than 5 foot 5 inches tall, and probably not more than 125 pounds. Possibly homeless, but not necessarily. Looks to be of Pakistani or Afghan descent. Looks like the character Blue from the movie Old School. He signs in (no id required, the food bank is there for everyone and anyone), unfurls a brown paper bag, and throws a bag of donuts in. He then grabs an individually-wrapped cookie from the same bin. I let this slide since it's pretty small. He's only supposed to take 1 from each bin, but there was nobody behind him in line and we had tons of them. But then he goes to take a bag of pastries too. This is all from the same bin which is a no-no, so I had to gently put my hand out and remind him that he can only take one. This same scene plays out dozens if not hundreds of times each day. Nearly every person who comes in has to be reminded to only take one from each bin. Many need to be reminded at each and every bin. Nothing out of the ordinary so far.
The guy throws the bag of pastries down into the bin, scowls at me, and -- I'm not kidding here -- starts throwing punches at me. He's swinging wildly across the counter with these giant slow-moving hooks, only he's missing me by about a foot with each punch and, honestly, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't hurt anyway. Like I said, the guy was over twice my age and half my size.
I thought he was putting on a show and just trying to be cute so I just smiled and said, "Okay, that's enough, do you want a soda?" referring to the next bin.
Instead he backs away from the counter to the door, continues to give me a look that could only be described as the evil eye and then he makes this very emphatic, yet strange hand gesture punctuated with another feeble uppercut to the air.
Steve, one of the food bank managers, saw the tail end of the man's display and asked me what it was all about.
I laughed, shrugged my shoulders, and told him the only thing I could.
"I think I've just been hexed."