About Ray

I suppose this project can’t be complete without a mention of the nudist at the Super 8 Motel. I was picking up an order of a Cobb salad from a sports bar on Anderson Lane. “GrubHub for Ray?” I said when I arrived.

“Ray,” the young man at the cash register snickered. This was early in my Running days, very few people wore masks, and delivery drivers were still entering restaurants to retrieve orders.

“Ray,” the young woman next him, his co-worker, repeated with a sigh.

I raised my eyebrows. “What’s the deal?”

“He’s…. a character,” the woman said.

“He always places the same order,” the guy explained, “and he never specifies no croutons/extra cheese, and he always throws a fit when the order arrives and yells at the delivery person and calls us to complain.”

“Ah!’ I said, “but you’re on to him now. So, no croutons, extra cheese, correct?”

They confirmed this. I knew the drill; I texted the customer: I’ve got your salad, no croutons, extra cheese and I’m heading your way- anything else you need? He texted back: OK thank you sounds good.

“Good luck,” the sports bar kids told me.

“I’m not afraid of anybody,” I told them back.

The sky grew dark as I drove to the motel by the side of the highway. This would be my last Run of the day. I was feeling tired but peaceful; I had made pretty good money and was still in that early phase of Running where I was delighted at having managed to finagle an income of any sort.

I’d passed the Super 8 plenty of times but obviously never had reason to stop there. I parked, checked my phone for his room number, climbed the outdoor steps to the second floor and knocked on his door.

The door cracked open, and a short skinny nervous guy with a very long ponytail, maybe around 40, peeked out suspiciously. “Hi Ray,” I said, handing him the bag from arm’s length. “Here’s your salad. Enjoy!”

“Wait,” he commanded. ” I need to check to make sure the order is correct.”

“It’s as you requested,” I said pleasantly, stepping backwards from the door to social distance as he turned into his room, door ajar. I could hear the crinkle of the bag as he opened it.

“I would have liked more cheese,” he called to me. His head returned to the door crack. He looked me over. “Still, you did better than most.” The door opened more. “How do you feel about nudity?” he asked, standing in the doorway stark naked.

I offered a benign smile. “I see you, fellow human,” I told him, then gave a nod and headed back to my car.

On the way home I phoned the sports bar. “Listen,” I said, “I’m fifty and couldn’t care less about being flashed but you can not let people step into that situation. It could have been really damaging and traumatic, even dangerous, for someone else. When you said he’s a ‘character’ were you aware that he answers the door naked?”

It was the female employee who’d picked up the phone. She swore ignorance and promised to follow up with the company so he couldn’t get orders from them again.

Of course, there’s no shortage of other sports bars in Austin…. or other delivery services.

As I pulled up to my house I was looking forward to telling the story to my boyfriend and kids; it’s crazy out there! Aren’t people wild?

But something was going on, a movie whose soundtrack makes me crazy or some interpersonal drama, I no longer remember. Something that made me slip off to walk the dog alone and ponder without discussion the mysteries of humans, others as well as myself.

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