Clockwork oranges

Betty Driscoll

August 17, 1992|By Betty Driscoll

I HATE lunch time orange eaters. They carry themselves and their brown bags with an air of superiority. You would think, by their demeanor, that harboring round wrinkled fruit in plain brown paper was something to be proud of.

Oh, I know what's in those bags before they even unroll the neatly folded top. I know from their confident strides and their condescending glances. They move through the cafeteria ignoring culinary treats being devoured by early lunchers. I know from the size and shape of their sacks that gastronomical treats do not lurk inside. I know when they open that pouch they will reveal a bright orange ball whose presence will make me uneasy and cause me to look away.

But when they start to peel that thick wrinkled covering in a frighteningly systematic way, I won't be able to avoid the wafting, faintly acidic aroma that disturbs both my sense of order and my growling stomach. Don't they know this is lunch, the midday meal, the meal that must sustain for at least six hours?

In defiance, I open my bag and place each item on the table: a liverwurst and onion sandwich on crusty seeded rye bread, a bag of Utz potato chips, three chocolate chip cookies and a can of diet Coke.

"Now that's lunch," I hope my actions say to the skinny orange eater sitting across from me. She doesn't even look up.

She is busy inserting a manicured fingernail between juicy orange sections.

I lift the tab on my can of Coke and enjoy the clink of the can and the whoosh of carbonation. My lunch even sounds better than hers, but she still doesn't notice.

I remove the top slice of bread, hoping the smell of liverwurst and onions will get her attention.

No luck. She's still picking apart sections with the skill of a surgeon.

"Oranges are for breakfast!" I want to yell at her. "Or for halftime at basketball games, or for garnishing dinner plates, or for stuffing in the toe of a Christmas stocking. Oranges are not lunch." Instead, I take a big bite of my sandwich and gulp some warm Coke.

"Ahhh!" I sigh, as if to pronounce the goodness of it all. She looks over for just a brief second and then returns to section eight. I rip open my bag of chips and crunch away, savoring the salt.

I wonder what she eats for dinner. Sprouts, no doubt.

She wraps her napkin carefully around pieces of orange peel and returns the neat ball to her unwrinkled bag.

She is finished, and the smell of liverwurst is about to win the day.

She stands, pushes in her chair and looks down at the spread in front of me.

I raise my can of diet soda in greeting.

She feigns a smile and saunters off.

0$ I hate lunch time orange eaters.

6(

Betty Driscoll writes from Monkton.

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