Friday, March 1, 2013

Zen and the Art of Whataburger Maintenance

As I mentioned in my last post, we were on vacation last week in Texas. One of our stops was at Padre Island.

It was there, in a Whataburger restaurant that I met a master of Zen Buddhism. I don't remember her name, but it was Gayle or Carol or Vicki or Deb, and she worked a local fast food counter like none other.

Our time was short and we were on a tight schedule to get to the beach. Though the GPS map showed in great detail the highway and its beach access points along the sliver of Padre Island, I thought it'd be best to check with the locals for the best beach location. So at Port Aransas, I sauntered up to the Whataburger counter and ordered a vanilla shake and asked Gayle where the best access to the beach was.

Gayle's head tilted sideways when she looked at me. I say looked "at" me because it was sort of a vapid stare in my direction. Yes, it was definitely in my direction, but her gaze was fixed at a point through and beyond me, on an event horizon thousands of miles away.

"Oh honey, I'm not too sure, I haven't been there" she said in a voice as thick as sorghum syrup.

What? Hadn't been there? You could practically hear the surf crashing over the sizzling patties back in the kitchen. I reasoned that perhaps she didn't hear me properly.

"The GPS shows that the road at the next intersection will take us up pretty close. Do you know if we can access the beach from there?"

"I'm sorry. I really can't tell you. I don't know where the beach is."

As she spoke, I leaned in a little to look into her eyes to see if she was telling the truth. What I saw there was a sort of freakish depth unfold before me, like staring up at the Milky Way while camping. As I looked, it felt as if I was falling forward as the planets and stars, galaxies and swirling jets of plasma gas nebulae whizzed by. It should be noted that I feel the same way when riding on Chris Spence's wheel.←That might be a bit of hyperbole (Spence, not Whataburger), but you get the drift. I shut my eyes and caught myself on the counter before I feel in too deep.

Looking back now, the Whataburger Gayle experience has left me both humbled and horrified.

Humbled because Gayle was apparently content. Content at what? A static existence? Telling customers a thousand times over that she had no idea where the beach was? I suppose it's possible. I mean, she was seemingly indifferent that an awesome force of nature was tearing down and rebuilding a shore line just a stone's throw away from where she stood. She just didn't care. Nada.

I was horrified for all the same reasons.

From this, I have concluded that I could never be a Buddhist  Yeah, life is a struggle. Life involves pain and suffering. But there's some good stuff worth living for, too. Emptying oneself of all cares, good and bad, is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

No thanks.  Don't throw Barry out with the bathwater.


  1. Just wonderful. Good work. One part brings to mind the only thing my ex wife ever said that was funny. "If you're going to throw the baby out, why give it a bath?"

  2. Excellent point.

    I find it interesting that both of our blog posts today dealt with the idea of emptying oneself, yours from a Christian's POV, and mine from a Buddhist's perspective. Perhaps we should expand on this idea next week, covering perspectives from other religions.

    Since atheists are by nature already void of such thoughts, there's no need to expand there. And because Hindus are tangentially related to the Buddhists, and Judaism is like Christianity 1.0, that leaves us with the only other great world religions: Muslims and The Force. You choose and I'll take the other.

  3. I think it makes sense to throw Islam in there with Judeo-Christian. Nothing to do with philosophy as much as it would be unwise to talk about Muslims at all. Because they're so awesome is what I mean.

    I wouldn't mind discussing the only God worth praying to. Of course, I'm referring to Conan's "Crom". Since "Conan The Barbarian" came out, a friend of mine took to saying "Crom Dammit." I wanted to start saying that because I thought it was funny. But I keep forgetting. For 30 years I've been forgetting. Just forgetting.

  4. What bonehead goes to Whata Burger for breach advise? Get any good stock tips while you were there?

  5. Instead of seeking breach (sic) advice, perhaps a better idea would have been to ask Gayle what to wear to a Dave Matthews concert.

    She probably would have said, if I must go, then wear ear plugs and bring an extra pair for your buddy Shim.

    And you know what? I'd do that. You know why? No, not chicken thigh. It's because I'm not a jerk like you.

  6. Somewhere I've seen another picture of Brady and the ocean.......