I just wrote the World's Worst Poem. Everything about it was wrong. First of all, the poem was about a cyclops. That has potential, right? But it was about a cyclops and an ocean and my daughter and an acorn and, anyway, it was all too unwieldy. Oh yeah. It was also about "limit setting." That was one of the themes as well. I am speaking about it in past tense because I just deleted most of it. I might try to start over from the beginning. But for now I am tired of looking at my poem, criminally bad.
Last night I was manning the All You Care To Eat Buffet Extravanganza when a woman in thick makeup asked me what was in the seafood casserole. I told her, "crab, shrimp, broccoli, al fredo sauce, etc." And she said "Is it any scallops in there?" And I told her, "No, ma'am." And then she replied, through a wide, grinless face, "Well, we'll find out soon enough, when the ambulance gets here." She was all pissed off because she thought we had tilapia on the menu. I had just finished telling her, "No ma'am" to that as well. But "no, ma'am" wasn't what she wanted to hear, so she belabored the point about how we shouldn't advertise tilapia if we don't have tilapia. And I said, "Well, who told you we had tilapia, anyway?" and she remained really vague about it, only saying that "Two days ago, when I was here, a woman that works here told me that Friday night was tilapia night." (And at about this point in the conversation I remember thinking "Are we really still discussing the non-existent tilapia?" And yes, we were.)
What I said next was over-the-top and clinical, even, in a humanistic kind of way. "Well, ma'am, I hear you saying that you were really counting on tilapia and I'm sorry that we don't have it. I know that must be disappointing...to not have tilapia." She stared back at me, bewildered for a moment, and that's when she basically threatened me with her own allergic reaction.
"Personality disorder," I said to myself, allowing her to roll the dice with her swelling larynx, which I figured wouldn't be happening anyway, because her allergy was most likely a faux plot device of some kind, designed to elicit a reaction - as if my response would be, "Oh you have an allergy to scallops, which aren't in the casserole? Why didn't you say so, madame? I shall prepare a tilapia steak seasoned with herbs du Provence for you at once!" I mean, come on. It's an All-You-Can-Eat grease smorgasbord, not haute cuisine. But, you know, restaurants are one of the many public places where citizens with personality disorders become truly All They Can Be. I know this from my vast experience as a fry cook and mental health worker and human being. There's too many choices and chains of communication and people getting paid to serve you for a big drama not to unfold. It can be a real powder keg for those who have almost-psychotic neuroses around issues of trust, safety, and egalitarianism. "Go for it," I said encouragingly. And she began piling seafood casserole onto her plate while her husband, who looked about as joyless as a husband could, complete with two forlorn n' fried catfish on his plate, stared back at me.
And now an excerpt from the horrible poem:
This is my role now. Good-enough father. Boundary setter. Limit placer.
Once terms I used casually as a therapist, caustically even,
In the vernacular of a trade which has made more
Cures than there are illnesses.
Boundary setter, limit placer, good enough father,
She cries out, because it’s no good, this “being denied” business.
We all have work boots or tilapia we’d like to gnaw on.