Tom first noticed her hovering around the breakfast bar as he struggled with the pump on the coffee dispenser. He was not a fan of chatty food service professionals, and he was already struggling to form a game plan to avoid the chit-chat assault that was fast approaching his vicinity. As he reached the juice dispenser he began to glean bits of what he was up against. She wasn’t just chatting, she had an agenda, and it all seemed to center around a bowl of some diminutive form of salsa. It was just a grade above the hot sauce that comes in packets at fast food Mexican restaurants.
He could see a very disturbing pattern forming. She would step out with an empty tray or cruise the hotel dining area for empty plates, then she’d return to the eggs where the salsa was being very prominently displayed. She was watching for something. But for what, he was not quite sure. Then, to his horror, the full agenda of Chatty Cathy the Holiday Inn Express breakfast bar professional, was fully revealed when a woman cautiously reached for salsa. Cathy pounced.
“Ooo, I see you’re trying the salsa with your eggs,” she said with perverse enthusiasm, blocking the buffet line.
“Oh, yes, I saw it there and thought That sounds interesting. I’m going to give it a try.”
“I’d never heard of it myself before just a few weeks ago. It just doesn’t seem like it would be good. I don’t usually like real spicy stuff. But I really got hooked on it. I suggested it to the manager myself.”
This word really rang out. It hung in the air like a foul odor. Tom had heard similar words uttered by grocery store baggers, receptionists at doctors’ offices, and interns of any profession … people with big ideas and small positions. This was far worse to Tom than general chattiness. She meant for him try this salsa. She had a son or a nephew who had visited San Antonio or Santa Fe or El Paso or somewhere in the Southwest and who had spooned Pace Picante sauce on her eggs one visit on Christmas or Thanksgiving or something and she was not going to rest until she had spread the gospel of bad salsa on eggs.
How would he get passed this to get to the sausage and biscuits? How would he reach his fruity yogurt and Corn Pops cereal. Corn Pops for Christ sake! This was not the crappy organic cereal that his wife always bought. This was FUCKING CORN POPS!!
In the distance he heard the cry of a young child, “Mommy! It burns my mouth!”
No, he would not make it passed her without salsa somewhere on his plate.
But just as she began to sidle up to him the voice of a savior rang out. It was the voice of authority and reason.
“Carol. Can I see you for a moment?”
Apparently her name was not Chatty Cathy the Salsa Nazi. It was Carol. Carol attempted one parting shot before she stepped away from the egg station.
“Hey. You oughta try the salsa on your eggs. Just a little, you know. It’s preeeeeetty spicy. But it gives it just a little kick, you know?”
Tom stared at her, speechless and terrified. He looked at the eggs. He looked at the salsa. Then he looked at the Corn Pops. She was relentless. Merciless. Exuberant. Undeniable.
But the hotel manager was too quick. She touched Carol on the arm and spoke her name once more. She led her out into the hall. The manager spoke in hushed tones. The only piece he could make out was, “Carol. We’ve talked about this. The answer was no. Corporate was very specific.”
The conversation was over. The manager stepped briskly into the dining area grabbed the bowl of salsa off of its decorative stand, and disappeared through the service door.
Carol stood in the hall, deflated. Tom could just make out the words on her lips as she spoke them to the floor. “I thought it was a good idea. I liked the salsa.”
Tom’s heart sank. It was just salsa after all. Did it really hurt to set some salsa out by the eggs? Some people like salsa on there eggs. Even bad salsa.
“Ma’am?” said Tom to the manager as she reappeared through the service door. “Do you have any salsa? I’d like some with my eggs.”
The manager returned with the salsa. Her face and ears were flush and her smile was forced. She’d been duped, and she knew it. She glared at Carol who was sauntering up to the egg station, revived and triumphant.
“Mmmmm. Ain’t them salsa and eggs good?”