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Saturday, 1 November 2014

Hat

It's Friday night and I'm up front, working the ice cream counter, when in walks a short grey-haired older woman wearing glasses and a hat on her head.
I like her hat so I tell her.
'Ooh, I like that hat,' I say to the woman, who is looking down at the tubs of ice cream in the fridge, 'I like those badges you have on your hat,'
The woman looks up at me.
'Oh,' she says, 'yeh, it's a cute hat, isn't it!'
I tell her yes and then I ask her what flavour ice cream she would like.
'Um,' she says, 'I'd like a double scoop of Thai tea, and a double of chocolate chip,'
'Cup or cone?' I say.
'Cup,' she says and I turn to take an ice cream scoop and a polystyrene cup and then I lean into the ice cream freezer and start scooping from the tubs .
'I get ice cream once a week,' she tells me when I hand her her her cone, 'once a week on a Friday,'
'Oh,' I say, 'that's a nice routine,'
'Yeh,' she says, 'you wouldn't know it to look at me, but 14 years ago I was fat,'
'Oh?' I say.
'Yeh,' she says, 'I had surgery,'
'Woah,' I say, 'that's drastic,'
'Yeh,' she says, 'I lost 150 pounds,'
I tell her that being a foreigner, I'm not good with weight, and does she know how much that is in kilograms.
She says no, she does not know, but she looks over at Jeff, who is standing next to me, and says, 'Him. I lost one of him,'
At this I start laughing and so does she, and so does Jeff.
Then she puts down her ice cream, holds up her hand and shows how the surgery takes place.
'This is my stomach size,' she tells me, making a scissor motion half way up her hand.
I say woah again and then ask her why she had the surgery.
'I didn't want to be fat and 50,' she tells me, 'I couldn't get up the stairs without holding hand rails. My knees hurt,'
She says she didn't have diabetes but she was waiting for it.
'Fair play,' I tell her, 'if you felt bad,'
'You know, the doctor told me not to buy any new clothes,' she says, 'for the first year. But I did,'
Then she says she bought a sweater soon after surgery.
'I bought this red sweater,' she says, holding her hands at her waist as is if she is holding imaginary sleeves of an imaginary sweater, 'and you know, after only a few months, I could wrap the arms of that sweater around me once, and then twice,'
Then she tells me that's when she started buying second hand clothes.
'No new clothes, now,' she tells me, 'I got into the habit of buying second hand clothes when I got unfat, and I haven't gone back,'
I laugh at this and so does she.
Then she tells me eating out is an issue.
'It's an issue, because everywhere you eat,' she says, 'they give you enormous amounts,'
'Yeh,' right,' says Jeff, 'Once upon a time we were told to eat everything our plate, but in those days the plates were smaller and there wasn't that much on them,'
Then, while I go off to serve ice cream to other customers, the woman in the hat stands quietly at the counter eating the Thai tea and chocolate chip ice cream from her cup.
Then, when I have finished serving I turn back to her to talk to her again, but before I can speak, she holds up her spoon points it at me and says, 'Y'know what eating out in the USA is like?'
'No,' I tell her, 'what?'
'It's like being force-fed,' she says, looking right into my eyes and emphasising each syllable by stabbing at nothing with her spoon, 'like being force-fed.'



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