Yesterday after therapy, I had lunch with Jessica and Namine. We unintentionally went to a smelly restaurant.

When my girls came to pick me up at work, Jessica told me that Namine wanted to go to Subway. Even though it was closer, I would have rathered go to Cousins (they do have better bread and better subs, after all), so I asked Namine if that was okay with her. She said yes.

I fired up the navigation app on my phone and found the nearest (or at least the first suggested) Cousins location. It was only a few minutes away, so I gave Jessica directions to get us there.

When we arrived, as soon as I got out of the car I was hit with an awful smell. Now, I suffer from year-round allergies caused by pretty much every living thing ever — that’s both animals and plants, kids — so my sense of smell is nearly always impeded. On top of that, I’m just getting over the tail end of some kind of congestion bug. So when I tell you I was hit full-force with this awful smell, you know it was bad. Bad bad bad.

I didn’t say anything, though. I didn’t know what it could have been. We were nowhere near the zoo, although that’s what it smelled like to me. It smelled like filthy animals. Like wet dog or something, I didn’t know. (Even when we are near the zoo, it doesn’t smell like this. Even the wet animals don’t smell this bad.)

So whatever, we went inside Cousins — which was in a strip mall that was also home to Toppers, a chinese food place, a nail salon, and I think one other store, but I don’t remember what. The smell faded once we went inside, but it never left.

So we’re eating our lunch, minding our own business, when the lady in the booth behind us started talking. It took me a moment to realize that she was talking to us. She started out making small talk, and although I am not a social person by nature, I can fake it well enough. Jessica was not so inclined to talk to her, having been annoyed at having her lunch interrupted. Namine was more than happy to engage her in conversation, however. She happily told the lady her name and age, enunciating quite clearly.

Often when Namine tells someone her name, even when she speaks clearly, they ask her to repeat it. “Namine” is not a common name, after all. But this time, the lady got it on the first try. At first I thought the lady was just chatting up Namine. I thought perhaps she was impressed with how she conducted herself; it’s happened before.

Namine is a growing girl, and she seems so big to us — we remember Namine’s mere four-pound weight, and how we could hold her in one arm — but Namine is still smaller than other children, and I suppose she must not look five. (Almost six!) But Namine speaks with the air of an older child, sometimes even that of an adult. We don’t speak down to Namine — we never have — and as a result, her speaking and comprehension are, I think, quite advanced.

But no, the lady proceeded to solicit some curriculum to us. Jessica informed me later, having seen these books before, that not only were they outrageously expensive, they were also (to be blunt) crap. Even Namine was uninterested; she informed the lady that she already had school, that she was homeschooled, and I supplemented that with that we had no interest in buying any other school books.

Her prospective sale lost, the lady quickly excused herself and said goodbye, leaving the restaurant. It was obvious then that she was just soliciting customers, so we informed an employee before we, too, left.

When we left Cousins, I was again hit with that awful smell. Jessica turned to me. “Don’t you smell that?”

“Of course I do. I just didn’t know what it was.”

“I think it’s the chinese place.”

I guess that made sense. Man, it was just wretched. We promised each other that we would never return to this Cousins. The food was good — we’re never dissatisfied with Cousins subs — but the smell of the neighboring store was just too much.

Husband. Daddy. Programmer. Artist. I'm not an expert, I just play one in real life.


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