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"Food Truck Philosophy" by Jen Schneider

1. I grew up in a home consumed of rings. Not of marriage or vows but of wrestling and worrisome wows. A blend of heat and heels alongside angles and jobbers. Success was measured in minutes. All moments were both for and on the clock. Tick. Tock. There was never time to look back. To slack was neither vetted nor culturally accepted. Eyes, both black and blue, remained focused on future paths. I resisted judgment through bands (rock as much as pop) and book borrowings, reading up on philosophy as much as politics (also poetics). I found strength in sweat and stains borne of syllables and silence, unsure of relative responses and relative strengths (which are stronger?). I’d listen for bells (of home and happenstance), then pretend to sleep. Dreams (sweet and sour) were often my only companion. I worked hard to guard my senses (including a sixth) and my waistline (girth and right share the same five letters). Sustenance was carefully counted (if not courted) by elders. I had grown accustomed to measurements, and only after I had fully grown (up and out of my childhood home) did I feel free to respond on instinct to hunger pains and philosophical cravings. That’s how I ended up in front of the philosopher's food truck. Luck mixed with language (you can imagine my glee), and I found myself unexpectedly willing to test fibers and famines replete of strength and time (which came first?), as well as persistent questions not only mine, all under the guise of a desire to dine. Who am I?

2. I had heard about the truck's philosophical underpinnings (if not pining’s) long before its engine (and driver) found its way to my own frequented spaces. What’s mine anyway? I learned that the proprietor was as much a want-to-be philosopher as a proud first-generation chef and businessman. News travels, often faster than time. He traveled the city on four wheels, eager to dish meat and philosophy deets. All of life a trade. Everything an exchange. I was intrigued and inspired. Imagine that! Someone had successfully conspired a marriage of opposites, with no apparent attraction required. Is opposition the same as resistance? Neither his heirs nor daily dares had posed successful barriers.

3. I saw the traveling truck before the pecking pigeons saw me, and at about the same time my stomach reminded me it (or I?) was hungry. A sign on the back warned: “Beware, Philosophy served here!” The front read: “Everyone eats.” I’d been told that the owner relished language and often dished philosophical ponderings. Perhaps for added spice. Perhaps he simply followed his internal callings. Imagine that! I opted for a quick stop. “How long for the No. 2,” I said. “What kind of time do you have,” he asked. “Enough,” I replied (not knowing what that meant). “A minute,” he admitted, then put down his book (Kafka, I believe) and wiped his hands. His t-shirt read “Food Truck Philosopher” in block print.

4. How, I wondered (unsure if I meant the speed of prep or its philosophical bent), then watched him work. He chopped parsley with a satisfying ease. The display a timely dichotomy to (and distance from) my statutory and due date crunching line of work. I had just finished a lecture on the challenges of time. Our judicial system a land mind for delays and mysteries that extend far beyond a single day. Charlotte may have wondered “What’s a life, anyway”. For the legal system the answer is easy – it's measured in days.

5. He spooned rice, then meat. “Sauce?” He asked. I nodded. A ring of phones and routine hunger formed behind me. He worked methodically. Bikes. Cars. Horns. Buses. Oh my! All corners fussed. He placed the parcel in a plastic bag. “Who ordered the No. 2.,” he asked. “Me,” I said, then blinked. He winked. “Who are you?” he asked. “I’m me.” “That’s debatable,” he replied. Along with what it means to order, I think. Is order enough? “Paper bag deliveries were delayed,” he said. “I told them I was in a rush, but they said they were too.” I didn’t know how to reconcile that. Rushing, like regulation, relative, I think.

6. I extended my arm, then checked my clock. Fare in the meter. Fare in the truck. What’s fair, anyway. I calculate –ten people in line behind me. Preparations and characters proliferate. Is character more noun than adjective? Is consumption more proposition than preposition? Souls in rubber soles prepare -- for what? The coming extinction foregone. “Can we call in orders,” one asked. “Why would you, you’re already here,” the philosopher blanched. It’s a serious question! He handed me my parcel. I extended a ten. “Keep the change,” I said. “I’ve got to run.” “To where,” he asked.

Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania

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