When the Chips Are Down

Remember that scene in Big Hero 6* when the “good chip” was removed from principled and billowy Baymax, and he goes all caveman cavebot? His eyes become apertures, tunneling in with blank red rage.**

Well that’s what happened, my friends, on a Monday like any other, at the Whole Foods. (Because: grocery store.)

It was just yesterday, to be precise, when Roman’s systems were overrun by the anxiety virus, and cavebot programming overwrote his polite protocols.

This is how it went down. Out running errands, I notice that Roman has to pee, so I pull over at the closest familiar bathroom, which is at the Whole Foods. We hop out and Roman wants to grab the ginormous plastic racecar cart *curse you, Whole Foods!*, but I protest. He is 13, after all… (<-- Check out my hubris, trying to pass for normal. Ha!)

He concedes, muscles out a regular cart, wanting me to get one too. Again, I thwart him, convincing him that we only need one. (See, I have to go hands-free to make last minute adjustments to Roman’s driving: I am the only line of defense in stranger ankle protection.)

Solo cart negotiated, we step through the first set of sliding doors into the entryway piled high with discounted items. The second set of doors are open, but Roman stops dead, altering the flow of foot traffic.

I re-establish our primary mission: “Come on, buddy - let’s hurry and get to the lew!” Nothing. He is completely shut down.

Then he shoots me a flinty look and I sense that he is loosening a shoe. Something is about to go down.

“Roman…”, I start. That’s when I see THE LAUNCH: the electric blue New Balance missile streaking towards the Green Mountain Gringo Tortilla Strips display.*** A bag jettisons to the concrete.

An older lady walking in just misses the crossfire by an inch or two. “OhmyGOD! I am SOOOO SORRY!”, I blurt. I am standing in the middle of the scene, uselessly trying to protect both assailant and near-miss victim with outstretched arms.

“Oh don’t worry”, she says, leaning over to pick up the shoe and hand it to me, all matter of fact, like this is how she always comes into the Whole Foods. And then she heads on in to do her shopping without breaking her stride.****

Off the hook, I attend to the Romanator, giving him a deep, healing hug to reset his programming. He squeezes back. “You okay, buddy?”, I venture. “Yeah, let’s get going”, he says.

He puts his shoe back on and we return the cart. I put the chips back on the display - I’ll come back for them another day.


* Why yes, I DID watch the whole movie even after Roman bailed halfway in to go to bed. I am all about commitment.
** This moment seems cribbed from Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant, and from Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky before that - both movies are standards in the Roman repertoire.
*** I love those, and 20% off!
**** She’s pretty much the coolest lady ever. And I thought the Trader Joe's customers were the nicest!

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