So Shep and I have to go into The Big City for errands (aka Apex) or rather I have to go and Shep came because I promised them free food. Errands concluded, we go to Noodles & Company.

It is empty.
The lights are on. The computers are on. The drinks machine hums with ice. But there are no humans. It is empty.

We wait, but no one comes to take our order.

All is silent.
Has the noodle Rapture occurred? Were the employees taken and we were judged unworthy?

“hello...?” I call, at a volume low enough that I don’t feel I am imposing, and thus, no one can possibly hear it.
I look at Shep. Shep looks at me.

A masked man enters and goes to the back. We are relieved! Surely he will tell them we were here.

No one appears.
“Excuse me...?” I call a little louder, and immediately wince in case the volume might possibly be taken for demanding.
The masked man reappears and goes to the drink machine. “Excuse me,” I call, twenty feet away, “do you know if anyone is here?” He does not acknowledge my existence. That is his right, of course. I immediately feel guilty for having spoken above a conversational tone.
The masked man vanishes into the back. We wait, with hope in our hearts.

Hope dies. I call “Helloooo...?” again, feeling like an explorer in an abandoned mall, which I actually did once with @jenniebreeden but that’s another story.
Suddenly a young man appears! He looks cheerful and delighted to see us, by which we know instantly that he is High As Fuck.

He attempts to take our order, but cannot make the machine work.
He apologizes for our wait, the machine, his inability to understand the drink order after three tries, and fetches another young man.
The second young man is obviously the Silent Stoner variety. He has bright orange hair and his pupils open onto the fathomless reaches of heaven. He swipes a card, pokes three buttons, says something inaudible, and retreats.
“I’m SO SORRY for your wait!!” says Happy Stoner. His pupils are the size of quarters.
We reassure him that all is well. “I thought it was the noodle rapture,” I tell him.
This joke does not land. Possibly a 7-47 would not land.
“Your tattoos are AMAZING,” he tells Shep.
Shep makes the courteous murmur that the tattooed always make in such cases.
“Did you get them all at once?” asked Cheerful Stoner. (Please note that this would have required a tattoo artist operating around the clock for several days, probably on Dilaudid and cocaine.)
Shep indicates that this was a multi-year process. Cheerful Stoner asks my name. I tell him. He gazes at his machine in horror. A spelling challenge? Now?!
“Like the Sea Witch,” I say gently. His face clears.
We go to await our food. “In my day, we posted a lookout,” says Shep, the voice of retail experience.

I assume they were in the walk-in freezer and thus could not hear the door. It’s what everybody did at the restaurant.
Our food is eventually brought to us. Cheerful looks suddenly worried. Will the white lady call a manager? Oh god. He apologizes for a fourth or fifth time. We reassure him that we have carbs and are pleased with life.
I do not say that there is easy access to the kitchen from the front, requiring no counter hopping, and only the Ancient Law of Retail kept me from going back and checking the walk-in freezer for corpses. Just in case. He looked stressed enough already.
CODA: In a possible attempt to appease us, he put an inch-thick stack of napkins in the bag. Perhaps we could be bought with napkins. Who knows?

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