Life out here by Bret Kofford: A hickey with those fries

September 05, 2001

Having been in the Imperial Valley for a long time now, I think I have a few of the most vexing questions figured out — how to open your car door in July without getting third-degree burns on your hand, the nutritional breakdown of an accidentally swallowed whitefly parfait, Holtville in general.

The one big thing I still haven't figured out is why so many of the female fast-food clerks in the Valley have hickeys (or, in another vexing question, is it spelled "hickies"?)

One can travel to other areas of the country and the mostly teen girls working in the fast food places will have a morally decent number of visible love bites, say one for every seven or eight clerks. Go into a fast food restaurant here in the Valley and it seems as if Dracula is the paramour of every other female employee under age 20.

One chain in particular seems to be particularly prevalent in the clerk/hickey area, dating back at least to the time of the Gulf War. Venture into any of its restaurants in the Valley on any given day and there is more than a good chance at least one of the clerks will have a big ol' visible monkey bite.


Now I am not going to name this chain for fear of litigation, but I do think Carl Karcher should train his employees in the fact that no one wants to see evidence of their love life while ordering a Super Star with cheese.

Long baffled by this love bite with fries mystery, I consulted a local expert on young people who I am sure wishes to remain anonymous in regard to this column. My expert told me it is his or her opinion the stupendous number of hickeys on Imperial Valley fast food clerks is a symptom of insecure but macho young Hispanic men wanting to mark their territory. (Don't go to the racism thing, folks. Our expert was born and raised in Mexico and is tremendously proud of that fact.) If the girls are visibly marked, then they are visibly taken, the expert opined.

"Why can't they just give them a friendship ring?" I asked. "Or how about a necklace, and not one created by their mouths in a back seat on Friday night?"

I went on to point out that not all the young heavily hickied women in the fast-food places are Hispanic, and just because they are Hispanic does not mean that their boyfriends are Hispanic Hoover Honeys. To those issues, questions and follow-ups my expert shrugged his or her expert shoulders and expertly changed the subject, something the expert should have realized I am expert at ignoring.

After thinking a bit, I pointed out that in my own white trash culture, the most commonly practiced way of marking a woman as your own is with a black eye, so maybe the expert opinion had a lot of validity.

The excuse for the last couple generations of women and girls when they are sporting vampire marks is, "I burned myself with the curling iron," leading one to wonder what women of previous generations used to explain away such contusions. ("I fell against the butter churn and it pinched my neck, mother. Yes, three times.")

My questions is, if women are so clumsy with curling irons, why are they not blinding themselves with those eyeliner thingees or knocking out their teeth with lipstick canisters? These are the questions other columnists aren't asking.

The only woman I ever believed regarding the marks on her neck being curling-iron burns was my longtime co-worker and beloved friend Margaret Silva-Chairez, who is a wonderfully talented woman but is in her own world just enough to burn herself on the neck a couple times a month with her curling iron, as she insisted and as appeared to be the case.

Then again, I know her husband.

I don't know the husbands and boyfriends of the fast-food clerks in the Imperial Valley. I do know they bite, and that is information I and other patrons could do without when all we want is a burger and curly fries.

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