There's a little restaurant chain that began in St. George, Utah back in 1997 called Cafe Rio. Maybe you've heard of it. It was new to me until I moved to the Salt Lake City valley in January of 2011. A few weeks after our move I was asked to join a planning committee for a church dinner. "Cafe Rio salads" were one of the options discussed for the menu and desiring to fulfill my duty to this committee, I took it upon myself to do a little field research. The next day I made my way to Cafe Rio, purchased a shredded chicken salad, and...sealed my fate. I've been hooked ever since. (I swear they must slip cocaine into that house dressing.)
Over the years we have moved around a lot. Sometimes it's difficult to feel like a place is "home". So with the intention of making Utah my "home sweet home" I feel it is my civic duty to do as the Romans do, or in this case, do as the Utahans do. I have a moral obligation to make a weekly lunch trip to Cafe Rio. All in the name of being a good neighbor and citizen, mind you. Over the past year and a half I've tried several delicious items on the menu, but I'm always drawn back to the shredded chicken salad. Since I've been on my weight loss journey it's the smaller shredded chicken tostada that satisfies my Cafe Rio craving ("Hold the tortilla, cheese, tortilla strips, and sour cream, please").
But I digress...Confessing my Cafe Rio addiction is not why I came here today. But it was while I was in Cafe Rio, savoring my weekly chicken tostada that I saw something that made an impression on something within me. And here is my clumsy attempt at taking a mental picture of it.
The lunch hour brings people from all walks of life into Cafe Rio, including dozens of police officers. My daughters and I love watching these law enforcers taking a break from their long workday to enjoy a meal. They are relaxed and engaged in casual conversation with people around them. It's pleasant for my children and myself to see these civil servants that we respect in these unfettered circumstances.
As we ate I watched one officer in particular. Something about his arm had piqued my interest. His entire left arm, from shoulder to the wrist, was covered in tattoos. This, I would assume, is a rather unusual signature among law enforcement individuals, especially law enforcement individuals in Mormon Central, Utah. But it wasn't just the permanent sleeve of tattoos. It was the wedding band that gleamed from his ring finger just below the tattoos. And it was the police patch sewn on to the left sleeve of his uniform that hovered above. The wedding ring and civil servant patch sat on either end of the tattoo like bookends.
This arm told a story.
What the story was about, I'm not sure. I don't "speak" tattoo. But I gathered enough from the cover to perceive the poignancy of the tale. I wanted to know more. I couldn't keep my eyes away from him, or more directly, his arm.
An urge came over me. I at least wanted the abridged version of the story. I wanted a picture.
But all I had was my lousy cell phone. I wrestled back and forth in my head whether I impose on this unsuspecting fellow who is trying to eat his lunch and ask for a picture. I began to shake as I worked up the nerve to ask him. How ridiculous. Some silly mom with three noisy little girls asking for a picture of his arm.
But I had to have one.
I worked up the nerve a dozen times. I wimped out eleven and a half times. When he started to get up to go I knew my chance was walking away with him. I seized the moment. I jumped up and asked him if I could take a picture of his arm. What a weirdo. I asked a police office for a picture of his arm.
But what a nice guy, he accommodated. I imagine when he joined the police force he pictured serving his community by catching criminals and rescuing victims. Not posing (with his hand on his heart no less--HIS natural placement, NOT my request) for the Mamarazzi in Cafe Rio.
I hastily snapped the picture and stumbled away. I couldn't stop jittering for the next half hour. I was so anxious I'm not even sure I thanked him for submitting to my awkward appeal. I waited until I had all of my children safely back in the car before I indulged a peek at my picture.
But...no picture. Stupid phone.
I would try to draw his arm for you, but my artistic skills lean towards the cartoonish. A cartoon just wouldn't do this justice. And I am more painfully aware than you that I am floundering as I attempt to take a mental picture here. My vocabulary and thesaurus are failing me today. Overall, I am frustrated by my lack of artistic talent or tools to illustrate to you just why some random police officer's arm made such an impression on my soul today.
And now I've wasted two hours, muddling it all up, trying to explain something that would have taken a moment to photograph and slap on a "Thought this was cool today!" caption. With time and smearing of words, I'm beginning to wonder just why a massive tattoo bordered by symbols of devotion to family and country cast such intense imagery for me today. It's not like I'm some kind of tattoo enthusiast or married to a police office or in the jewelry business.
I'm just a mom who really likes her Cafe Rio tostadas, who likes to people watch, who wishes she sometimes wore a professional grade camera around her neck instead of a diaper bag, and who appreciates those people who put their lives on the line to serve our community.
(I should really consider renaming this blog "To Make a Short Story, Long...".)