I've been thinking of selling my son into the foreign slave market before he becomes a teenager. It is now clear I have no other choice. A confrontation with thirty moronic high school boys who want to beat one up during their lunch break at Burger King tends to solidify any wishy-washy feelings one might have about adolescent males.

Until this incident, our neighborhood Burger King was my office--a serene and peaceful place where I could sit and write for hours without having my train of thought derailed by a screaming baby, a bored five-year-old, a wife who lives to rearrange furniture (even when I'm in it), telemarketers, Jehovah's Witnesses or impromptu visits by friends, relatives and income tax auditors.

At Burger King, a person is left completely alone. There aren't even any chitchatty waitresses who approach every thirty seconds to ask if more coffee is needed. When you want more coffee, you get it yourself. For my creative purposes, it's the perfect system.

Well, it was perfect. The first drawback revealed itself two days ago, when I sat down with my coffee, opened my notebook, took out my pen . . . and was immediately spotted by a neighbor. She very pleasantly asked if I was busy, ignored my answer, sat down and (I swear) proceeded to tell me about the metal plate in her head that was installed by underground aliens as some sort of homing device. Obviously, it wasn't working. And neither was I.

But that was only a minor nuisance compared to yesterday's adventure. There I was, scribbling away, lost in my own world, only vaguely aware the place had been invaded by several dozen noisy, obnoxious teenage boys--the type that confuses masculinity with the ability to belch loudly and on command.

Despite the din, I was somehow able to tune them out. Until they decided I was taking up space in their own private Burger King territory and started pelting me with French fries.

Now, having dealt with countless noisy, obnoxious teen cretins in movie theatres, I felt in control of the situation. I knew what steps to take, and the order in which they needed to be taken.

1. Locate the apparent slope-headed ringleader and glare at him as if you were Charles Bronson in a really bad mood. If that has no calming effect (for example, if he yells "Hey, asshole, what are you glarin' at?" while his henchcreeps continue to pelt you with food), proceed to step two.

2. In your deepest, meanest Charles Bronson growl, say something mildly insulting, like, "Let's behave, children." If that has no calming effect (for example, if the ringleader responds "Hey, asshole, who you callin' `children'?" while his henchcreeps continue to pelt you with food), proceed to step three.

3. Stand up, stroll over to the ringleader, look him straight in the eye and mutter a vague, Bronsonesque threat along the line of, "You know, if I were to take you outside and rip off that unsightly head of yours, your popularity quotient would no doubt skyrocket to new heights." If that has no calming effect (for example, if he says, "Go ahead and try" as his 29 buddies gather around you), perhaps you should have left the building after Step No. Two. Unfortunately, I had encountered punks of the "go ahead and try" persuasion. "Okay! C'mon, let's go outside!" the ringleader said to deafening cheers. "By the way, I'm under eighteen. You touch me and I'll get a new car. We touch you, and you'll be hurtin'." At that moment, the hooting throng--with me at its center--seemed to take on a life of its own, oozing out the door and into the parking lot. Everywhere I looked, beefy boys were removing their jackets and grinning like hyenas who'd cornered an old, slow, chubby gazelle.

Obviously, I thought, I've got to think of a new and improved way to deal with noisy, obnoxious teenagers . . . as soon as I think of a way to survive my old way of dealing with them.

That last process didn't take long, really, because my choices were very conveniently limited to 1. fighting thirty aspiring football stars and having to buy all of them new cars from my hospital bed, and 2. walking away and really disappointing them.

Call me a cold, heartless sadist, but I chose to really disappoint them.
As I made my escape, the mob showered me not only with French fries, but also ice cubes, half-eaten Whoppers and obscenities. It occurred to me that if I sold both my children to the foreign slave market right away, I could work at home in relative peace and quiet while getting my own coffee refills whenever I want them.

For my creative purposes, it sounds like the perfect system.

The place was invaded by obnoxious teenage boys--the type that confuses masculinity with the ability to belch loudly and on command.

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Michael Burkett