I was driving and flipping through the radio stations to find something to listen to and I happened upon REM singing "Shiny Happy People." In the way of some songs, it transported me back to the summer after my freshman year of college. That summer I worked at the Burger Express in Wells, NV which was as prestigious and exciting as it sounds.
Almost everyone who worked at the Burger Express was a teenager. I had gone to high school with all of them. There was one cook, long suffering and adult, who worked there. His name was Marcelino. He was probably around 30. He spoke English pretty well and he was much faster at cooking burgers than Thumper, the other guy that cooked. This was the same Thumper who terrorized me in high school. He called me Thelma "The Real Deal" Dahl. He pretended to slam me into lockers. He laughed at me about anything he could possibly think of and I laughed along with him. He was really very funny.
Thumper had somewhere found a cassette tape of the single, "Shiny Happy People." Remember cassette tape singles? Someone found a tape player. Remember tape players?
So we listened to "Shiny Happy People" over and over and over again. Then we would listen to it some more.
I would clip my order to the wheel and spin it toward the kitchen and Thumper would say, "Shiny happy people, Thelma," to which I'd never really know how to reply.
I can't listen to "Shiny Happy People" and not think about that summer selling hamburgers and cheeseburgers to people traveling along Interstate 80 or Highway 93. (Also there were some locals who came by. One lady brought her dog in her car to the drive up window every day and ordered a hamburger without the bun or any of the toppings. For her dog.)
One day Marcelino, who as I've mentioned was long suffering with all of us, had had enough. He walked over to the tape player. He pushed the button to eject the cassette. He pulled it out then pulled the tape out in a long shiny loop. Then he snapped the cassette in two. Then he threw the whole thing into the garbage.
No more "Shiny Happy People."