by Robert L. Hall
I pull to the delivery window with hopes on this Friday morning: Just get the food and get out!
Slowly, I ease my car to the lit food display column post that is just this side of the ordering speaker. Only, my wheels must have gone a tad too far, because as I am reading the menu the speaker comes alive:
I try to ignore it, reading farther down the posted column of early morning breakfast offerings. But, again it comes back on, repeating whatever the first message had been, only a little slower:
"Blab-a-lab-a-labba-blab-blab-labba-leese?" This time the word, "leese," which I shrewdly assume to be the word "please," is appended. (I am gifted at interpretations like that.)
As I don't want to tick off the person taking orders at the window, I tag my gas pedal quickly with my foot, coming to an abrupt stop at the speaker. My head wobbles, giving me a crick in my neck from the slamming of my brakes, as my engine revves up too much from sitting and being jerked out of park. A nice two-foot set of black tread marks is on the asphalt under my tires as well.
"Uh, I would like an egg, cheese and bacon biscuit with a large coffee, please,'" I say confidently.
"Labba-blabba-labba?" comes the response, with the raised inflection at the end.
Oh, that raised inflection! I know what it means. It means the order-taker has not understood my order correctly and has just shot a question back at me. So I gather my courage and think: Guess I should just repeat the whole order again. So I do.
"An egg, cheese and bacon biscuit with a large coffee, please," I repeat, this time louder (but by no means impolitely) and slower. Only I guess my order must have come back over the intercom at the order-taker like: "Lab-lab-ba--blabba-blabba-ab-a-lab-labba-leese," because there is only silence in return.
Frustrated, I ease my vehicle to the pay window and seek to order without the necessity of modern-day electronics to interpret and carry our conversation back and forth. I knock on the glass window. A pimple-faced kid with a hat shaped like a huge biscuit slides the window open and barks: "Yeah, what 'cha want?"
A better attitude would be nice, I think to myself, but settle for saying: "My order . . . I can't hear at the speaker. I'll just give it here."
Junior shrugs his shoulder and says, "Shoot."
"A bacon, cheese and egg biscuit and one large coffee, please."
"That it?" he says, as if I didn't order enough or something. Without a word, he disappears back into the kitchen area.
I am sitting then in my car . . . I am sitting in my car . . . I am sitting in my car . . . Meanwhile, the line of cars behind my rear bumper begins to stack up. Horns go off, and I look in my rear view mirror to see the guy behind me shaking his fist at me. I look at my watch. I am late for work. As a matter of fact, I could have walked to work by now--and back home too!
Junior reappears at last, sliding open the window and demanding of me four dollars and twenty-five cents. I hand him a ten-spot. He takes it and drops seventy-five cents back into my hand as I reach for my change.
"Uh, excuse me," I say. "I gave you a ten-dollar bill."
Storm clouds gather over Junior's furrowed brow. He stabs the till button and reaches in, pulling out a five and jams it into my hand along with my order. Sorry, buck-o! You don't get to pocket that five, I congratulate myself.
It is to my credit that I then open the bags and check my order while the beeping and jeering continue unabated at the rear of my car. Unwrapping the biscuit, I notice there is no cheese, and the coffee cup is only half full. I rap on the order window where Junior is torturing another customer with the 'blabba-labba' speaker, as he is talking into the microphone in his headseat once more. I bang harder.
He turns his face to me and slams the glass open, hatefully asking, "What now?"
"Excuse me. My order is wrong."
"Wha' cha mean, wrong? You got a biscuit and a coffee, didn't cha?"
"Well, yes, in a manner of speaking."
"What cha mean by that? Did ya or didn't cha?"
"No, I didn't!" I exclaim defensively.
"You complained about the speakers, you complained about your change, now it's your order. Just go away, will ya?" he says, starting to slam the glass door once again.
Acting instinctively, I take the paper sack with the biscuit sans cheese and jam it through the opening so the window can't close. "There is no cheese on this biscuit. I ordered cheese!" I spew quickly. "And this coffee . . . is only one-half full. It's not a large. I wanted large!!!!"
Junior yanks off his headset, along with his biscuit cap, and flings them to the floor. "Okay, Okay, I'll get your *?)^%& order again!"
Ten more minutes go by, during which I enjoy some friendly banter with the motorist behind me who walks to my car window to share his opinion that I probably come from doubtful parentage. In turn, I cheerfully remark that his face bears a striking resemblance to the north end of a south-bound mule. He returns to his car.
I feel I've won a temporary victory, however, for at least I am getting another chance to get the order right.
Junior returns once more and hands over the goods. I open the sack. My hopes plummet, however, as my face reddens with anger.
"Look! Just look!" I yell, showing him the open side of the bag he has handed me. "No condiments. None! What about a swizzle stick to stir my coffee, or sugar, or Sweet and Low, or that blue stuff? What about creamer? Ever heard of it? C-r-e-a-m-e-r," I spell out, screaming.
"And this biscuit. It still doesn't have any cheese on it. You handed the same *&^%$%^&* biscuit back to me, because now it's cold. Did you think I wouldn't notice? I want to speak to the manager!" I scream, pounding on the steering wheel of my car.
Junior looks at me deadpan for a few seconds. Then he slowly enunciates: "I-am-the-manager."
My mouth falls open. I stare back at Junior for a moment. "Never mind," I say at last. I roll up my window and drive off, late for work, munching on a dry biscuit and sipping sugarless, bitter coffee.
Robert L. Hall writes book reviews and interviews noted Southern authors for Southern Scribe.com on the Internet. He also pens editorials for When Falls the Coliseum.com. Hall has just published four essays in a new book titled WHEN FALLS THE COLISEUM, a journal of American culture - ISBN # 0-9701554-1-7. He lives and works in Marion, Arkansas, just across the bridge from Memphis, his childhood home.
Contact him at robert_hall8.
Back to USADEEPSOUTH homepage