“That’ll be $20.12 sir.” The young lady behind the counter of the fast food restaurant my family and I had recently walked into.
We don’t normally eat at fast food places. I don’t really care for them too much. Usually only when I get a craving for some greasy food that I know will do nothing but upset my stomach. Although, truth be told, we didn’t have much of a choice. You see, we had driven my wife’s jeep to Virginia Beach for a doctor’s appointment. After sitting over an hour in the waiting room, spending a half hour talking to the doctor, getting good news and then paying the bill, we left. Only to discover three miles down the road the Jeep was overheating.
This was not much of a surprise to us. We’ve been having vehicle issues for over a month now and it seems out of the three vehicles, my motorcycle is the only transportation we can fully rely upon. So we pulled over to the side of the interstate, I got out, popped the hood and watched as steam rose from the radiator fill. I could see through the semi-clear overfill of the radiator that the fluid was bubbling and I all could think of was how quickly I could cook some pasta in it.
We had nothing to do but wait. So I called my mom and spoke with her, then after about thirty minutes we started the Jeep up, took the nearest exit and parked in a convenience store parking lot. I went inside, got a gallon of water, poured it into the radiator, checked with the owner/clerk of the store to make sure we could leave the Jeep there while we went to get something to eat and then walked a block and a half to the fast food restaurant.
Like most fast food places these days, this one had been remodeled to look like some sort of upper middle class bistro. But no matter how much spit, polish, Swedish furniture or modern lighting, you can’t upgrade the food. Yes, the atmosphere of the place tried to be something it wasn’t. A mental picture of Joey Ramone in a tuxedo attending a fancy gala came to mind and I could do nothing but laugh at myself.
“$20.12 for burgers?” I said a bit astonished to the young lady behind the counter.
“Yes sir. May I have your name for the ticket?”
I shook my head, pulled out my wallet and handed her a twenty and a five dollar bill. “Skip.” I responded.
“No, my name is Skip.”
“Can you spell that for me?”
And I almost did. You see, all my life I’ve been asked to spell my name, either my given name or my nickname. It seems damn near impossible to discover folks who can actually understand how letters go together. So when people ask me “Can you spell that for me?” my normal response is “T.H.A.T.”
Invariably, ninety-five percent of people type out or write “THAT” without even thinking. Then, as I watch their face go from boredom to amusement to frustration for falling for an old and invariably joke on their idiocy, they become offended. But I didn’t spell that. I simply said “S.K.I.P.” then I looked at her nametag.
Her name was “Eleasia” which I have no idea how to pronounce or even if it means something. Truth be told, I don’t care. I thought to myself “With a name like Eleasia, you should be able to spell Skip.” Instead, I just shook my head and took my receipt which she was holding out to me like it was some sort of dead and rotting bug.
My family and I sat at a booth. Chatted for a moment, and then I went up to the counter to pick up the food. Which had been piled onto two, dark brown plastic trays with cheap paper liners. The fries looked soggy and stale, the burgers, wrapped in some type of aluminum and paper foil with no distinguishing characteristics sat crookedly and I could see some of the grease and condiments slowly leaking onto the paper. My daughter’s chicken bits were falling out of a cardboard box with a yellowish brown crust on them. Everything smelled like grease and fat. My stomach rumbled.
I took the food to the table, sat down and passed it out. We sat there, eating and talking. My fries were terrible and I ate maybe a dozen of them. My burger, which mainly tasted of mayonnaise and ketchup was barely palatable. The only reason I ate it was because I needed to. I have to. I don’t have a choice in most of my eating times. I eat when I’m hungry, which is rare, or when I’m told to by the people in my life. Or, in some cases, when my doctor orders me to. (Hint, I’ve lost weight and it seems to be a growing concern to everyone in my life.) So I forced myself to eat one of the worst pieces of meat I’ve ever come across. As I was eating my brain was filled with Soylent Green references or even the protein bar scene from the movie “Snowpiercer”.
I suppose the highlight was the fact this particular establishment had one of them newfangled drink dispensers. I was able to get peach flavored water, after spending about five minutes trying to figure the contraption out and of course, being the overgrown kid, and making all sorts of weird concoctions. In my mind, as I was doing all this, I pictured myself as some ancient alchemist in his creepy tower laboratory mixing all sorts of chemicals in an attempt to discover the mysteries of life or how to turn lead into gold. It was a man behind me who cleared his throat that made me finally decide on peach water. Or else I may still be there playing with that machine.
After food, more conversation and patiently waiting, we trekked back to the Jeep. The temperature gauge was within acceptable driving limits and we set off on a twenty mile journey home. It wasn’t until we were a half mile from our house that the temperature gauge rose again and steam started pouring out of the engine compartment. We drove that way to our drive way.
Yet through all of this mess, this misadventure, this travail of our lives, our mood never faltered, we stayed cheerful, told jokes and all I could think about is that I should have said “T.H.A.T.” to Eleasia behind the counter of the crappy fast food joint.
After all, when you get a chance to make a pun or joke at someone else’s expense, and it does no harm whatsoever to anyone involved but speaks more to the situation of life you are in, I say do it. Laugh in the face of adversity and you will be a much happier person.
Have a great week.