(HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!!!!)
I love fast food.
It’s not an easy confession to make. It’s like saying you love commercials (which I occasionally do too, and not just during the Super Bowl).
But you rarely hear someone professing their love of, say, Big Macs, though their personal economies may suggest otherwise. If anything, that giant M has become a scarlet letter of sorts, aglow in neon and pastels. A friend’s daughter makes sure the car is free of McD wrappers before mom picks up friends, lest they discover evidence she ate crap. The loss of that demographic must haunt the ghost of Ray Kroc.
But take the M off sign, the Jack out of the box, the crown from the King, and the experience becomes something different. If you stopped at a local coffee shop every morning for your drink and biscuit, we’d find it quaint. The people cooking your food may wear a different uniform, but they are doing the same thing, providing the same service. Just in plastic.
Screw that. I get to know my fast food servers, who know my dog by name (and inquire when she’s not in the car with me). This morning, the manager of my local Jack in the Box literally chased me down before I pulled out of the drive-thru to give me a “VIP” key chain, good for 10% off any order, at any outlet, no expiration date or usage limitations. It’s a dubious honor, to be sure. I’m surprised they even have such a thing. But let’s see a Starbucks — or any coffee shop — offer customers something similar.
Plus, with fast food, you get experiences like Benny Bobblehead and Constance Cussalot, my favorite homeless denizens of my local McD‘s.
Benny is a homeless man who waits at the end of the McD drive-thru. He bobs his head constantly to peek around the corner to greet drivers after they’ve they’ve picked up their orders (and change). It’s a brilliant location, one that rivals freeway exits. Regardless of whether you give him change, his response is the same: “God bless.”
Connie doesn’t request money, though she is less diplomatic. She waits at the exit of McD‘s, cussing up a storm. She’s more of a “goddamnit” girl than a godbless one. Keep your window rolled down, and, if she notices, she’ll toss a “motherfucker,” “bitch” or “asshole” your way. I wonder how many parents have had to explain Constance Cussalot to their kids.
Last weekend, both were in fine form. Benny was looking dapper, decked out in a sport coat (minus the shirt). He’s more hirsute than I thought. I gave him my change (though, confession: I keep the quarters), and, with windows yawning open, braced for Connie’s wrath. She was spewing Category 5 expletives.
“Damn motherfuckers!” she yelled at no one in particular. “Sonofabitches!!”
As we neared the exit, Esme heard the rant. Her ears perked as she stood on her hind legs, just tall enough to look out the passenger window at the commotion. She saw Connie and, for the first time, Connie saw her.
“GODDAMN!!…” Connie began — until she saw Esme. “Awwwww! Wittle doggie!! Whooz a good baby??!! Whoooz a good doggie??!! WHOOOOZ A GOOD DOGGIEEE???!!!”
Her kind vitriol trailed off as we merged into traffic. I assume she returned to her tirade at the next soccer mom she saw.
America may hold its baristas dear. I prefer to hold the pickles, hold the lettuce.