Thursday, April 14, 2016

Don't do This

            This past weekend I was able to spend four days with my two sisters from Florida, who accompanied our parents back home to Missouri. I drove over and met them at the airport in St. Louis, then made our way out to the small home town of Cuba, Missouri, where we admitted our mother to a nursing home due to her advancing Alzheimer’s disease. It was not a pleasant thing to do and especially not easy on our father, but was necessary.

            To take our minds off the unpleasant tasks of the trip, we all began to go over memories of the past, trips we had made over the years, things we had done together. One thing led to another and somehow we got to eating in the car and fast food in general. As the wine flowed and the conversation continued, laughter filled the room.

            You know, fast food used to be fast. Think about it. Whether you went in to get it or drove through, you ordered and wham, seconds later, you got it. It isn’t that way now. If you go inside, there are fifteen people milling about, waiting for their food. After you place your order, you back up into the crowd and discus the fine aspects of quarter pounders and soggy fries with too much salt. By the time I get my food, Sports Center has cycled around twice and two of my favorite players have retired.

            If I instead decide to drive through and choose to order my favorite #3 meal, the quarter pounder, but with NO cheese, I’m in serious trouble. Traffic through the double lane drive-thru looks like the 405 in LA. By the time I get up to the window and pay and then creep up to retrieve my food, I am stunned to learn it’s not ready. “Sorry sir, it is because you chose NOT to have cheese on it.”

            Seriously? I am pointed to the dreaded #1 lane for the lost and wayward burger eaters. Soon or not so soon someone delivers my luke warm meal. I take off in a huff without looking.  Bad move. I was made to wait because it took longer to NOT put a slice a cheese on a burger. Right? I pull out onto the street and open up the carton and what do I find? Not only do I find cheese on my quarter pounder, but they put EXTRA cheese on it. Morons!

            Do you know what is wrong here? They serve too many things these days. Some of these places have gone back to serving breakfast all day. All in the name of being different. Hey, I have an idea! You want to be different? Go back to being fast and that means cutting your menu down to say, maybe a dozen items and doing them well! Then maybe you’ll remember when I order NO cheese.

            Then my sisters and I were talking about eating in the car. Many years ago I was a District Manager for a company called RGIS Inventory Specialists. We used part time crews to perform inventories in all kinds of retail stores all over. In the early 80’s, I was in charge of the office in Evansville, Indiana. It was a very rural office, with teams of people to perform the inventories all over the place. My fulltime managers and I used to drive a lot.

            I had perfected the art of eating and driving at the same time. Let me just say that we aren’t talking about eating chicken nuggets either. Oh no, nothing that simple. I used to put down a foot-long chili cheese dog. I’d get a round of applause after that one. No spills either. I would only attempt that on the interstate, never on a back road.

            I told my sisters about my favorite Bar-b-Que place. It was in Clarksville, Tennessee. I used to go down in that area every once in a while and if I was anywhere around there, I would go by that Bar-b-Que place. It was outstanding. It didn’t look like much, but the food was wonderful.

            Not long after Lana and I were married, we took a few days off and went down to Nashville to goof around. On the way back, I stopped at my favorite gooey place to eat for some chicken on the go. I think she got a pulled pork sandwich and fries. When they brought out the food and then I pulled out from the restaurant, she looked over at me. “We’re not eating here?”

            “Nah. We’ll just eat as we drive.”

            I remember seeing a raised eyebrow. “You’re going to eat Bar-b-Que chicken while driving down the highway?”

            “Well, yeah. I’ve done it a ton a times. It’s no big deal. Wait until you taste this stuff. I swear this place is the best.”

            My new wife paused as she watched me place a couple napkins on my lap, then adjust my seat a little forward. I caught the steering wheel with both knees, took a coated breast from the box, and dug in. I think there was a look that I have now come to recognize over thirty-five years. It is the look of “Did I do the right thing?”

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