I decided to make a quick stop at Starbucks today, before driving to a conference call that I was scheduled to attend. To get to this Starbucks, I have to drive past it, then make a couple of turns until I end up on a road where the Starbucks and other fast food chains are on the left, and Target & Walmart are in a shopping plaza on the right. I always make the mistake of looking at the Starbucks’ drive thru on my way past, to see if there’s a line. There almost never is (because I usually go in the middle of the day), and I think to myself, “Yes!” But, it almost always turns out that every car in front of me has also decided to go to Starbucks, so by the time I get there, there are five cars ahead of me, when, from the highway, there were none. This always puts me a bit of a snit, particularly when I’m in a hurry. And, particularly when there are, like, five people in the car ahead of me, and they all must have ordered the most complicated drinks possible, considering how long it’s taking them to get through. Then I start watching the minutes tick by on my dashboard clock and question why I thought I had enough time to make this trip, which is out of the way, and I wonder if I should drive off, but then I wouldn’t have my chai latte, and, really, it’s not going to take that long to get to where I’m going, and, finally, it’s my turn at the window and I pay and dash off.
When I turned into this plaza today, there were 2 buses ahead of me. “They better not be going to the Starbucks drive thru,” I thought to myself (because, obviously, I am the center of the universe, and can’t possibly make time for others to get in my way) (Did the sarcasm come through in that last line?). Of course, if they were going to Starbucks, it would make more sense for them to go inside, rather than shout out a hundred orders in the drive thru. Anyhow, they went elsewhere. But I wondered if they were looking for some place to eat lunch, and, if so, how the employees of that chosen destination would react to seeing buses pull into their driveway.
When I was 18, my first job was at a fast food joint called Rax. They specialized in roast beef sandwiches, but had a wide selection of sandwiches (they even had a decent salad bar for vegetarians). On the day I’m remembering, I was in charge of the salad bar, but I was also working as the cashier. I can’t remember if this job combo was common, because each job was pretty time consuming, or if I was just helping out as a cashier. What I do remember is a bus full of people pulling into our parking lot at 9:55 pm, when we were all but locked up and ready to leave for the night (we closed at 10pm).
We had to hide our absolute aggravation as we took orders for 20+ people. Turning them away wouldn’t have been an option, though I’ve had that happen to me at various fast food restaurants through the years, when I’ve rambled in too close to their closing time. Times have changed, I suppose. But that night, I obediently took the orders, and I could see Heath, my co-worker and friend, out of the corner of my eye, flinging slices of roast beef onto sandwich buns with particular aggression. If I looked his way, he would catch my eye and mouth certain obscenities while preparing the next order. It was all I could do to keep from laughing hysterically. Partly because we were exhausted and knew we’d be here for another hour or so (and had completed all of our closing duties, but would have to do them again), and partly because Heath was so absolutely earnest is his outrage. And when the customers started ordering the salad bar too–the one I had just cleaned and refilled with new food items for the next day–I knew the evening was a bust. Because, let me tell you, people will rip a salad bar up–drop food, mix food, crumbs on the floor, croutons in the dressing, dressing all over the bar. So, I knew I’d be putting it all together again after they left.
The night is insignificant in the scheme of things, of course. The patrons finally left. We spent another hour cleaning everything (again). Heath said some choice words about the evening. But, whenever I see a bus load of people heading to a fast food restaurant, I can’t help but think about the internal responses of the workers inside. Particularly if it’s late at night.
And I miss Heath. I need to find that guy.