Ten full minutes pass and finally it’s my turn to pull alongside the giant menu board with the tiny speaker box.
After hearing nothing for more than thirty seconds, I wonder if the unseen person inside is waiting for me to speak first.
I decide they must be, so I lean my head outside the widow, but before I can ask if anyone is there, a sudden loud blast of static from the box containing only a few unintelligible words startles me so bad I jump, banging the top of my head against the window frame. “Ouch, dammit!”
In my mirror I can see a grin on the face of the moron behind me. I hope they are out of whatever he is waiting to order.
I have no idea what the person plugged into the speaker box said. I have to assume they want my order. I pull my hand away from where I have been rubbing the knot forming on my head, surprised to find no blood.
I risk leaning out the window again and say, “I’ll have a number 4 value meal without ketchup and a coke,” ducking quickly back inside before another ear piercing blast of static.
I wait. Nothing for another thirty seconds.
The moron behind me is no longer grinning. I think I see his hand moving slowly toward his horn. He’d better not.
Another blast of static and I give up. “That’s correct,” I yell.
At the window I find a twelve-year-old wearing a headset.
He doesn’t smile or say hello. Glancing in my general direction he says, “Three eighty four.”
The five dollar bill I’m holding dangles from my extended hand while he ignores me and carries on a lengthy conversation through his headset.
There is rhythmic acceleration behind me. I grit my teeth while fighting off the urge to put my car in reverse and floor it.
“You got a quarter?” headset asks when he finally accepts my money.
“I’m outta quarters.”
“You don’t need to give me a quarter,” I say. “I gave you a five dollar bill. My meal costs three dollars and eighty four cents. Just give me a dollar, a dime, a nickel, and a penny back and we’ll be all square,” I say, forcing a smile.
He looks at me puzzled, as though I had asked him to give me the meaning of life itself.
“Look, I’m in a hurry and I have a migraine. Just let me have my food and keep the change as a tip.”
“We aren’t allowed to take tips. I’d get canned.” Oh, we wouldn’t want THAT to happen.
Eventually, I get my change, minus the dime, accept my drink and sack of food and pull away. Pushing the straw through the plastic lid I take a sip of what is mostly carbonated water. Once again in the flow of traffic I use one hand to unwrap my sandwich and take a bite. A big glob of ketchup drips out and lands on the crotch of my pants. Cursing, I reach into the sack only to find there are no napkins.
Next time I think I’ll park and go inside. No, better yet, next time I’ll just go home and fix a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
At least I’ve got a roll of paper towels at home.