I haven't paid for a drink at a local fast-food place in almost two years.
This isn't because I don't eat there, or because I don't order drinks, but because the staff, it turns out, have been quietly applying an employee discount despite the fact that I don't work there. I noticed that they always had a manager ring me up, but it didn't occur to me that anything was unusual until I checked my receipt the other day. I just swipe the card and pay them whatever they say the food costs, because far be it from me to slow down the line or question a Fast-Food Professional.
(And I don't mean that title satirically or sarcastically, but honestly. My own time working fast-food was such an unmitigated disaster that to this day I have great respect for the wielders of the fry-basket and spatula as people with skills that exceed my own.)
I finally up and asked one of the FFPs why this was, and she grinned at me. “That time with the nugget guy,” she explained.
And a wave of “Oh, right, THAT time,” washed over me.
See, in Spring of 2011, my husband was offered a job in the charming little rural paradise I'll call Dogpatch, USA. The money was just good enough that I gave notice at my job, we packed our entire lives into a rented truck, sent the kitties to stay with my folks until we could pick them up and set out for the cheapest rented house we could find within five miles of the new position.
The move, to put it mildly, was unmitigated hell. Everything that could've gone wrong did. I'm talking flat-tire on the truck and no spare, a mix-up with the bank accounts so we had no way to cover the deposit on the new place until the funds cleared at the new credit union, one of my cats got sick and my mom called me, frantic, from the vet and my little brother had a minor fender-bender in our other car, which I'd left with my folks A. as compensation for watching the cats while we took our station wagon and the rental truck to the new place, and B. with the express permission that my little brother not effing drive it, because he'd only had his license for a few weeks and was used to a really different type of car. The dear friend who'd come down with us to help us move was amazed at how calm I managed to stay, even as the world seemed to be exploding around our ears, and even Husband praised me for not losing my temper. (I normally have an awful one.)
Eventually, all of that got resolved and everything was fine. But all that didn't happen until after we stopped to get lunch in our new town. I was seething with barely-suppressed rage over all the problems on top of having to move far away from everyone I knew, our poor friend was freaking right out because she'd never helped change a tire before, let alone watched her friends stop beside the road, climb bodily into a truck to locate the tools, then jack up and take a tire off a truck that was one size below the kind you need a CDL to drive and replace it with a spare off a station wagon before (it worked about as well as a donut works on a normal car,) and my husband was not at his best, being worried about 'will we lose the new rental because of this bank snafu,' 'what if our improvised truck-donut doesn't hold up the last three miles to the house,' and, most importantly 'will our cat be okay?'
We hadn't stopped in nearly six hours, prior to the truck-tire problem a few miles back, hadn't eaten in ten hours or slept in twenty and we were all of us Not Ourselves.
So when we walked into a Golden Showers and saw a person I can only describe as a brain-dead redneck asshole verbally abusing a kid who looked sixteen for only putting twenty-three nuggets into a box of two dozen, I may have lost my temper a little bit. I didn't want to hear him screaming about how two nuggets that somehow got battered together still counted as one nugget and he wanted an extra order for free, not when I was hungry, tired, potentially homeless in a limping-along truck with everything I owned and a possibly-dying cat in another state.
So I...may have cussed him out a little bit.
Specifically, I've been informed by our dear friend, who retells this story endlessly, that I called him a 'pitiful little man-child so clueless he needed two Sherpas to find his own ass' and accused him of being 'so pathetic that a missing McNugget evidently brings back limp, flaccid and unresponsive memories of your lost manhood' before asking 'how DARE you insult someone who is working hard over something so trivial?' and demanding that he physically exit the premises.
I apparently didn't make any kind of threat accompanying this demand, she just says I looked really scary, and for reasons unknown, possibly the fact that my hair was all wild from changing the tire in the wind, I had car-grease smudges on my arms and face and an enormous adjustable wrench in my hand from changing the tire (plus my eyes were quite bloodshot,) the poor bastard complied.
I then apologized to the cashier for losing my temper, requested a cheeseburger meal with Diet Coke, told my husband and friend to order whatever they wanted, handed Husband my wallet and the wrench, and went to the ladies' room to cry. It was not a good day for me.
Once I got myself under control (my friend hurried after me into the ladies' room and made sure I was okay,) scrubbed off the engine grease, accepted my friend's cardigan to wear because she said I was shivering and fixed my hair back in a ponytail, I came out. The whole staff said they thought I'd been very brave and explained that the crusty in question was a regular and a Nasty-Assed Thief they'd been trying to ban for years. He returned not too long afterward with a police officer from the nearby Big Boxmart, who took one look at me and told him to stop wasting police time, before agreeing with the staff to enforce his permanent ban from the premises.
I later found out that the police officer's daughter was the clerk being bullied, which explains a heck of a lot about why I didn't wind up facing charges of, I d'know, Disorderly Cussing-Out of Nugget Customers. That, and when I'm not ravingly angry and covered in engine-grease, I'm really unimpressive-looking. Especially in a cardigan. You could probably put Darth Vader in a cardigan and he'd look like the kids'-desk librarian, but me, even more so.
The manager also came over to make sure we were enjoying our food, asked what was going on with the rental truck, and when she heard that we were in the process of moving to Dogpatch, USA, she said “Give me a minute,” and went and got us the number for a place that could fix the rental-truck's tire.
The garage she recommended was able to patch the rental truck's tire for $10 and a “holy crap, you're from [my hometown] too? It'll be so great to have another [hometown's football team] fan around here!” Then our new landlord called to let us know the bank problem was no big deal, we could just move in and just add the deposit to the first month's check, due at the beginning of the next month, explaining that he'd done the same thing when he changed banks. No big deal.
An hour later, the vet called to personally reassure me that Spot was fine, just allergic to the brand of food my mother's cats prefer and prone to being a bit of a drama queen. He'd apparently eaten the food, horked violently and then lay on his back pretending to be dead until my mother packed him off to the vet. I should've warned her that he's just like that sometimes.
And during dinner that night, Little Brother called, all contrite and offering his own $500 to cover what he assumed the deductible on our car would be, only to hear that we only keep liability and I'd already priced a replacement fender from the junkyard affiliated with the local garage for only $60, so All Was Forgiven and we got to upgrade the slightly-rusty fender to a perfect replacement from the junkyard on Little Bro's dime. (I normally do virtually all my own car repair, so this was no big deal after all.)
So the next week, when I stopped at the Golden Showers and ordered a cheeseburger meal with a Diet Coke after my first job interview in the area, I didn't think too much of it that the manager saw me coming, activated a register and rang me up.
And it's been like that since we've lived here. A small town, yes, in the middle of nowhere, true...but it's a place where people look out for others who've taken their side.
I could get used to that.