Once in a while, I remember a great story. My students have favorite yarns I’ve been known to spin, and since I tell them over and over again it’s easy to forget that one day I’ll be senile in a nursing home, careening uncontrollably with my polyester brown pantaloons around my ankles and hitting on nurses with lines from Freddie Prinze movies.
Put simply: there are some stories that are just too excellent to leave to oral tradition.
So here we go:
We’re somewhere in the late 1990s, probably around ’98, and I’m working at the Dairy Queen in Clifton. Imagine one of those newly-constructed mega-gas stations with the restaurantettes, flame-broiled burger smoke drifting through the building while patrons in coveralls and John Deere hats buy their coffees and fill up their F150’s with unleaded.
Now, understand that we’re located right off the highway and we’re the only fast food joint in a little Illinois farm town. This means two types of customers—regulars, and travelers.
Bob, who looks like a cross between Phil Jackson and Quentin Tarrantino and always smelled like cigarettes, owned the place and understood fully the difference between these two factions of patrons. Do anything you can to keep the regulars regular, including putting up with their crap if they’re jerks. The travelers should get the same red carpet treatment, but if they’re going to act like Amarosas when ordering their lunch, there’s less reason to take any abuse since they most likely wouldn’t be back anyway.
Bob put this philosophy into action one summer afternoon when a wiry, rotund little woman with California license plates came in to order a Pecan Mud Slide sundae. Our smallest, sweetest little employee took the order (we called her Muggsy because she’d be five feet tall in pumps), made the sundae, and brought it over to the testy little frump of a gal and said—I swear to God these are her exact words—“Would you like a lid for this, ma’am?”
The woman, for no reason that I can explain to this very day, got extremely huffy and replied, “Of course I want a lid,” like she was answering some offensive query, like, “You’re a female, right?”
Bobbo, the consummate professional and protector of his adolescent hirees, overheard the woman’s tone while assembling a burger and took charge, snapping a DQ bag open and asking the woman—once again, exact words—“And would you care for a bag today too, ma’am?”
The woman looks at Bob like he’s got an aborted fetus dangling from his lower lip and quips, “How about a bag for your head.”
As an owner and manager, I’m sure my boss went through the protocol for this type of situation in his own mind before coming up with a response, but very early in that process I’m sure he thought, screw it…
Without hesitation, Bob replies, “How about I shove this bag right up your ass.”
At the time, I was blending up a Blizzard to the immediate right of the situation and laughed to myself because I thought maybe Bob knew the lady and was engaged in some sort of witty banter. I was waiting for them to start roaring with laughter and slapping each other playfully on the arms.
That never happened. Instead—one of the tensest moments of silence I’ve ever experienced.
So the woman, totally outraged, cocks her arm back with the capped Pecan Mud Slide and whips the damn thing at Bob like a Cy Young fastball. Bob catches it in his gut and cocks his arm up to throw the sundae back at the woman before thinking better of it. Instead of hurting her physically with projectile iced cream, he lofted a verbal missle:
“That’s fine. You were too FAT to eat it anyway.”
Then he went out back and lit up a Merit. Best day of my Dairy Queen career.