Mouthful of Memories

As I mentioned, I’ve been negligent in my homeowner duties, I have no groceries. I’ve been piecing together food for about a week, I’m tapped. Last night, driving home, I gave in and stopped at Burger King. I’m not even particularly a fan of BK, but it is on the way home.

I ordered a value meal, and right now, they are offering a free ice cream cone with any value meal purchase. Ok. So I get my meal and they hand me a vanilla soft-serve cone. Vanilla. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a vanilla cone.

I didn’t know what to do with it, it’s not like I could set it down while driving. So, I decided to do as my Gramma always suggested and eat dessert first. I took one lick of that cone and was blown away. I haven’t had a soft-serve cone in probably…I don’t know. Maybe high school? Before? I stopped doing cones years ago. I prefer malts when I’m at a McDonalds or BK, or real ice cream, or Culver’s frozen custard. But soft-serve? And if I were to have some, I for sure wouldn’t have vanilla.

Yet.

As I licked the cone, a million memories came flooding into my mind. The taste of the soft-serve, the texture. The feel of the cone in my hand (those generic sugar cones that taste like cardboard). It was all so familiar and it tasted like childhood. It tasted like riding a bike with one hand and licking a cone with the other. It tasted like rare trips to McDonalds by Lake Phalen. It tasted like summer. It tasted like my grandparents and special treats. It tasted like Shasta.

I was eating this cone, driving home, and I was remembering a thousand little moments that I might have forgotten, otherwise. I remembered my mom’s parents and how her mother used to always give us dessert. I remembered how we’d go to their house and they’d take us to Subway and my grandpa would order the meatball sub. I remembered my dad’s parents and how my grandpa used to go to McDonalds just to get ice cream. I remembered how my grandma always had candy and that they kept pop in their root cellar and we thought it was scary, but we’d brave it for a can of pop. They always had Dad’s rootbeer and I think that is why I love it so much. I remembered how when we were kids we hardly ever got to have pop, but sometimes my mom would buy a case of Shasta, because it was cheap and if we were very lucky we got to pick out a few cans of our favorite flavors (cause Shasta was a mix and match pop) and I loved the black cherry the best and my mom used to charge us a quarter per can. She must have made bank because Shasta was super cheap. I remembered how when we were kids sometimes we’d have ice cream. Mom would buy a gallon of ice cream at the store. Usually is was Neapolitan, three flavors in one, but sometimes Cookies and Cream, and a few times, Chocolate Marshmallow, which is still my favorite, to this day, but it is almost impossible to find. In the summer, she would by those rainbow cones, remember those?

And they were “flavored” except they still all tasted like cardboard. But it was exciting to pick out the cone flavor. And my brothers would take huge scoops and pile it as high as they could. And I would take small scoops and pack it down, all the way to the bottom of the cone. I used to love that even with the last bite, I’d still get a good mix of ice cream with my cone. I don’t know what Emily did. She was small then, she probably took whatever mom gave her.

When I got to the bottom of my BK soft-serve, I grinned to find they piped it all the way to the bottom.

I remembered how sometimes, on very special occasions, we’d get Dairy Queen. Dad would usually go, while mom waited at home with us kids. He’d come home with a huge bag of dilly bars. Didn’t matter if I desperately wanted to try a Blizzard or really anything else at all, we all ate Dilly bars.

Then that made me think of the A&W rootbeer out in Oakdale and how we got to go there a couple times and have “real” rootbeer at a drive in. Then I remembered, Jerry’s Drive-in. It used to be on White Bear Avenue, and they had the best onion rings ever. I don’t even really remember the onion rings, I was pretty young when they closed, but I remember, clearly, how my parents loved those onion rings and no matter what we got there, there was ALWAYS a huge order of rings to share.

While I was doing all this thinking I accidentally bit into the cone and got a mild case of brain freeze. Then I remembered a slumber party I had when I was young, I think it was at Amy Reasoner’s house, she grew up just down the street from Kelly. Anyway, I remember we were eating ice cream and trying to get brain freeze. Kids are so dumb. And then I thought about how my mom has always been able to bite into ice cream or frozen treats with her front teeth. I can get brain freeze just watching her.

As I pulled into my garage, finishing the last few bites of that cone, I thought how remarkable it was. I experienced memories I haven’t touched on in years. Some were half-forgotten and others were just dormant, waiting for a spark to ignite them. They say it is scent that carries the strongest memories. For me, last night, it was taste and texture, long forgotten remnants of the joys of childhood.

I guess vanilla isn’t that bad after all.

Dear McDonalds Drive-Thru Boy,

I apologize for my behavior. I bet you never thought you’d hear that, hmm?

Well, I mean it. I really am sorry that I sat in your drive-thru line for 12 minutes at 8:00 PM. It wasn’t even busy. I’m sorry that when you finally gave me my food, you just thrust the bag at me and said, “here”.

I’m guessing it isn’t your fault that you have shitty customer service skills. You’re, what? 16? 17?  You’re a child. You still have a lot to learn and, while the training program may be fantastic, that doesn’t mean that you’ve learned the best way to handle customers.

I’ve worked in customer service my entire life. I’ve chosen to make it my life’s work. And, Drive-thru boy, I’m really good at it. I pride myself on being good with customers, on knowing exactly what to say in any given situation. I’ve achieved the ability to diffuse a nasty situation with a thoughtful remark, a well-placed quip, or a sincere apology. But, it has taken time. I didn’t gain these skills overnight–and, Lord knows, I didn’t have them, in full, when I was sixteen.

So, it isn’t like I expected much of you. Still, I enjoy being surprised. I like it when children like you act with maturity and do the right thing in a given situation, letting me know there is hope for the future.

Then, we have you.

It was a minor annoyance. It was long past peak time for dinner and well before the drunken munchies would come roaring through. I should have been in and out. Instead, it took me 12 minutes. That’s not a significant amount of time in the whole of the universe, but slightly draggy for McDonalds. When I finally inched up to the 2nd window, there you were. You made me wait. You didn’t say you’d be right with me. You never made eye contact. Then, after what seemed an interminable amount of time, you creaked open that window and thrust a crumpled bag in my direction.

“Here.”

Nothing else. Not even eye contact or embarrassed chagrin.

I ripped open the bag to check the contents and the fries weren’t even fresh. I lost my cool.

I yelled at you. Do you remember me now? Or is it run of the mill to have people yell at you in the drive-thru lane?

I said, “Really? Not even a ‘thank you’ or a ‘sorry for the wait’?” And I glared, right into your unshaven, peach-fuzzy, face. I stared you down. Or, I would have, if you’d had the gumption to look at me. I watched your eyes nervously dart in every direction that was not my angry face. When enough tense, terse, silence had overtaken us, I gave my temper full rein and snarled in your direction.

Fuck you.

And then I squealed my tires as I drove away. Do you remember me now? Did you think, “what a bitch”, as I drove away? It’s okay if you did. I was a bitch. I can’t recall being that deliberately rude in my entire life. As I drove away, I was ashamed of my behavior.

I get that you don’t know me. And you probably don’t care. You might have just shrugged it off. But that is not me. I am not that person who verbally abuses teenagers (or anyone, really) because I’m having a bad day. There is no excuse for my deplorable actions. I was just wrong. And I am very sorry.

I keep thinking how I would have felt. I was once a teenage girl, working in customer service. Bagging groceries, telemarketing, cashiering, it doesn’t matter the job. I was once that girl. If me-from-back-then had to wait on me-from-this-story, she would have been upset. Visibly, as she had to wait on the next customer. She would know that the job doesn’t stop because someone upset you or was rude to you, but that doesn’t mean she would have liked it. She would have finished her shift and gone home. She would have told her parents what happened and let them comfort her that sometimes people just say the wrong thing and it is no one’s fault.

I know she would have reacted that way, because me-from-this-story hasn’t changed that much. I called my mom. I told her what I had done and I let her tell me it’s going to be okay. That everyone has a breaking point. But, I couldn’t feel better. Wanna know why?

Because I could picture you, Drive-thru boy, going home at the end of the night and telling your mom how some mean lady in a Cadillac was rude to you, very rude, for no reason at all. You didn’t even do anything wrong.

It’s true, you know, that everyone does have a breaking point. I might have reached mine that Saturday night, at 8:00 pm. But that doesn’t mean I was justified. I was being self-centered and letting the world around me shake what I know to be right. I know better, but I did it anyway. I let loose my life’s frustrations on you. And it didn’t make me feel better. In fact, it made me feel so much worse. When I think of that moment, I get a pit in the center of my stomach. That’s not new, I’ve been feeling it for weeks, but when I think of you, and my bad behavior, the pit grows. It comes to life and it growls and writhes and makes me well aware that I did something wrong.

I’m sorry.

That’s not to make me feel better. That’s the truth. I’m sorry for what I did. I won’t do it again. It wasn’t your fault and it didn’t help. Lesson learned. If you’re lucky, you’ll never understand. That’s what I hope for you.

If I see you again, Drive-thru boy, I will apologize in person. I’d rather you think of me as “that weird lady” rather than “that rude bitch” but that is beside the point. You deserve to hear it, and, I think, I need to say it.

Thanks for listening.

And the fries were really awful. (but, that’s Karma for you…)