Author’s note: This is the eleventh installment of a multi-part series. For an optimal reader experience, read the introduction, Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX, and Part X first. Subsequent installments will post daily.
We picked up the kids from their pizza party, hoping if we couldn’t enjoy our own vacation, at least we could revel in the enjoyment of our children. That’s a thing that happens when you have kids, I guess. It’s somewhat gratifying to see them having a good time, knowing they’re forging memories they’ll cherish for years to come, the same way I look back on my trips to the shore with fondness.
The kids reported they had fun at the pizza dance party. Too much, apparently, because they were so enraptured by the dance portion, they forgot about the pizza half of the equation.
So what do you do when it’s 9 pm and you have two wound up kids whom haven’t eaten since noon?
That one’s a no brainer. New parents, let me introduce you to the magic of Mickey D’s.
The only wrinkle in our plan was the same one that occurs whenever we visit the Golden Arches. Melinda and I, despite agreeing on almost every key domestic decision, are fervently split on the issue of walk-in versus drive-thru.
Like most rational people, I am a firm believer that walking into a fast food restaurant offers the most optimal experience. Yes, you do have to walk from the parking lot to the door, but those 15 steps are an invaluable investment. The line is usually shorter inside because the only people who order at the McDonald’s counter are old people and vagrants, and unlike the drive thru, you actually have a chance to look at the menu without some impatient diabetic honking at you.
I don’t often put my foot down in my marriage, but on this night, I did.
On this night, I chose poorly.
The line was long but not unmanageable, maybe five people waiting ahead of us. There was only one cashier, a young lady named Natalie whose regulation McDonald’s visor hung from her neck.
“Why does that girl have her visor around her neck instead of her head?” Melinda asked.
“She’s Jim McMahoning it,” I said.
Melinda and I have been married for three years, so I was used to her blank responses and explained my allusion unprompted.
“Jim McMahon was the quarterback for the 1985 Chicago Bears,” I said. “When the commissioner of the league fined him for wearing an Adidas headband during a game, he wore it around his neck instead, saying the rules didn’t say anything about neckbands.”
Melinda blinked at me and the line inched forward. “Why didn’t you just say she’s being insubordinate?”
“Because then I wouldn’t have gotten to utilize my trivial knowledge of 1980s NFL politics,” I said, patting Melinda on the shoulder.
Despite her damn the man attitude, it didn’t take long for me to discover Natalie was exponentially worse at her job than low-talking waitress Deirdre. She kept staring at the modest line of customers like it was release day at the Apple Store, so transfixed she’d miss the order of the customer in front of her.
“Two Big Macs?” she said.
“No, one Big Mac, two McChickens,” said the customer.
“Okay, slow down,” she said. “Two Big Macs…”
By the time it was my turn, I had my order memorized, and I relayed it what I hoped was a slow, clear manner. Natalie swiped my card for payment and walked away, picking up items and putting them into a bag.
Five minutes passed. Then ten. Customers who ordered after us began picking up their meals. Natalie asked a customer if he wanted his chocolate milkshake to be chocolate or vanilla.
Thank god for my wife and her lack of fearing confrontation. If it wasn’t for her, we’d probably still be standing there. She marched back to the counter while I averted my eyes and pretended not to know her, chanting like I was on The Price is Right. “No spit, no spit, no spit…”
“Hiiiii,” Melinda said. She has this incredible talent of conveying a tone of friendliness and don’t fuck with me within the same phrase. She pointed to Natalie’s order screen. “We ordered awhile ago, and I can’t help but notice our order isn’t on your monitor there. It was for two Happy Meals?”
Natalie stared at the screen, then Melinda, then back at the screen. I can’t be certain, but I think little wisps of smoke escaped from her ears. “You got a receipt?” she finally said.
“We never got one,” Melinda said.
This was apparently too much for Natalie to handle. She stared at her order screen again, paralyzed. It seemed we had reached an impasse.
Fortunately for us, a slightly more competent employee rounded the corner at that very moment. I couldn’t tell if the guy was a manager, but it was clear he was keenly aware Natalie had the work ethic and ability of a six-year-old cleaning her room.
He apologized profusely for the mix up and collected the items for our order in 30 seconds while Natalie returned to her post at the register to fuck up other people’s orders.
“Are we eating here or in the car?” D asked.
“Oh, we’ll be vacating this establishment as quickly as possible,” I said, Natalie stared at a packet of sweet and sour sauce in one hand and a packet of barbecue sauce in the other, shrugged, and then put both in the bag.
Having sufficiently sampled two of the finest dining establishments Virginia Beach had to offer, I was ready to wind down my evening by folding the kids into the hide-a-bed and slamming several high-gravity beverages.
“Thank god we’re done with that nightmare,” Melinda said as we got back to the room.
“I don’t think we’re done quite yet,” I said, moving from the door to the thermostat. It read 84 degrees. “The air’s out again.”