Growing up, we managed for years to hide our wanton lust for the McDonald’s restaurant our town didn't yet have. We suffered quietly and proudly with only a Dixie Lee and an A&W to keep us fat and happy.
The summer that I went to work as a short order cook at the A&W in the mall on the outskirts of town, interesting things happened. Prince Charles married Diana, I learned to steal and we finally got a McDonald's (sans drive thru).
After Prince Charles had married Diana and they began touring the world, they stopped in my town for a Royal Walkabout. I stood along a cordoned path in the park with roughly 9000 of my fellow townsfolk hoping for a glimpse at the happy couple.
I saw demure Diana from several feet away as she smiled and wilted along the green in a big hat. Occasionally she'd stop and say a few words and the group would crush harder trying to be near her. She smiled in my general direction on her way by and I felt special for a moment.
Charles stopped in front of me and shook my hand. I said I hope you’re enjoying your stay in New Brunswick and he said mumblety tumblety jibblety yes, indubitably or something like that. I said I hope you’ll come back and visit again and he said bippity boppity boo, of course we’d love to as it’s simply beautiful here don’t you think? and off he went.
I had to go to work following the big event and for the rest of the day, every burger I cooked had a positively royal air about it.
The A&W restaurant itself was set up so that there was a little phone in each booth and you’d pick it up and call in your order to the waitress at the station near the front. The system never worked properly and generally, your voice would get amplified and all the other diners would look around to see just who was ordering the Papa burger, the large root beer, onion rings and the Chubby Chicken.
As chief cook and bottle washer, I would like to say at this time that I never did anything untoward with the food. Although I did steal a lot of it. We were expected to pay for half the cost of our sanctioned lunch and so I accidentally mixed up orders here and there and would eat to my belly's content.
When we did get our McDonald’s, it was a relief not to have to drive an hour outside of town to get to the nearest House of Ronald anymore. We could feel special right in our own tiny town.
One evening after my shift, my mom came to pick me up. On the way home, she said, you know I think I’d like to stop and get a drink. Why don't we stop at McDonald’s and maybe you can run in for me? I had already taken the paper hat off but was still sporting the hideous orange shirt and brown polyester pants that made up my uniform. I imagine that I looked like some sort of awkward moving Reese's product display.
What do you want? I asked Mom as we pulled in. Maybe a Coke or no, make it a root beer, yes a root beer.
I went in trying to look as cool as I could in the uniform and asked for a large root beer. As soon as I said it, I knew what a fucking moron I was. A&W is famous for it’s root beer and here stands Dale, the biggest tool in town wearing the colours of the Bear in the House of Ronald.
The counter girl’s face screwed up a little as she said what?, her eyebrows trying not to escape upward. I calmly repeated my order. Sure she said fairly bursting as she went to the back. She spit out her glee in hushed tones, cupped hands and some pointing at me to her friend at which time they fairly collapsed with laughter.
I smirked as though as I was in on the joke and not a part of it. She eventually composed herself enough to come back out and give me my drink. In my mind, I ran from the store but in reality, I sauntered out as cooly as I could muster and didn’t go back for about a month. I still won’t talk to my mother.