I Was A Teenaged A&W Cook

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.


lulu said...

"The Papa Burger" and "the Chubby Chicken" are euphemisms, right?

mellowlee said...

I saw Charles and Di during Expo 86 in Vancouver. Our choir sang for them at the foot of the stage they stood on. She was so beautiful! I don't think there are words to describe how so...she glowed. He on the other hand was a boring ass.
Do they have A&W's in the States?
Anyways, now I want to go to A&W for a frosty cold one. Thanks Dale ;)

mat said...

mellowlee-as a kid in central Illinois (70's/early 80's), you could still go to the old style drive in A&W and get served right at your car by a waitress in roller skates. Haven't seen a drive in version since probably '85 though.

Old Lady said...

I hate root beer! Aagh! I worked at McDonald's once though. This was great, I loved it.

I never did get to meet the Princess when they stop down here once.

justacoolcat said...

When I was a kid going to A&W was such a treat. I loved rootbeer, food, phones, old style juke boxes, drive up service, and most of all the frosty mugs. As an added bonus it was right next to a mini-golf course which we would usually golf afterwards.

They still have A&W's here and even one that has the old style drive up.

Ahhh the memories.

As for your royally touched hand
it shows in your blogging.

I dub thee Sir Dale of Cunning Linguists.

( not to be confused with Sir Dale of cunninglingus )

Tanya Espanya said...

Again, how did I never hear of this story until now?!

I am honking over here...I think I'll call you so you can hear me...

Anyhoodle, when I was 14 I worked at the Big B Ranch at Ontario Place...I think that's what it was called...I wore a yellow polo shirt...yellow like that fluorescent Kraft dinner yellow...Ugh, what a crap summer that was.

It was part greasy fry place, and then there was a CCR cover band on the other side of the fryer, with actual waiters earning actual money.

I worked from 12 noon to 8pm, which meant I had no time in the morning to do anything, and by the end of working, I was too tired to do want to do anything.

Ugh..I'm sick and exhausted just thinking of it all...I had to then walk to the streetcar, a good 15 to 20 minutes, then the ride to Bathurst subway, then the subway home...

Kill me now.

Tanya Espanya said...

The official airline of Ireland?

Aer Lingus

There's a clever remark in there somewhere...One of you cool kids do it for me, I'm too tired...Have to go eat cookies.

justacoolcat said...

Aer Lingus, I'm not sure what the joke is, but it rolls off the tongue nicely.

Holly said...

I am currently cheering wildly and applauding enthusiastically in your general direction. If I had a root beer, I'd toast you with it.

Awesome story, Dale. Bippity boppity boo, no one from New Brunswick was ever cool as you.

Dale said...

Maybe at your house they are Lulu but here, they're a way of life.

It may have been that special I just finished being sick in the bathroom and now the choir is making my eyes float glow Mel. Poor thing. And to answer your question, let's listen to Mat.

Thanks for the info Mat. They seemed to have been pretty popular everywhere for a time. I never had the roller skate treatment but there were drive ins where they hooked the tray up to your car window. Fun.

I like the root beer once in a while. Glad you enjoyed the post Old Lady. Old Lady - Lady Di, nope, no connection.

It was all going so well Coolcat until you had to make it all disgusting by saying that. Mini golf - for shame!

You can't be in my head all the time Tanya, the same way I can't be in my head all the time. Mmmm, your job sounds greasy.

Aer Lingus. Not as bad as mini golf but still.


Thank you for the cheers Holly but are you cheering me because I didn't cry or because you were the girl behind the counter and you finally found me again?

chelene said...

I've never heard of or seen an A&W in my life but I still loved your story. The Prince Charles dialogue was a hoot.

Every time I've heard him speak he sounds just like that. He and Camilla must have the worst pillow talk. They both mumble.

Melinda June said...

I think that ordering a rootbeer at McDonald's in an A&W uniform is the height of brilliance.

I once sent my friend Ben out at 2AM dressed in a yellow rain slicker and hat. I made him go to the QFC and by Gorton's Fishsticks.

justacoolcat said...

Pillow talk.

What is the British version of zzzzzzzzzzzzz?


Dale said...

Oh Chelene, no A&W? Well, flibbity jibbity whoa. I'm sure it's all very dignified and hilarious their pillow talk. They did have that scandal a few years back didn't they though when a phone conversation was taped? I think he said something about wanting to be her tampon? No tampons please, we're British.

Glad you approve MelindaJ. And your evil also sounds formidable. Fish sticks - who doesn't need fish sticks at 2 a.m.?


Bluez628 said...

For an ice cold root beer would you send me the yeah yeah Yeah's version of "Hyperballad"???


if you don't have it, I'll take my rootbeer elsewhere :-)

Melinda June said...

That was "buy", by the way.

Angela said...

That is classic! As soon as you mentioned Dixie Lee, though, I had flashbacks to my youth in rural northern Ontario. Our family lived in a small town for 14 years, in a place where Canadians really do say "eh" after everything and mispronouce words like Italian and carrot and potatoes. It was "Eye-talian" and "car-ut" and "puh-day-duhs". I'd better stop yokel bashing before they come after me with their cow patties.

Dale said...

On the way Bluez, good luck emailing the root beer. I think I got the short end of the mug there.

I knew that MJ. But by would have worked to. You could have just made him pass back and forth in front of the window in his slicker.

Ah, I know these people Angela. If you didn't click the Dixie Lee link, do so, you'll enjoy. I say poe-day-does for my own amusement but there are still people I work with that say EyeTalians and I'm in a big frickin' multicultural downtown office tower. Fuckers. Oh, and my sister says onion like ungyun. I tell her the 'g' is silent in onion.

Tenacious S said...

I saw a tragic accident at the A&W in Eagle River, WI. Two teenage girls were having dinner and one was trying to put ketchup on something. It wouldn't come out so she kept squeezing harder and harder. Then the ketchup exploded, really! All over the girls, the walls, the window, the ceiling. I can't remember, but I think one of them cried. We were laughing.

Holly said...

I am cheering you because you are witty, eloquent and brilliant.

I hope that's an acceptable substitute for not being the girl behind the counter.

By the way, Aer Lingus--isn't that the name of a Jimi Hendrix song that goes, "'Scuse me, while I kiss the sky"?

Dale said...

Exciting update - I sent the mp3 to Bluez and she sent me a picture of a can of root beer. I would have preferred the frosted mug but...

Tenacious S - This is why I want to travel with you. I want to laugh as I watch tragedy unfold all around me.

You flatterererer Holly. I'm glad you weren't the counter girl as it took me a long time to forgive her for my folly.

I think that's the Lingus Tanya's been looking for! She'll be glad you found it.

Tenacious S said...


Dale said...

Hop in your car, come as you are....and everyone bring music.

Angela said...

Hahaha! You're right, I did enjoy that Dixie Lee link. Some kid must have been really stoned when stencilling that last picture of her. And yes, their chicken is mighty tasty. Are there any Dixie Lee's in T.O.? I haven't seen any myself.

Dale said...

I don't think there are Angela. There are a bunch scattered throughout the province in places but I can't attest to how good they are. Ahh, Dixie, you vixen of chicken.

Coaster Punchman said...

A&W rocks! I love their rootbeer, and I would take their chili dogs and all that over McDonald's any day. I wish we had one here. Sigh.

Dale said...

Why don't they have one there? I bet they do and they're hiding it from you. Time for you to do some sleuthing. Check here.

Coaster Punchman said...

4.54 miles baby! You are officially my hero.

Dale said...

How was it?

Coaster Punchman said...

Sadly, I never made it to my local A&W that you so kindly pointed me to. Now I'll have to check that same website for a San Diego location.

I will need to blog about my 3-day career at McDonald's. After my third disastrous day the manager was supposed to call me to tell me when to work again and he simply never bothered.

Dale said...

I had a similar stint at McDonald's in my early career CP but polyester was not bound to play a huge role in my life.

Get thee to an A&W pronto!