by Tom Damron
That's the exact amount the young girl with the pierced tongue and basketball hoops for earrings at the Burger King Register told me. I handed her a ten, a five, dug in my pockets, removed my Swiss Army pen knife, a small fingernail clippers, two quarters which I handed to her while she stared at me as I resumed digging. I came up with a receipt from Wal-Mart, a coupon good for breakfast at McDonald's and one copper penny. I shrugged, held my hand up and said, "I'll be right back. I have change in the car.
The girl shot out at me, "Hey, its okay. I'll just ring up the Senior discount and you'll get change back because it'll only be $14.16." She grinned, exposing the silver ball shining on her tongue and then she handed me a dollar bill, three dimes and a nickel.
I stared at the money in my hand. My thoughts went to--'Senior Discount! I think she just insulted me! I just turned sixty-one; I'm no Senior that needs a discount.' I reached across the counter, checked the number on the order, picked up my bag of burgers and huffily scurried out the door before I was insulted with any more references to being a Senior. I went to my black Odyssey van and sat there steaming. What made her think I was a Senior?
I decided I would show her a thing or two so I added the fifty-one cents to the dollar thirty five, opened the door and went back inside. I rose up, marched to the counter ready to tell her about treating customers with respect, but before I could say a word, she jingled an object in front of me in further insult thinking I was senile and would be distracted by a rattle.
I opened my mouth in rage, but was stopped short when she said, "Here! You can't get too far without your keys can you? I had to change my tack and save face, so I responded, "Leaving keys on the counter hardly makes one eligible for a retirement home, young lady." I snatched the rattling keys from her hand and went back to the car. Still in a huff, I stuck the key in the ignition and the dad gum thing wouldn't turn. It wouldn't turn either way. I figured I had used the key to my wife's car, so I changed. It wouldn't go in the keyhole.
I leaned back in the car totally frustrated. While I sat there stewing, I looked at the rearview mirror and there was a St. Christopher medallion hanging on a gold chain. I don't have a medallion and neither does my wife. I turned and looked toward the back and there in plain sight was a car seat for a child. Our child is thirty-one and doesn't ride in a car seat. In the console was a Tootsie Pop and Winnie the Pooh booklet. Quicker than you can say Omega Fatty Acids I abandoned the UFO vehicle and stood in the parking lot
While I was searching for my vehicle, I noticed a young mother and her son leave the restaurant and head for the van I had just abandoned. There on the other side of her van was mine. The two vehicles were identical except for the decorations inside.
I didn't walk; I ran to my van, slid behind the wheel, started the engine and was out of the lot and on the street heading away from my nightmare. I stopped at the light and felt my stomach rumbling. I looked at the passenger seat and there was no burger bag anywhere in sight.
I turned around and drove back to the Burger King. I parked by the door, sheepishly walked to the register and asked the shiny ball if by chance I had left my bag of burgers when I went out. She shook her head and replied, "You had them wrapped in your hand when you went out the door. Why? Have you lost them too?"
I refused to answer when I spun around and went back to the van. I was standing by the door when I felt a tug at my pants leg. I looked down and there was a grinning little tot of blonde wild hair holding my bag of burgers. His mother stepped up and offered, "I think you left this in my van by mistake." I took the bag from the tot and softly apologized for the inconvenience to her. She waved it off and said, "I understand. My grandfather does things like that frequently."
Deflated and looking around making sure that no Boy Scouts were going to offer to assist me, I finally put the bag beside me. I was on my way home with a cold bag of burgers. While I drove, I was contemplating how to apply for Social Security benefits to get my mind off the thought of how I was dreading the explanation to my wife of what happened. I didn't have to wait long. She met me at the door, took the bag and, "Why are the burgers cold?"
I went to my rocker, took her shawl, draped it over my legs and said, "Heat them in the microwave while I tell you why? It's a long, sad story of what you'll face yourself pretty soon."