Yesterday Mom had a craving, and she asked me to stop at McDonald's and get her a chocolate milkshake. That's a pretty standard remedy around here for not wanting to eat vegetables or chicken-fried steak and yet needing something to fill the tank. She eats well most of the time, but it's only natural to want something that makes you feel good, after you've been through an ordeal.
If the drive-through line had been long, I would have parked and walked into McDonald's. Since there was just one car ahead of me, I pulled in behind it and waited. I waited until the driver polled everyone in her Volvo to see what they wanted. I waited while she argued with the disembodied voice about something (maybe she wanted a Whopper).
After she pulled up to window number one, I drove forward and ordered two shakes, one chocolate and one vanilla. "Two cones?" Now I had an idea of what the woman ahead of me might have been dealing with. Two shakes. Milkshakes. Two. "Two shakes?" Yes, please.
When I moved forward, the woman in the Volvo was still paying. I didn't hear what she was saying, but I'm sure high financial matters were involved. Pennies at least, maybe even dimes or quarters. Eventually it was resolved and my turn to pay. I made the mistake of handing the clerk exact change, $4.06. She took it and put it in her drawer and talked to the car behind me on the intercom and then looked at me. "Second window." Oh, okay. I didn't know I was done here.
Volvo Woman was still at the second window collecting her food. Then she started giving it back. I saw buns and pickles flying back and forth, and then it was obvious she was waiting for something else. They'd gotten her order wrong, or she'd forgotten what she ordered, or something horrible and unforeseeable had caused time to stop ticking.
The next time they brought her a package and she looked at it and gave it back, she glanced in her rear-view mirror. I think she probably saw the expression on my face, which had gone from mildly amused to moderately exasperated. She got out of the car, and I put my hand on the lever in case I needed to put up my window in a hurry.
She threw her arms in the air and cried, "No meat!"
"Twice!" she yelled at me, and then for good measure she turned to the take-out window, threw up her arms again, and repeated, "Twice!"
Okay, now I was interested, so when she started walking toward me I smiled at her. That usually works for me, the way I hear it works for frontiersmen trying to keep angry bears at bay. Now that you're getting within striking distance, I'm sort of a little bit on your side. Please don't eat me.
"There was no meat on the hamburger they gave me," she said. "It had a bun, and sauce, and pickles," (I can vouch for the pickles) "but no meat. Then they brought me another one, and it didn't have any meat on it either." This last in case I didn't grasp the meaning of "Twice!"
I hardly knew what to say. I shrugged on her behalf, hoping she would go back to the Volvo, where I'm sure her audience was used to her communication skills. She threw her arms in the air again and I shook my head sagely and said, "It's something to write in your diary tonight." Because everyone writes a daily diary.
She was back at the window and after they handed her another hamburger and she'd checked it for mysterious disappearing meat, she took a few steps toward me again. No thanks, I'm just having a milkshake. "Be sure and check your order before you leave," she said before getting in her Volvo and driving away. Okay.
I didn't actually check my milkshakes. There was a long line of cars behind me by now, and I was going to drink whatever was in those plastic cups, even if it was motor oil. Which it wasn't. I finished my vanilla shake in twenty minutes. It took two days for Mom to get to the bottom of her chocolate shake. It was $4.06 well spent, for the entertainment value alone.