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Showing My Donkey At Hardee's
by Harvey Gardner

I'm officially a grumpy old man. I knew this day would come, but I've fought it as long as I could. Wouldn't you know it, I lost it in public at Hardee's. What a floor show for the patrons and burger flippers.

This has been building up for a long time, and not just because I'm getting a bit more cranky with the passing years. It's because fast food places are run by children. Children without any training. Children without any manners. Children with attitudes.

When my wife and I approached the counter, two registers were open, but not a person was in sight, not even a kid.

We stepped to the first one so the folks behind us could get to a register at the same time. Then a boy with a headset on his dirty, greasy hair walked right by us, stepped to the other register, rolled his eyes back in his bored head, and mumbled, "Can I help anybody?"

The people standing there stepped back and motioned me to go ahead of them, a courtesy that did not go unnoticed and unappreciated. I thanked them and said, "We want one #2 and one #4, without cheese, with small drinks, and no mayo on the #2."

"OK, two #2's . . ."

Then without saying a word, he abruptly turned away and walked toward the drive-thru window. "Welcome to Hardee's, may I take your order," he mumbled into the headset, proceeding to take another person's order.

I looked at my wife. She looked at me. "Just calm down," she said grabbing my arm, seeing that I was about to blow a gasket.

"I've been treated rudely in here before, but I've never had one of these idiots walk away in the middle of taking my order. That really upsets me! Do you want to leave?"

"No, we're already here" she said. “I've never been treated this bad anywhere."

I was semi-calmed-down when the idiot returned. "OK," he said, "that was two #2s with cheese and extra mayo . . ."

My wife Linda -- the calm one -- exploded!

"This time," she screamed, pointing her finger at his face, "you pay attention when we're talking to you . . ." I'm not sure what else she said, because I lost it totally.

"NO!" I shouted. "You erase that order and start over. That's not what I ordered." I continued to shout, smoke emitting from every orifice of my head. From the corner of my eye, I could see Linda pointing at the kid, but I couldn't hear her voice over mine. We were letting him have it with both barrels.

"Let me tell you something, you idiot," I yelled. Everybody in the place was alerted now, including the help and the assistant manager who was running toward the counter. "Don't you ever walk away from me while I'm giving you an order. You erase that order and start over, and you had better get it right this time or I'm coming over this counter on you and report you to your manager. YOU GOT THAT?"

I don't have the words to describe the look of shock and awe, not to mention fear and disbelief, on the kid's face. "I apologize," he snarled, "I had somebody talking in my ear."

"I accept your apology, now get my order right this time."

He got it right, but he had trouble counting my change because the assistant manager was standing at his side now. She said nothing. He gave me my change, slammed the drink cups down on the counter and stalked toward the drive-thru window again.

Linda was silent now, at least I think she was. I just stood there, trembling, marshaling all my strength to resist jumping over the counter and kicking some sassy teenaged behind. The assistant manager pushed my cups toward me and whispered, "I'll bring your food to your table, sir."

"Thank you," I muttered, and turned around. I was staring into a sea of faces with slack jaws. Everybody in the dining area was staring at me in disbelief. In 20 years of public speaking I never saw that much adoration on peoples' faces. Everybody was smiling, but the place was stone silent.

My face would have eclipsed Rudolph's nose. I have a feeling that the story of the "Irate Codger At Hardee's" was a more popular story last Christmas than "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer."


Write the adorable “Tennessean Codger” at harveygardner.com.

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