Yesterday being Friday, the girls and I took ourselves out for our usual fast-food lunch, choosing from among a vast array of such places in our city, the Chain Restaurant Capital of the World. I pulled up to the drive-thru speaker of our chosen venue in Applesauce Anne and immediately, a polite and cheerful male voice greeted us, somewhat in the style of a radio announcer.
"Hello and welcome to Arby's!" the voice said. "How may I help you today?"
I was immediately charmed, because who doesn't like to hear a friendly voice at a restaurant drive-thru? Usually the people who are assigned to the speakers have an air of ennui about them that is so pervasive, you wonder why they haven't just fallen prostrate to the floor in a coma. Either that, or they speak in clipped tones that suggest you have a lot of frigging nerve, driving up to the speaker and bothering them with your needy neediness and your hunger and all. When, clearly, you should have known that they were standing there, like, scratching their rash.
Sometimes, people at drive-thrus even go out of their way to be unhelpful, like the girl at another Arby's, as it happens, whom I encountered a few years ago. I made the mistake of saying that I wanted a "loaded potato," which seems to indicate that I wanted a baked potato with a range of toppings, right? Cheese, bacon, green onions, sour cream....the works.
But the girl at this particular speaker, who is probably now serving prison time for running a scam to defraud the elderly, spoke up with a clear challenge in her voice: "Do you mean you want A DELUXE POTATO?"
Deluxe, loaded - whatever. They mean the same thing, right? Or maybe they don't. I sat and pondered for a moment and then said thoughtfully, "No, I want the loaded potato. The one with the gun powder and shell casings."
Ha. That shut her up.
So anyway, on this day, I felt really pleased to be offered that thing...you know, that thing? Where people who work at a fast food restaurant actually act like they're glad that you chose their establishment rather than the million others in the city you could have pulled into? Oh, yeah, I remember. CUSTOMER SERVICE. Yeah, that's what it's called. So when we got up to the window to pay and get our food, it was even nicer to be greeted with a smile from the teenage boy standing there.
"Hi!" he said. "That'll be nine dollars and forty-seven cents, ma'am."
(Ma'am! He actually called me ma'am!)
"He's very cute," said Meelyn appreciatively, observing him from the safety of Anne's very tinted windows.
"That's what I was just thinking," Aisling chimed in. "I like his curly hair."
"I like his polite, respectful attitude," I said fervently.
"And he has nice teeth," Meelyn noted.
"Yes, and we know that because he smiled. Don't let anyone ever tell you that miracles don't still happen, girls."
"It's too bad he has to wear that goofy-looking shirt," Aisling remarked sympathetically.
Just then, the boy came back to the window with our sack of sandwiches. "Here you are, ma'am. Have a nice day!"
"Thank you, you too," I returned politely. "And by the way, my two daughters think you're very cute."
Both Meelyn and Aisling immediately hit the floor of the van, gasping.
The boy's nice smile grew even wider and he tried to peer through the tinted windows into the van's interior. He blushed. "Well, thanks!" he said, his nice teeth showing again ("I wonder what orthodontist his parents used," I mused to myself), pleasure written across his face.
"You're welcome." I smiled back, and pulled away.
As soon as we were in the street, the girls got off the floor of the van and started administering a tongue-lashing.
"Mom, how could you do that?" Meelyn said severely. I met her gaze in the rear view mirror and flinched a little bit.
"Yeah, how could you do that?" asked Aisling. "Could you be more embarrassing?"
I thought it over. "Yes," I said, squinting my left eye and pursing my lips in a contemplative moue. "Acutally, I believe I could be more of those things. Much more, in fact. Shall I turn the van around and go back?"
"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" they both shrieked in chorus.
"Well, then," I said smugly.
"Seriously, how could you do that?" Meelyn asked rebukingly. "You made us look like idiots."
"Yeah!" said Aisling. "Idiots!"
"Oh, fiddlesticks," I scoffed. "Those windows are so tinted, I could have had a couple of chimpanzees strapped in back there, for all he knew. He couldn't see either one of you."
Meelyn was not finished with me yet. "It's the PRINCIPLE of the thing," she said, flipping her long, blonde hair around like a diva.
"Yeah! It's the principle of the thing," said Aisling. "Whatever that's supposed to mean."
"The principle of the thing," I said, wheeling the van smartly into the driveway, "is that what I, a fat, middle-aged housewife, just said probably made his day. The principle of the thing is that I spread some happiness in the world and you two are the biggest couple of happiness-grabber-backers I've ever known. Sheeeeesh. Go eat your lunch, already, you big poopheads."
Later on, as we were driving back home after picking up my husband from work, Meelyn tattled on me by saying, "Daddy, you can't believe what SHE did today."
"Who?" asked my husband, I bit unfairly, I thought. "Mommy or Aisli?"
"Mommy," said Meelyn firmly. "She told the cute guy at the Arby's driveway that me and Aisli thought he was cute."
"Daddy," said Aisling with the air of explaining the obvious, "would you like it if someone told you you were cute if you were a teenager working at a drive thru window?"
"Heck yeah," my husband said, grinning at us roguishly. "I'd like that now. Word. Give me some dog, girl." He held out his hand for me to bump his knuckles.
"I am the spreader of happiness," I said serenely.
"You're the spreader of something, all right," Meelyn muttered. "But I don't think it's happiness, mostly because of the way it smells."
"Yeah!" said Aisling. She paused and then turned to her sister. "So...what does it smell like?"
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