I Said…Two Hash Browns, Please!

Practicing patience usually leads you to learn a lot more about yourself than you may think

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

“I like to think of myself as patient”, says every deeply impatient person. The struggle for patience, especially during these unprecedented times, is real. A side effect of my impatience results in my inner gremlin coming out. I try to soothe him with positive thoughts and pranayama before he unleashes his fury. His name is Maurice. You’ll meet Maurice soon. My latest encounter with a McDonald’s employee that I thought wanted some smoke proved that where there’s smoke there’s fire OR perhaps there’s me looking pretty dumb. I’ll let you be the judge.

My Saturday morning ritual is sacred. It begins with a short drive to Market Hall Foods to procure a half-gallon of the best f*%#ing orange juice in the world. I repeat, this is my ritual, which means that I want to do it alone. My wife, oh my glorious wife, asked me on this lovely Saturday morning if she could come along. I smiled and without baring any of my teeth, nodded yes.

Maurice, noticing the spike in my internal body temperature, laced up his combat boots.

As we were en route my wife sputtered out, “I’m hungry, can we get stop to get some food?”

Maurice secured ammunition for his upcoming tour of duty.

“Baby, we are on the way to the grocery store, they have food there.” I explained as calmly as any truly disturbed person could.

“I know, but I’m hungry and I’d really like some hash browns. There’s a McDonald’s right there!”

The golden arches to our shimmered against the gloomy Saturday morning sky. There was something precious about this moment as I contemplated how my weekend ritual and life were slowly slipping away out of my grip. We pulled into the drive-thru that was of course 8 cars deep. My wife, filled with glee, tapped her foot excitedly on the floor mat awaiting her rush of carbohydrates and caffeine. Fifteen minutes later we pulled up to the telecom to place our order and the fun began.

“Welcome to McDonald's can I take your order?” the faceless voice asked at a worryingly rapid pace.

“Can I have two hash browns please and a coffee with almond milk?”

“Ok got it, two sausage biscuits and a coffee. Anything else?”

Maurice was out of the car scouting for an inconspicuous place to take up a position.

“Nah man, I said two hash browns and a coffee with almond milk.”

Quick Aside: In an effort to increase order time, quick service restaurants began installing tablets so customers could see their orders real-time and the associated costs. This was meant to be a helpful tool. On this particular morning the electronic tablet evolved into an etch-n-sketch of every breakfast permutation possible, besides what I actually ordered.

The gentleman confirmed my order and asked me to pull around. The tablet cleared and displayed a coffee, two sausage biscuits, and a hash brown.

Maurice shot a flare to let me know he was in position.

Enraged I shouted into the speaker, “Hey man, I don’t want any sausage biscuits! I want two hash browns and a coffee with almond milk!” (At this point I felt like Ashton Kutcher in Dude Where’s my Car?)

My wife looked at me with a furrowed brow, perplexed as to why there was napalm leaking from skin pores.

“So no sausage biscuit and just a coffee and hash browns?”

“Yes” I said wearily.

As I pulled towards the take-out window, I chirped Maurice via walkie-talkie to stand down. We pulled to the take-out window where a man, in his mid-sixties, swiped my debit card and handed me my receipt. I glanced down at my receipt (something I literally NEVER do at any fast food restaurant) and saw a one line-item charge, a small coffee. Before I could respond he handed me a coffee nodding with the casual confident smile like Jay Gatsby nodding to Nick Carraway. I took the cup of coffee, glanced at wife and told her with good behavior I’d be home in 36 months.

Maurice was already inside the McDonalds, his radio was unresponsive, he had gone rogue.

I looked up at him voice quivering, “Sir, I ordered two hash browns. This order is incomplete.”

He apologized profusely, gave me my two hash browns, and told me that they were out of almond milk. He handed me the paper bag and as the aroma of deep fried potatoes in peanut oil filled our car’s cabin I found myself oddly curious. Could he really be that bad or was something else going on?

“Hey man what’s going on, how’s your day?”

“Oh sir…it’s been crazy. We’ve been so busy and there’s this homeless person who keeps yelling at our customers and coming up to the window demanding food. I asked him to go away and he yelled at me each time and 5 minutes ago he spit at the window. I had to go outside and clean it and we lost 10 order. It’s crazy out here.”

Conversations with strangers are some of the most powerful encounters one can have. Here I was, enraged at my breakfast order being incorrect, and he was dealing with a situation that was beyond his job description and control. I apologized for my impatience and wished him a much better rest of day. He smiled and said that appreciated me asking about his day. He confirmed the order of the next drive-thru customer and filled up a soft drink on the soda machine. I drove away with my wife’s hash browns, coffee, and a side of humility.

I saw Maurice flagging me down in my rear-view as we approached the street, I hit the gas and headed to get our OJ.

Chad J. Thomas