We're into spring outdoor soccer season for son #2. He has a couple of months left until he can drive, so dad's taxi service has resumed operation. Last night practice was at an elementary school on the north side of town, where most people in our area live; we live on the south side so there is always a fair bit of driving involved for such events. It is not time-effective to drop him off and go home, so instead I pop down to the Barnes & Noble for an hour and occupy myself with bookish things and libations from the Starbucks. I see a former student and a current student, and chat with them a bit. I'm mildly interested to learn that they are romantically involved. But none of that has much to do with my story.
I have passed on a genetic disease called Raynaud's Syndrome to at least two of my sons. When it's cold out (and sometimes even when it is not), the blood vessels in our fingers and toes constrict more than they are supposed to, and this can lead to these digits turning white. It is a little bit freaky for people when they see it the first time, because (literally, I think) all the blood is drained out of some portion of them (the fingers, not the people seeing it). As far as genetic diseases go, it's really not too bad. I'm not looking for sympathy. It's quite manageable, and I don't think it keeps me from living a full and productive life. I'm on the mailing list for the quarterly newsletter from the Raynaud's Association of America (or some such name) in which they peddle electric socks and feature the testimonies of fellow genetic mutants with whom we can empathize. That only has a little bit to do with my story.
The real story begins with son #2 getting done with practice and showing me his pearly white fingers and telling me how cold he is (remember there is still snow on the ground around here). So he makes a pitch to stop at McDonalds and get some hot chocolate off the dollar menu. I agree, since I know there is a McDonalds right on the way, and I feel some guilt for passing on that part of my genes to him (though I don't recall consciously deciding to give him that part of my DNA--so should I really feel guilty?) and because I've just enjoyed a $5 latte myself. When we're in the drive-thru he says, "can you ask if they have caramel hot chocolate?" I'm pretty sure they don't, so I agree to ask. It turns out that they do, but of course it is not on the dollar menu. But what am I supposed to do now? Say to the drive-thru speaker/person: "OK, I was just taking a poll; I really just want the cheap stuff." So I pull up to the first window and cough up $2.67. But there I see a sign that says, "Your 30 seconds start at the next window." That catches my eye, so I read the fine print. It says that I'm guaranteed to get my order at the next window within 30 seconds of pulling up or I get a coupon good for my next visit to McDonalds. Always up for a contest, I instruct son #2 to stop doing whatever it is that he's normally doing on his phone and pull up a timer. We pull up to the next window, and the clock begins.
There is a clerk there filling up some fountain drink, and I see behind her sitting on the counter a cup of what looks like it could contain a caramel hot chocolate. So initially I'm a little disappointed. But the clerk doesn't seem to see it and continues on with her job at the fountain. I glance over to the stopwatch app and see that we're up to 20 seconds already, and no indication that the clerk knows that we are there or that the cup is behind her. I try not to make any sudden movements that might alert her to our presence. Now the clock hits 30 seconds, and still no service from the window, so son #2 and I start a little victory dance in our seats. Now she sees us and opens the window and hands us the beverage. I hold the timer up to her to show that we are clearly past the guaranteed time of service, which I take to be legally binding. She sees it and instantly understands what has happened. Here, as best as I remember it, is a transcript of the ensuing conversation (and to help you have the full picture, she fits the stereotype of a McDonalds worker pretty well, and I've capitalized the words which were particularly stressed in her speech):
Her: You were NOT timing me. [I don't sense that this was a question, but more of a statement that seems to define reality itself.]
Me: Well actually...
Her: Listen, I was distracted. Now TAKE your drink and go.
Me: But isn't there a guarantee for this sort of thing? [I say, pointing to the sign on the window that seems to unambiguously say as much.]
Her: Get AWAY from my window!
With that, she slams shut the translucent divider between us, which seems to consign us to separate universes--she to the world where she is the goddess because she controls the flow of nourishment (well... calories) to the outside world; we to that other world where we are the pawns of the gods and evidently have no recourse to injustice and cruel fate other than looking at each other saying "did that just happen?"
Anyway, it makes for a good story. And with that I climb back upon this stump that has grown somewhat mossy and start making speeches again. Since the meaning of the word seems to have significantly altered in our culture, I have no qualms making a "guarantee" that I'll write some more in the near future.