Several years ago, Lisa asked me to drive through one of our many fast food restaurants in our hometown and pick up supper. It was the normal routine in those days with both of us working full time and her trying to maintain a scrapbook store on the side. We ate fast food back then more often than we care to admit. We once joked that when we told our kids it was time to eat – they went to the car.
On this particular evening, Lisa had a specific restaurant in mind and I agreed to take care of supper. Taking care of supper in those days never meant a home cooked meal. In fact – we would have been better served selling our stove and turning our kitchen into storage. It was the most wasted space in our house. Like the good husband I am, (uh-hum) I obliged her by driving south into the main shopping and dining area of Owensboro and waited in line at the unmentioned burger joint to order. What happened next was…, well, let me try to capture the conversation I had with the teenage workers on the other end of the speaker.
“Welcome to —–! May I take your order?”
“Yes! I will have a blah, blah blah with blah, a blah and a blah” (No need to mention the meal – you get the idea. Besides, the word “blah” describes the food perfectly).
I wait – no response. I start to get frustrated. Finally, I say:
“Did you get that?”
A voice finally responds, “Sir, we are sorry! Can you repeat that order?”
I repeated my order a second time. I think, maybe it’s a bad connection. No problem. Again they respond that they did not get it.
I breathe deep. “Steve (I tell myself), try to relax”. I repeat my order again only this time slowly with exaggerated diction.
“I – want – a – blah, – blah – blah – with – blah, – a blah – and – a – blah.”
Long pause. No one is responding. They had to have heard that. I even removed as much of my southern drawl as possible. Nothing!
Finally another voice responds. This is a completely different person. Something has happened. Maybe that first person just got fired. I don’t know. I just want food.
“Sir we are sorry! Will you repeat that order?”
Somewhere in my cerebral cortex a plug blew. Any ability I once had to maintain calm, understanding and patience was suddenly erased from my brain. In other words – I lost it.
“ARE YOU KIDDING ME? FOR THE FOURTH F’ ING TIME I WANT A F’ING BLAH, BLAH BLAH WITH F’ING BLAH A BLAH AND A F’ING BLAH! DID YOU F’ING GET THAT?”
“Yes sir! Please drive around.”
My blood pressure had the bald spot on the back of my head charred and I was unsure if I would not stroke out before pulling up to the window where I was thinking of crawling inside to see for myself what idiocy looks like.
What happened next haunts me to this day. A young man is leaning out of the window as I pull next to him.
“Well hello, Mr. McFarland! Sorry for the trouble. We have a new person working and they got confused. We apologize. Here is your order. Have a nice day!”
It was a former student. He knew me. He remembered my name. I was practically speechless. I had sent a litany of “f-bombs” across the speaker system and into the ears of not only everyone sitting in the restaurant but also a young man who I once tried to teach leadership skills and citizenship principles and mold into a person the world would be proud to know. I wanted a hole to fall into. Perhaps I should have been proud of him. After all, he was displaying the type of citizenship and character I had preached for twenty years at the middle school. It should have been a moment of great pride. Instead, I wished I were dead and could, somehow melt into my seat cushion.
What a learning moment that was for me. One I will not forget. And I was reminded of that experience this past week.
Lisa and I traveled to visit her brother and his family in Alabama a few days ago. It was a chance to get away for a couple of days as Lisa awaits surgery. Traveling back home we decided to stop in Nashville at one of our favorite places to eat and take home some of our favorite spaghetti. ( I will not mention the business name – perhaps in a future blog). Downtown Nashville is a hopping place and we were forced to pay ten dollars to park. We agreed the price for parking was worth every penny – even if we would only be parked for a few minutes as we carried out the delicious meal. We parked, paid and then walked the half block to the restaurant.
Sign on door: “Closed from 2:00 pm until 5:00 pm daily.”
We could not believe it. Lisa called a number on the door and the man on the other end confirmed their kitchen was closed until five o’clock. It was 2:15.
As we defeatedly walked back to our parked car – I searched for the business website and found a place to send complaints. My fingers were blazing with fire as I told them how ridiculous it was to be closed during that time of day. I said we would never be back and that the ten bucks we spent on parking made their food taste much worse than before. I will say – I did not drop any ‘f-bombs’.
Lisa and I were convinced we would never hear from them again. After all, big businesses don’t have time for petty complaints like ours. Just had to accept the fact we were out ten bucks and still hungry.
Then, about an hour past Nashville – a phone call.
Caller (a man): ” Is this Steve McFarland?”
Me: “Yes it is.”
Caller: “This is —– from the (restaurants name) here in Nashville.”
My first thought was he would make some lame excuse and try to placate us in some way. Here it comes.
The man said he had received my complaint and began to apologize for being closed during that time of the day. I told him I was shocked that anyone would bother to call – especially this soon. I was (again) humbled by his apology and felt a little ashamed for making such a big deal over a ten dollar parking fee. I assumed he was going to offer us a free meal the next time we were in Nashville. What he offered was even more extraordinary.
The man asked me where Owensboro was located and if their restaurant in Louisville was closer to us than the one in Nashville. I told him yes.
“Well, good!” he replied. “I just spoke to the manager of our restaurant in Louisville and he is going to bring you supper.”
I was speechless – once again. The manager of the restaurant in Nashville just told me that the manager in Louisville was going to drive two hours to our house in Owensboro and bring us supper. Finally, I managed to say that was not necessary but, he insisted and wrote down our address. He said the man would call me in the next week or so and would be bringing us – to our house – our favorite spaghetti dish. Unbelievable!
Sometimes really bad things can turn into surprisingly good things. We are standing on that life principle this week more than ever. I am still learning to keep my cool and not embarrass myself – one never knows who may be on the receiving end of my wrath. They may be having just as bad a day as I am.
And – there really are good people in the world doing really good things in the world. Lisa and I have experienced that countless times since her breast cancer diagnosis. I’m reminded of an old Andre Crouch song that said, “He looked beyond our faults and saw our need.” God has certainly looked beyond my faults throughout my life and not only saw, but, answered my needs. Many people have done that for Lisa and I these past few weeks. For that we are forever grateful.
Now we wait for our spaghetti dinner. I just hope the man who is bringing it from Louisville is not a former student of mine.
Love, Steve and Lisa.