Things got crazy around the mall during Christmas time, and they got even crazier when you could count the number of shopping days left without having to unzip your pants. (i.e. - less than ten days for those geniuses who don't have to count things out on your fingers, or for those of a gender that unzipping your pants doesn't help)
That's the time frame for this story. I believe it was the last Saturday before Christmas and the mall was staying open until midnight. Okay folks, let me say it. Their is nothing at The Gap or Banana Republic that you need at twelve o'clock at night. And if you have your kids out at that time dragging them from store to store you seriously need to ask Ol' Saint Nick for one of those Dr. Spock books, because you, my friend, are in dire need of parenting tips.
Notice I didn't say Jolly Ol' Saint Nick because nothing makes a guy more unjolly than to have been wearing an itchy fake beard all night while dealing with a sleigh full of rude and pushy procrastinators who want to take it out on you for them being behind in their shopping. Add in the fact fact they trot up a tired worn-out kid, who should've been in bed hours ago, and demand, I repeat DEMAND a picture where everyone is all smiles ... Well the whole scenario conjures up the the old saying, "Shit in one hand and want in the other, see which fills up first."
Got an idea what kind of night I was having?
Good, because this story really starts after I'd yanked the white beard off, stripped out of the red velvet suit. Don't get excited ladies, I quickly put on my regular clothes which probably consisted of a flannel button up shirt since it was cold and a pair of wranglers and maybe some lace-up hiking boots. You know your average lumberjack fashion.
So there I was at a quarter past midnight, looking a good bit like an agitated Paul Bunyon. Now normally I'd hike down the mall to the restroom to wash the white wax out of my eyebrows and the middle portion of my moustache, (My brows and mustache are black so I had to use a white wax pencil to color the portion that showed) but like I said I was fed up and ready to leave so I trudged straight outside where my wife was waiting in the nice warm car. At that time we only had one vehicle.
She took one look at said, "Rough night?"
"You can't imagine."
As we drove, I realized that my stomach was trying to gnarl through my spine so it could go out and find some food on its own. I'd eaten a dozen or so of those Little Debbie Oatmeal cookies that took star billing in last week's episode of the Santa Saga, but a man can't live on oatmeal and creme-filling alone -- he needs MEAT.
I am driving, since my wife hates to drive at night and her driving scares the bejeezus out of me even when the sun is shining bright, so I pull into WhataBurger, since unlike the mall, most of the fast food joints had closed at a decent hour. Now while I contend no one needs overpriced name brand clothing at midnight access to grease-laden food is an around the clock requirement.
So we pull up at the drive through window and I order a bacon cheeseburger with meat and cheese only.
Not for the fine folks working the graveyard shift at Whataburger. Let's just say I'm not sure the characters on duty that night could have counted passed ten whether they unzipped or not. But I didn't know that when I ordered, or even when they handed my sack of food through the window.
It wasn't until I took my first bite and gobs of mustard oozed down my throat. Okay many of you have heard me say, Lettuce is the Devil and it is, but mustard happens to be one of the devils disciples. I hate the stuff and anything that was turned into gas and used as a wartime weapon cannot be healthy to ingest. But back to the story.
I did a u-turn faster than you can say Blitzen and headed back to Whataburger. I stomped inside with the nasty taste of yellow satan at the back of my throat and headed straight for the counter. There wasn't another customer in the place, but that didn't keep the forty-something-year-old dude on duty from staring at me with the slack-jawed expression of a teenage pot head. Which no doubt he'd been at one point in his life. The pothead description probably still fit, but you can bet your Stretch Armstrong (that was a toy back in the day for any youngsters reading this) he hadn't been a teenager since sometime in the seventies.
Weird look aside, I told him my order was wrong and I wanted a bacon cheeseburger with meat and cheese only.
He opened up my burger and said that's what this is.
"No, it has mustard. I just want meat and cheese."
"Oh .." He nodded his head while continuing to stare at me as if I had an oatmeal turd for a nose. "No mustard. Got it."
I waited four or five minutes and he handed me a new sack. I pulled out he burger to check it and right away knew it was wrong again. I unwrapped it and there was the Devil itself in all its green evilness. Along with a slice of tomato and onion ... but at least there wasn't any mustard.
I should've just scraped the offending veggies off and lived with a bit of tomato juice and what not, but after my long night I was agitated and instead said, "This is still wrong. I only want meat and cheese. Nothing else."
By this time I noticed the cook peeking over the fryer at me. Along with the occasional weird glance from the drive-thru girl. They took my burger and again I waited. This time when I opened it there was not a drop mustard, nary a vegetable in sight, but you know what else was missing? The hamburger patty.
Right about then I lost it.
I freely admit when I raised my voice and said, "What the hell is a matter with you people!" I was not only taking out my frustration about the burger but every crying, bawling kid, every doubting-too-smart-for-their-own-good-Thomas of a kid, and every belligerent parent as well.
I ranted for a few minutes and then asked to see the manager. When the man in charge appeared he frowned and gave the same exact dumbfounded expression I'd been getting from his employees, but finally he said, "Can I help you sir?"
"I sure as hell hope so." I said. "I want a bacon cheeseburger with meat and cheese only. Nothing else. Is that too much to ask for?"
He opened up the wrapper and looked at his employees last effort. What's wrong with this one?"
"There is no hamburger patty in it."
Ne nodded still staring at me and I came to the conclusion he hadn't really heard a word I'd said because he was too busy eyeballing me.
Again I lost it and a little sarcastic elf began whispering in my ear, so I asked. "Is hamburger meat?"
The manager nodded.
"Is bacon meat?"
"Is lettuce meat?"
He frowned, but shook his head.
"Is it cheese?"
"Of course not?" A bit of irritation seeped into his speech.
"Is mustard meat?"
"Are they cheese?"
"Sir, we both know they are not."
"Then quit putting them on my damn burger and make it the way I ordered."
My tone finally wiped the dazed looked off the guys face as he crossed his arms and said, "Tell me how you want it and I'll personally guarantee it is made right."
I nodded and said. "I'll make this real easy since all of you seem a bit slow. "Put down the bottom of a bun, add a hamburger patty, a slice of cheese, three slices of bacon and then put the top on with out adding another damn thing." I delivered this fine little speech with a good bit of hand gestures to demonstrate how it should be done.
A minute later I finally had my burger just like I wanted, but possibly with a bit of spit added after the fit I'd thrown, but in my book the loogie of some middle aged pothead is still better than either lettuce or mustard.
Out in the car my wife asked, "What took so long?"
I gave her the complete replay and then said, "And the whole time those people kept staring at me as if I was crazy."
She gave me a look very reminiscent of the ones I'd gotten inside Whataburger and said, "Maybe it's because when you get mad those freaky little white eyebrows of yours dance all around."
That's when it dawned on me. I still had the colored eyebrows as well as the Hitler portion of my mustache colored white. Somewhere, a former Whataburger employee is probably blogging about the Christmas where some crazed guy with flocked eyebrows and mustache came in ranting and raving about meat and cheese and lettuce being the devil.