It was the first day of my son’s summer vacation, and as I’m sure many of you already know, summer vacation presents stay-at-home parents like myself with one of two choices:
1. Entertain your kid 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
2. Sign him or her up for a whole bunch of inconveniently-timed and unreasonably-priced activities just so you can actually have 60 seconds to yourself without hearing some variant of:
“MOM. I’M BORED. CAN WE GO TO THE POOL? CAN WE GO TO THE PARK? CAN THAT KID YOU HATE COME OVER FOR SEVEN HOURS? CAN WE HAVE NUTELLA FOR A SNACK AND GET IT ALL OVER THE NEW CARPET? AW, COME ON! YOU ARE THE WORST MOM EVER. IN AN ACT OF DEFIANCE I WILL NOW PLAY VIDEO GAMES ALL DAY AND THEN CRAB LIKE ALL HELL WHEN YOU FINALLY MAKE ME TURN THEM OFF.”
It’s not exactly Sophie’s Choice, people.
Needless to say, I always go with option #2, which is how my son ended up attending soccer camp last summer. And because as a rule I hate myself and want to make my life even more miserable than it already is, the soccer camp I chose was one that required me to a) get up at the exact same time as if I were taking my son to school, b) drive just as far as if I were taking my son to school, and c) pack food and a drink as if I were preparing my son for school. AND YET THE CAMP ONLY LASTED HALF AS LONG AS A SCHOOL DAY. 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., to be exact.
The unfortunate timing also meant that I had to deal with my son’s lunch the minute I picked him up from camp. Now, normally I would take him back to the house and make him eat something homemade, but on one memorable day, we thought McDonald’s might be a good deviation from the norm. Because nothing says fresh air, sunshine, and healthy living like hitting up the McDonald’s drive-thru, ordering a mess of burgers and nuggets, and then eating them in our air-conditioned living room while sitting on the couch and watching television.
This McDonald’s experience went somewhat differently than expected, however.
We pulled into the drive-thru line, which was LONG. But OK, it was noon. I made a mental concession. My son and I chatted about soccer camp during the wait, and when I finally got to the speaker thing, I placed a very simple order:
A chicken nugget Happy Meal
Two cheeseburgers A small fries
I pulled up to the “This Is Where You Pay” Window and gave the dude his money. No problem there. It was only when I pulled up to the “This Is Ostensibly Where Get Your Food” Window that things started to fall apart.
It started with me … not getting my food. They didn’t have it ready. No big deal — they just wanted me to pull into the parking lot and wait for it. OK, I get it. Sometimes that happens when you place a particularly complicated order for unusual items such as chicken nuggets, cheeseburgers, and fries. Being a gracious woman, I made another mental concession. But then this happened:
Drive-Thru Lady: “Please park where that blue car and red car are parked.”
Me (confused): “Um. I can’t. *Those* cars are already parked there. And there’s no empty spots around them.”
Drive-Thru Lady (exasperated): “Please. See that blue car and red car? You park there.”
Me: “But there are NO SPOTS THERE. The area you’re directing me to is full.”
Drive-Thru Lady: *glare*
Me (apologetically): “I’m really sorry, but I just don’t understand what you’re telling me to do.”
Drive-Thru Lady: “PARK WHERE THAT BLUE CAR AND RED CAR ARE PARKED.”
Me (desperate now): “BUT I CAN’T! I LITERALLY CAN’T!”
Drive-Thru Lady (slowly, emphatically, and as if I was the dumbest person on God’s sweet Earth): “THEN. WAIT. UNTIL. THEY LEAVE. THEN PARK THERE.”
At this point I was so discombobulated I just went ahead and pulled out of the line, desperately trying to figure out where exactly this person wanted me to park. THAT BLUE CAR AND RED CAR had no one inside of them and were not going anywhere. They were surrounded on all sides by other parked cars, which also had no one inside of them and were also not going anywhere. So I did the best I could and parked about three vehicles down. Granted, it wasn’t PARKING WHERE THAT BLUE CAR AND RED CAR WERE PARKED, but neither (I felt) would it be a journey of epic proportions for the McDonald’s people to find me. So my son and I sat back, rolled down our windows, and waited.
In my rear-view mirror, I watched car after car go through the drive-thru, their drivers clutching greasy bags of delicious food in their greedy little fingers. This started to piss me off, and it also confused the fuck out of my son. “I don’t understand why they’re getting their food and we’re waiting here,” he complained. “Where’s our lunch?”
Good question, son.
But I am a patient-ish person and I waited a little bit longer. About 10 or 12 minutes total, I would say. Finally, though, both the boy and I were like “FUCK THIS SHIT,” and we got out of the car and walked into McDonald’s. Which was … completely empty.
Girl at Counter: “Can I help you?”
Me: “Uh, yeah. We’ve been sitting in the boiling hot parking lot for 10 minutes waiting for our food.”
Girl at Counter: “Oh. I didn’t know there was anyone waiting. Did you park where the drive-thru lady told you to?”
Me: “HA! It’s interesting that you should ask that, because she told me to park in one of two spots that already had cars in them. So no. I didn’t. But I parked as close as I possibly could.”
Girl at Counter: “Well, that explains it. It looks like someone went out there but couldn’t find you. Oh, here’s your food.”
At this point she reached under the counter and handed me a bag of lukewarm nuggets and soggy fries. I just stood there for a second, boggling. Really? Whoever brought out the food COULDN’T FIND ME? I literally COULD NOT BE FOUND? I was only three cars down from where the crazy lady told me to park. I had my engine running, my windows open, and a 6-year-old bitching at the top of his lungs about WHY ISN’T THE FOOD HERE YET. And it wasn’t like they had to dispatch Lewis and Clark on an expedition into the Uncharted West — I was parked literally 10 feet from the main entrance of the damn restaurant.
So what did I do then? Well, with a grand announcement that we would never be returning to that particular McDonald’s (as if anyone working there gave a damn), my son and I marched out with our bag of rapidly-cooling greasy grossness and more than a whiff of moral high ground. At which point my son eloquently remarked: “We should have never trusted this McDonald’s.”
He wasn’t wrong.
Which led me to reassess my original opinion on the summer question — which to choose, Door #1 or Door #2? Maybe it is better to play it safe and take a pass on all of the expensive summer activities. Maybe it does make more sense to just hit the public pool every day, sweating up a busted lounge chair while an inch of your sunburned butt flab oozes out between the slats. Maybe the way to go is to suck it up and bring your own sweaty, gross lunch to the park, instead of waiting in a boiling hot parking lot for McDonald’s to make one for you.
Because you can’t always trust McDonald’s.
Just ask my son.
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