“It’s 12:00 noon for crying out loud. What do you mean I’ve got to wait thirty minutes for my fries? How can you possibly be out of fries…at this time of the day,” I ask the young woman barking orders behind the service counter at BigBuckle’s, where they boast over 30 billion served.
In these parts, BigBuckle’s Burgers and Fries Fast Food are nearly ubiquitous as pine trees or television evangelists. The store address is exactlly what old real estate men talk about when they stress the advantages of “LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.” This one is a low rise affair, (BigBuckle’s Architectural Floorplan #15) strategically located on an out-parcel of a recently renovated suburban shopping mall. BigBuckle’s Store No 1206 has more than ample parking on the outside and while there is not a stampede of activity on the inside, business is nonetheless brisk.
“The french fry cook ain’t here right now,” the young woman huffs back at me. She wears a name tag: ‘La Honda, Crew Member.’
“Not here? Where is he? I need to eat quickly and be back at my desk in thirty minutes. ”
“Pookie’s at lunch”
“Pookie’…our fry cook. He’s at lunch. He ain’t even on the premises.”
“Not on the premi…at twelve o’clock…high noon…the busiest time of the day? And why is he going out to lunch anyway? You mean he doesn’t eat his lunch here?
“Pookie don’t eat no fast food. Says it ain’t healthy. Today he had to go to the bank over at the mall, so he went on his lunch hour. He’s been gone awhile. You know, them bank tellers are the absolute worst. They all go to lunch at the same time. Sometimes a bunch of ’em come in here and eat.”
“You’d run out of fries the day before yesterday when I came in. It was at noon time then too.”
“And your point is?” LaHonda says, while putting her hands on her wide hips.
“My point!? My point is that you folks always seem run out of food at the busiest time of day?”
“Oh, I remember you… from the other day. You was in that line that was wait’ in on fries then too….the same line that had them bank tellers in it. There was four of them bankers behind you.
“OK but you haven’t answered my question: why do you people always run out of food… run out of fries… at the busiest time of the day? This is supposed to be FAST food, you know.”
“I KNOW you ain’t tryin’ to cop no attitude with me! You ever try go ‘in to the bank during your lunch hour,” she says setting her jaw and goosing her neck at me. “Hell, whenever I go to the bank, them tellers always be at lunch too. A lot of times they be over here eatin’ when I’m over there trying to cash my damn paycheck. Pookie says it’s the same thang wit him. Them tellers is always here when he’s over there.”
“Pookie doesn’t have to go to the bank EVERY day does he? Did he have to go day before yesterday too?”
“Well on day before yesterday we ran out of raw fries and Pookie had to go to Kroger an’ buy a sack of potatoes.”
“He had to go and buy a sack of spuds. Then when he got back he had to peel ’em before he could fry ’em.”
“Don’t you guys keep statistics so you know historically — over time — when people are going to come in? You know, queueing theory…scheduling… statistics.”
“The only suhtickticks I know ’bout is that we serve 30 billion folks and all y’all wanna come in at the same damn time.”
“This is ridiculous. I’d like to talk to the store manager.”
“I been telling ya …Pookie ain’t here.”
“You mean Pookie, the fry cook…”
“…is also the STO MAN-A-GER!”
“Listen, if you want fries with your Big Buckle Meal roun’ this time of the day Mister, you better be bringing your own potatoes.”
“Jesus H. Christ. I’m in a hurry, ju…ju…jus…just give me a Coke. Let me eat a burger, drink a Coke and get back to work.”
“Ok, but the drank machine ain’t working. An’ even if it was working, we’re out of Coke. Pookie goin’ stop by the sto and bring a six pack of Cokes back on his way back from lunch …on his way back from the bank.”
“Good grief. This is impossible. If I wasn’t so hungry and didn’t have to get back to work, I’d just go somewhere el…well I just give me a burger and some… some… some water. You do have water don’t you?
“Quit trippin’. Yeah, we got plenty of water. That’ll be $6.37.”
“Six thirty seven?!!!! For a burger and some water!!!!?????”
“$6.36 if you promise to like us on Facebook.”
Epilog: I paid for my order, ate the burger without fries, drank the water and left Big Buckle’s Burgers and Fries, where they had now served 30 billion and one. It was then that I saw, coming into the place, a group of women that I recognized as the bank tellers at the branch in the mall. And while there was still no sign of Pookie, I was – ironically — grateful to him for providing me with a moment of clarity and another reason why, despite Store No. 1206’s strategic location, the U. S. economy was still not going gangbusters.
Pookie had also given me the incentive to never eat fast food – or set foot in BigBuckle’s – ever again.