Wednesday, October 18, 2017

In the South It's Just Called "Food"

Subtitle: Mom Freaks Out About Milkshakes

An Arby's Giradelli chocolate milkshake snipped from arbys.com.
Vacations are like a blank check for the ice cream bank. I'm not sure this is the case with other families, but in ours, being more than two hours from home is the only reason needed to have a milkshake. We'd divided our drive into two parts on the way to our Columbus Day beach getaway and looked forward to some chocolate shake love with dinner. When the appointed time came, restaurant options were limited. By limited, I mean we couldn't easily find an Arby's. We pulled into the Hagerstown, Maryland Bob Evans.

They don't serve milkshakes.

It was okay. Early in the trip. Not a big deal. Dinner was fine.

The second day, my purse full of coupons (Arby's, Wendy's, and Subway) for the road trip, we made it into North Carolina before lunch. Though we were looking for the family favorite, obviously Arby's, we were prepared to use those other coupons. It's good to have backups especially since the southwestern hat, that beacon of tasty roast beef, was very sparse as we plunged further south.

"Maybe we should try Bojangles Chicken and Biscuits," I said. "Those are everywhere. We could really be missing something."

I was kidding of course. No one was in the mood for food adventure.

At exactly noon, we arrived in Mt. Olive, NC. A sign proclaimed it the home of the tiny pickles we buy from Sam's Club. The only fast food establishment that aligned with my coupon inventory was Wendy's. Everyone felt this was okay. We could get chocolate Frosty's.

After a stop in the restroom we joined the queue with just a few people ahead of us. To be exact, we were fifth in line. Over the course of several minutes, the line extended into the seating area of the restaurant because this was the. slowest. Wendy's. ever.

Ever.

Things are slower in the south. I learned this on a trip to Walmart during a beach vacation years ago. Everyone wants to know "how y'all doin'" and it's very nice and folksy. The uppity northern Pittsburgher inside me wants to scream. "JUST SCAN MY GROCERIES!!! DO NOT STOP BETWEEN ITEMS!!! KEEP DOING IT UNTIL THERE AREN'T ANYMORE!!! AND THEN DO IT FASTER FOR THE NEXT PERSON!!!!"

I have to breath deeply. Sometimes with my eyes closed.

The Mt. Olive Wendy's of my most recent experience was fully staffed. During the forty minutes (FORTY minutes) of my life that passed while waiting for a Dave's double with cheese, a chicken snacker, three Frostys and some nuggets, I counted at least six adult humans in the kitchen. Only one woman could actually take orders. She'd do this two customers at a time and then go herself to pull the orders, painstakingly placing each sandwich onto its tray and personally filling fry and nugget containers. Food was ready and waiting, but this woman was the only one that could put a sandwich in a bag.

I looked around and thought of asking, "I know we're in the south, but this is slow, right?"

After I ordered, Frostys were produced quickly. I was done eating it and had forever erased the memory of it long before my chicken sandwich made an appearance. It was SO. SLOW.

The time at the beach was ice cream free. We were busy with other things and surely we'd find some on the way home. Occasionally there'd be this glimmer of a hint of a memory about a Frosty. But the promise of a proper shake was enough to prevent our wasting beach time on the pursuit of ice cream.

We left Wrightsville Beach at 1:00pm on Sunday and steamed away for home. Well past Mt. Olive by dinner, we perused the GPS and identified Fredericksburg, Virginia as the place to find an Arby's. We'd stayed in Fredericksburg on the way down. We'd seen the Arby's just a block away from the hotel. It was a solid plan.

As we slowed to make a left into the Arby's, a sea of humanity poured into the four lane road. People, dressed in nice business clothes, ran, walked, sauntered and traipsed across this super busy road. Tim stopped the car to avoid running over pedestrians. One gentleman smiled and gave an exaggerated thumbs up. There must have been sixty people. Did they get off of a tour bus? Did a huge convention just let out into the street? We couldn't tell, but I thought, at least they're not going in the Arby's.

By the time we turned into the parking lot, about a quarter of the street people had gone into the Arby's.

Bathroom. Line. Twelve people ahead of us. I'm going to die before I get this milkshake.

It was Virginia though and almost by magic the line moved swiftly. Before long it was my turn and I was saying, "two small chocolate shakes, one without whipped cream and one..."

"Our milkshake machine is broken," she said.

"...large chocolate shake." My face must have turned white or maybe red or maybe white with blotches of red. I was conscious of my chest heaving as I took a deep cleansing breath.

"I'm so sorry," the cashier said.

She was sorry because she could see that she almost made me cry.

We ate our roast beef while driving on North on I-95. The bun tasted weird and the girl didn't properly apply my coupons. So it was expensive, weird and milkshake-less.

"We'll be okay," Tim said.
"We could find a Dairy Queen," Julia said.
"I'm never going South of the Mason Dixon again," I said.

Two of those three things are true. Although I still haven't had my milkshake...