In The Trenches: Drive Through Surprise

It was Friday, and the week had been longer than usual. Sharon, my wife of 34 years, was having to spend a few days in the hospital fighting off an infection via IV antibiotics, and I was on my way there to spend the night.

We were busy at the shop all week, and I was still pulling double-duty as our part-time screen printer as well as keeping up with all my other work (layouts, bids, permits, etc.). Fridays are especially tough as far as deadlines go, so I was pretty worn out.

I knew Sharon’s dinner would be provided by the hospital, so I pulled into the drive-through at a Whataburger on the way there to get mine to go. The young attendant taking orders that evening was busy and took a few extra seconds asking for my order. But when she did, she politely said, “I apologize for making you wait. I will be happy to take your order now.” Her attitude over the speaker was upbeat and welcoming, and I thought to myself that the drive-through attendant probably gets few tips, but she would likely get one from me.

I ordered my burger, drink and so forth, then pulled around to the window. Now I could put a face to the voice, and the teenage girl working that night was just as polite in person. And though I was tired, (I did mention I was tired, didn’t I?) I tried to be just as positive and polite as she was.

“How are you doing this evening, sir?”

“I’m just fine,” I lied. (I mentioned it had been a really hard day, but did I mention I had gotten little sleep at the hospital the night before?) Well, I wasn’t going to bore her with the truth. To her, I was doing just fine.

“Your order comes to $7.70,” she said.

I reached for my money, but before I could get it together, the girl spoke up, “With your discount, it comes to exactly $7.”

“My discount?” I wondered. My “be nice to your local signman discount”? Was this my lucky day or something? An even $7? That seemed odd, but hey, why should I argue with this polite and helpful young lady? Besides, I was too tired to argue. (I did mention how tired I was, didn’t I?)

Still, why would I be getting a discount? “Seven dollars even?” I questioned.

“Yes, sir,” she said with a smile, and I mentally counted out the money plus a little extra for her.

“With your senior citizen discount, sir,” she continued amiably.

“Senior citizen discount?” I asked. “How old do you have to be to get a ‘senior citizen discount?’ ”

“Fifty-five or older,” she replied.

“Oh, well, you missed it by a year. I’m only 54. I sure hope you can’t get in trouble giving out discounts to those who don’t deserve them.”

“Not at all, sir, $7 even will be just fine,” she went on just as friendly as ever.

I counted out the cash. One five dollar bill and two ones. Seven dollars. Exactly.

Now, this was a first for me. And if you haven’t yet been recognized as a “senior citizen”, even a year or two early, your time is coming. But, let me warn you, the first time may be a bit of a shock. I still think of myself as a young man, as silly as that may seem.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with being a senior citizen, even if you don’t realize you have made it there. It obviously has its advantages, and the alternative to reaching that status isn’t all that great, after all.

One thing is for sure about being a self employed type “A” personality, running a sign business or any other small hands-on business year after year, you just have little time to think about how fast time is passing, but it is. So, a few minutes of reflection every now and then is no doubt worthwhile, and always trying to keep one’s priorities in order, especially since the urgent so easily takes the place of the truly important too much of the time. That evening my priorities would have me sleeping at the hospital once more.

Sharon is home now, and things are at least a little bit better. Due to a good shop crew, our sign business has been steady, even when my schedule hasn’t been. And no matter how short the month is, I plan to make the most of it. After all, at my age, I don’t have any to waste!

Seriously, I hope things at your sign business are going smoothly and productively and especially hope that your family is safe and well.

Have a great month.

—Rick