Plain with No Cheese

One of the drawbacks to serving a church is the unusual meal times that often come from unusual work schedules. Late meetings, hospital or other emergency calls, late rehearsals and video shoots often come with no regard to my biological clock telling me the tank is empty. If you have seen my tank, you know that it looks as if it has never been empty; like this old wineskin is overfilled to the bursting point with new wine, old wine, deep fried with extra gravy. However, that is a tear-jerker for another time.

Back on track….

Often, on my way home following a long day at work, I will order a meal through the drive-through window at a favorite local fast-food joint in our small town. It is a national chain restaurant whose name you would recognize, but for liability reasons, I’ll let her remain anonymous. I had great respect for her dad, but Wendy’s has gone down hill some since he passed on.

Anyway, when I order a burger combo, I order it without cheese. As odd as it sounds, I am one of the few authentic American-born conservative musicians who don’t like cheese on their sandwiches. There; I said it. I don’t want cheese on my burger.

At the drive-through window, I always order the same combo, using the same delivery and words each time. I say, “I’d like a Number 1 Combo, PLAIN with NO CHEESE; and I’d like a Diet Dr. Pepper to drink”. They enter it into the computer, and the display at the drive through shows it exactly as I ordered it. Success!


I have learned that when the server hands my food through the window, I must check the sandwich before I pull away. Four times out of five, the order will be prepared incorrectly, leading to a bit of stress at the drive-through. Tonight was a repeat of the usual dance of the drive-through.

She handed me the sack with my prized sustenance inside. I thanked her, she smiled and replied, “you’re welcome”. But instead of driving off, I put the transmission in park while I checked the sandwich in my treasure bag. Sure enough, the sandwich was dripping in cheese.

So, I sat there.

I did not pull over so the next costumer could have their order filled. I waited for the server to notice that I was still there, waving a double-meat burger WITH CHEESE out of my window to try to get her attention. She saw me, but acted like she didn’t. I don’t know how she could miss me- the grease was running down my arm, and I accidentally slung some ketchup on the window.

When the guy two cars behind me blew his horn, she finally came to the window. Instead of the pleasant smile, I was offered an icy frown; at least it looked that way through the ketchup. Without a word, she took my sandwich from my greasy hand. While I think she knew what the problem was, I felt obligated to tell her that the sandwich was covered in cheese, and I had ordered it without cheese. I was still talking as she closed the window and walked away; the guy two cars behind me continued to blow his horn.

When the nice lady returned to the window with my supper in her hand, she yanked open the window and practically threw it at me. This action activated my mercy gene which caused me to ask, “Is there some kind of secret password I need to use that allows me to order a sandwich without cheese? Is there a certain phrase, or a specific order of my wording that will result in having my order completed successfully? Or maybe you don’t sell sandwiches without cheese, and I am asking something that this restaurant is not equipped to do. If so, what exactly do I need to say to avoid this problem in the future?”

She coldly replied that I need to clearly and concisely say that I’d like my sandwich with no American cheese. Which prompted me to ask, “Isn’t that what I said ten minutes ago when I originally ordered this meal? What did I do wrong? And how many ways can I say it- NO CHEESE!?”

By this time I noticed that she was holding some kind of butcher knife in her hand, rolling it over and over in her palm. I’m sure I looked surprised, for when I looked up to ask her if she was ok, I could see a weird vein pulsing violently on her forehead, just off center toward her right eye. Which was twitching.

In that singular moment of clarity, waves of hunger and weakness ravaged my body, so I quickly pulled away without benefit of honest answers to my queries.

But I only pulled up so far as to clear the drive window. Yes, I stopped to check my sandwich. It was greasy and cold.

Plain with no cheese.

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