It was a hot and muggy mid-July afternoon right after work when Chris rolled into the Sonic parking lot, fantasizing about a deliciously cold and hilariously large cherry limeade keeping him cool despite the summer sun relentlessly beating down through the windshield.
The day had gone as well as any other at any particular moment, but somehow distraction after distraction had snuck in, trapping Chris behind his desk an extra hour after everyone else left while he finished a stack of paperwork that had accumulated and was already past due. Not ten seconds after the last form was signed and filed was the young out the door and thinking about food, and Sonic happened to win the rat race for the day.
Dropping the car radio volume to a chill, barely-audible level, Chris pressed the Big Red Button and scanned the menu, mentally double checking that he was ready to order when they answered: a grilled cheese, a footlong chili cheese coney, a corndog, and a route-44 cherry limeade.
A teenage couple laughed loudly from the tables near the door, and Chris inattentively glanced over just in time to see the boy jump on top of the table and dance around, alternating between dance moves no one should ever do and integrating what looked like it could be a mix between imitating an ape and interpretive dance.
Chris was mid-sigh when a young female carhop stepped between him and his judging tunnel vision on the teenagers, catching him so off guard at the person suddenly so near that he choked back his sigh and sneezed, flipping his head violently away to avoid sharing his germs with the nice stranger.
“Hi, my name’s Sarah and I’ll be your carhop today,” the girl sang cheerfully from just outside the window, “the speakers haven’t worked all day, but I’d be happy to take your order here!”
Chris chuckled at the first pleasant surprise of the day, and then ordered his food to go, pausing briefly after each item to let the girl jot down each item and apparently tally up the price.
“That’ll be eight seventy one with tax,” she merrily concluded after a moment, then glanced back down at her notebook with a slight frown and corrected herself: “No, no, just eight seventy, sorry!”
“No need to be sorry,” Chris said, reaching for his wallet, jokingly adding, “it’s cheaper now, thanks!”
The girl smiled.
“You’re pretty good at math,” Chris complimented, handing over his card and two dollar bills.
“The whole system’s been down all day,” the girl said, pointing with a nod at the Big Red Button — still lit — and the blank screen beside it that would normally be prompting for payment after an order. Turning on her heels towards the front entrance, she announced, “I’ll be right back with your receipt.”
“Thanks,” Chris called behind her, turning the radio up just a tad more while he waited. The teenagers were now both dancing around their table, letting their trash be carried in the wind to the grounds nearby, and the young lawyer sighed again at the future of humanity.
What seemed like several minutes of daydreaming were interrupted by a tinny, male voice over the speakers apologizing, “Sorry about the delay, it’s just me working today. Welcome to Sonic, what can I get for you?”