"See 'dis? 'Dis a quarter." The lady stretches half of her body over her car door. She shoves the coin in my face, and then puts it back in her purse, reaching over her stomach, which is pressing against her steering wheel. "'Dat what I handed you," she says.
Her ultra-red lips wrinkle as I tell her she had handed me a nickel, and that I can't give her the change she wants because my drawer would be 20 cents under at cash-out. "Just give up my sundae, then," she demands. Red-faced, I close the drive-through window as she takes one last jab — "Dumb bitch."
I take my anger out the only way I can, making a small hot fudge sundae with whipped cream, purposely forgetting the cherry on top, and placing it into a bag. I think, "Bet it's not so easy to enjoy your sundae without a spoon." The lady, who I call "Twennie-Cent," grabs the bag and her long, fire-red nails stab my palm. As an employee, the only thing I can do is flash that signature Dairy Queen smile, the ultimate reminder of our money-making, "customer-is-always-right" policy — it's my job.
In two years working here, I've had the pleasure of meeting many people like Twennie-Cent. All that matters is that I make sure they pay — it's my job.
I think back to what going to Dairy Queen used to mean to me — a reward for a good report card, washing the dishes without being asked or for finishing my dinner, vegetables and all.
Another customer, who I call The Queen, comes with her 8-, maybe 9-year-old daughter, Alexa. Alexa's favorite Blizzard is the M&M's treat, one of our top five sellers. The Queen always says that the Blizzard must have a lid because it's to go, to make sure the candy is blended all the way to the bottom and that her daughter needs extra M&M's (because the 85 grams of sugar in a normally-portioned blizzard isn't enough). If a customer asks for extra candy, it's our job to charge them. The M&M's we use aren't full M&M's; they're chopped up pieces of the already bite-sized candy — it's M&M's dust. And it's a 50-cent upcharge for a scoop.
The Big Dipper comes only on Saturday nights for her large, chocolate-dipped vanilla cone — double-dipped. After we double-dip it, she hands it back and asks for another double-dip. Sure, ma'am, we can quadruple-dip your cone. I say, "Yes, of course. Sorry about that, ma'am" — it's my job.
I used to watch the girls behind the counter dip my cone upside-down, with the cherry liquid dripping from the curl, until the whole cone was flipped and the cherry magically hardened. I'd reach out my hands with pure joy. I bit the curl off the top so I could suck the ice cream out before it melted. I would take off the rest of the hardened cherry shell — the best part — and crunch into it. I'd take one bite out of the cone and throw out the rest with the napkin saturated onto it.
It's not so much I resent the business aspect of my job. It's seeing behind the curtain and finding out the great Oz isn't that great at all. It's ironic how goodies and treats can be so sickening and sour. I suppose it only matters what end of the spoon you're on.
Creep drives through every Tuesday night — a small diet coke and vanilla cone, to go. Whoever touches their nose last has to be the one to take him at the window. It's usually me. Creep takes his money like a stranger shaking your hand for the first time, and looks at you the way a hungry lion would while scoping out a young animal. He doesn't say a word when he's at the window — he stares. I have to tell him to have a nice night before he drives away — it's my job — and he replies, "I will."
Lisa Gaudio, 20, of North Haven is a junior majoring in psychology at Central Connecticut State University.