by Bill Mullis
A couple of eons ago, I was enjoying a lazy summer afternoon playing on the grill at the local gourmet hamburger restaurant. As per normal for a slow afternoon, I was keeping a minimum of meat on the grill, three rows of four patties, keep ‘em moving, pop the leading row off when it gets too done and replace it with fresh, all on the off chance somebody would come in for a late lunch. The manager was doing paperwork in the closet they called an office, and the cashier was cleaning the dining room.
That’s when the bus pulled in.
We had a Standard Operating Procedure for buses. It did not start with waiting for the riders to come in and order. This particular franchise had a habit of timing the service from the moment the cashier hit Total to the moment the last item was placed on the customer’s tray.
So I yelled, “Bus on the lot!” and went into action. I loaded the grill with forty-eight patties, then turned a half-circle and dropped four baskets of fries. All told that took me about a minute. Meanwhile the manager had rushed in from the office and took over at the register, freeing Becky, the nominal cashier, to make sandwiches as the orders piled in. We were manned and ready.
Noticing a distinct lack of customers, I stuck my head out the drive-through window. The bus was still there, its windows dark, its diesel engine idling. Finally I could hear the pneumatics as the door opened.
“Here they come,” I informed the crew, and went back to my grill, where the first line of patties was ready to turn.
The dining room door opened, and a guy came in, walked up to the counter, and ordered a shake. To go.
I looked at the grill, where twelve pounds of fresh ground beef was slowly becoming burnt hamburger. I looked at the fry station, where four baskets of fries were about to go ding! I went to the drive-through and watched the man with his frozen dairy dessert board the bus. I listened to the engine rev and watched the bus pull away.
The manager joined me at the grill. He smiled and put his arm around my shoulders.
“Hope you’re hungry,” he said.
When he’s not responding to situations before gathering sufficient data, Bill Mullis lives and writes from the Upstate of South Carolina. Actually, even when he is responding thusly, he still lives and writes from the Upstate of South Carolina.