A modern day Sisyphean tale
I arrive at Wendy’s. The drive thru line is long. Christina agrees to wait, mostly because her seat is heated, even though she will order nothing. I appreciate my wife’s forbearance.
In my cup holder, I spot a coupon for a free drink, any size, that I pulled off my last Wendy’s cup a few weeks ago.
When I finally make it up to the menu, I see that the coupon will only save me 20 cents off the combo meal. I honor my Depression-era grandmother and decide to save the 20 cents even though it will complicate my order.
I order a spicy chicken sandwich and fries and mention the coupon for a large Diet Coke. The man is dismayed by this. They have no large lids, he says, so the coupon won’t work. He only has medium lids.
The size doesn’t matter, I say. The coupon is good for any size. I’ll take a medium. He says OK. My order is accepted.
On the screen, my drink says “Medium Coke minus cherry.” I do not know what that means. Its epistemology is beyond me. I say I want a Diet Coke, not cherry. He says he’s got it, Diet Coke.
I slowly make my way to the pay window. The man is there. I pass him my credit card and the coupon.
He studies his screen. He is dismayed by my coupon. He says he can’t take it, because they have no medium lids. This discrepancy confuses me. Have they no lids at all? I say, I don’t need to use the coupon, I’ll just pay for whatever there is, it’s fine.
He says, no, I’ll get the manager, she can help. I realize I am become Coupon Guy, and the other ten cars in line will slowly grow to hate me. The manager appears. They talk. Buttons are pressed. My credit card is handed to me, then requested back. The manager leaves. Eventually he tells me it’s OK, but then his face falls.
He says wait, I’ll get the other manager. More time passes. All cars in front of me have departed. I dangle my arm out the window, hoping to indicate that even though I am Coupon Guy, there is nothing I can do, and maybe people will not hate me. I am sure this hope is in vain.
The other manager comes. They press buttons. She is reassuring to the man. She leaves. He looks at the screen for longer. Finally, he runs my credit card. A twelve-inch-long heat-printed receipt is produced for three items. Coupon Guy is at last free to go ahead to the food window.
My food is ready right as I come up, because of course it was ready probably eight minutes prior and waited in limbo while eleven cars idled in line.
The woman hands me my bag and cup. I don’t have time or interest to ask her to take back the plastic straw in favor of my reusable metal one, because I don’t want to be Straw Dork and Coupon Guy in the same transaction. My Depression-era grandmother is likely displeased.
I put my metal straw in the cup and take a drink. As I take the first sip, I know that I have been given a Cherry Coke, non-diet, and that I will not drink this insipid red-brown beverage. My face falls, and my Coupon Guy shame burns hotter.
I peel the new coupon off the Medium Coke plus cherry which I will not drink.
It offers a free drink, any size, with future purchase.