Characters you will find in line at a drive-thru window at three o'clock in the morning: FAT PEOPLE, DRUNK PEOPLE, CRAZY PEOPLE, POOR PEOPLE.
That's right. Me. I'm the guy who's there because he actually wants it. Because he needs it, and because he's willing to wait out however long it takes to get that late night Big Mac.
Well, see, there's a demon that lives inside me. And that demon loves to eat drive-thru. It's a demon that's been in me a long time, both dormant and thriving. Most recently, though, it's been thriving while I worked at this bar in Mid-City.
This was while I was a closing bartender. Shifts were long and always went late, and afterwards, invariably, on the commute home, with next day's dawn already threatening to break on me, a row of neon signs signaling "DRIVE THRU OPEN LATE." Shone like torches; like they were summoning the communion of an ancient ritual.
"Do not fear the Super Size," the demon whispers. "Your tomorrow is already ruined."
See, I can't expel this demon, because, well, that's how fucking demons work, so all I can only really do is my best at outsmarting it.
So. I made routes.
Routes to drive from the point A of work to the point B of home that could provide me with a strategy to either corral the demon when it's weak, or to let it run wild when I was.
For example, if I drove Fairfax to 6th, and then 6th all the way to Vermont, it was possible for me to get all the way home and into bed with my wife with nary a french fry passing through my lips. But, if I took Fairfax to Beverly, then headed east to Western and north, it's a veritable horn of plenty, and the demon's druthers could have its pick from Jack In The Box, KFC, Taco Bell, and, last but not least, McDonald's. IN. THAT. ORDER.
As a fail-safe: if I took the sober route but, upon reaching Western, the demon awoke and I was cast aside, we could take a quick right on Fountain, drive to Sunset, and there through the fog of a hardware store parking lot ... a Del Taco.
You gotta have routes, guys.
So, it was this one night at the bar, just like any other, and I knew by last call that the demon was up and fiending for a fix. Six Piece. Crunchwrap? A Double Quarter Pounder w/ Cheese. It needed something. "Do not fear the Super Size," intoned in my ears.
Now, I was always confident in my knowledge of drive-thru geolocation and subsequent ability to get the demon whatever it needed. The only X Factor on my grid was a Taco Bell on Western that, for whatever reason, wouldn't abide by posted hours. "DRIVE THRU OPEN LATE," the sign said, but, well, not. Always, though, as I'd cruise past the dead speaker, I'd see dudes milling in back, presumably having the time of their lives whipping up all the Chalupas they could stuff in their bellies.
Taco Bell is the demon's first tier of desire.
The concession when that Taco Bell failed was is a McDonald's that's catty-corner from it. Now, McDonald's is third tier of desire or lower on the demon's metric of desire, but, then there are those times, and when it's the only choice, it's the first choice. So this particular night, the shadow puppets at Taco Bell did their misleading dance, so I peeled over to the McDonald's, the demon already chomping at the bit.
Just off Western, the drive-thru lane winds around behind the building where the speaker is, then after you order, you pull around to side of the building where the set of double windows are for payment and pickup. So I ordered. A favorite of ours -- two Double Cheese burgers with just ketchup, large fries, large Coke, six piece Chicken McNuggets with BBQ sauce -- then pulled around to the first window, paid, got a receipt which I pinned in my sun visor, and settled in behind a BMW at the second window to wait.
Drive-thru didn't get popular because of quality, it got popular because of speed. But late night at a drive-thru won't boast much in the way of speed, so, for the commoner, what are you left with? See, chances are that management whittled down overnight staff to maybe two, so one slings food, the other mans the window. But you might roll a dice at a more ghetto spot -- like McDonald's at Wilton and Sunset -- and I'll bet they whittle their staff down to one, so that poor fucker has gotta do everything.
But, like I said, the demon and I can wait.
And so there I was, sitting behind this BMW in the drive-thru line at this McDonald's on Western, waiting, when suddenly I saw a figure approaching from the street. He was a medium-size dude on foot, wearing a large, black windbreaker, the hood up, and both his hands stuffed in the jacket's pockets.
Now, it's force of habit to wait in a drive-thru line with your windows down, I think, but I when I felt all the hair on the back up of my neck stand on end I sealed myself up in my car. Tight. The guy in front of me, behind the wheel of the BMW, however, had all his windows down and sunroof open, so, like, I was thinking maybe he deserves whatever he's about to get.
The dude in the windbreaker stalked up to the pickup window, and hid off to the side so that whoever was inside wouldn't've able to see him there. Then, when the attendant appeared in said window, windbreaker dude pulled out what I could only assume was a blackjack -- based only on a loose familiarity with the TV shows like The Sopranos and The Wire. He used it to smack the glass on the pickup window, clearly in an attempt to shatter it.
So, at this point, McDonald's goes on lock-down. Bro Namath in the BMW, like a total fucking idiot, starts arguing with winderbreaker dude, who was still clearly wielding that goddamn blackjack. He takes a swipe at the Beemer's side mirror, and, finally, Bro Montana pulls both his perfectly cuffed shirtsleeves into his fucking car and rolls up the windows, and I pull the fuck out of line and get out of there as fast as I absolutely can because I may be disgusting but I AIN'T TRYING TO DIE IN NO MCDONALD'S DRIVE THRU AT THREE O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING.
However. Did I mention? There's a demon that lives inside of me. And it had not been fed.
So we decided to just wait it out. Grabbed our receipt. Circled the block. Let things cool off.
Then got right back in line.