Sunday, November 23, 2008

The curious case of the drive-thru attendant

I'm not sure if has to do with being from the South, or how I was raised, or because when I was little my uncle would give my cousins a whoopin' anytime they dared address any adult without saying sir or ma'am. But I say "yes ma'am" and "no ma'am" to most all women.

A couple of weeks ago, I stopped by a local fast food establishment to order a dessert. A woman's voice came on the thing and I placed my order, which included me referring to her as "ma'am" a couple of times.

When I got up to the window, all I saw was this guy. He took my money and handed me my order. That's odd, I thought. (That it was a guy, not that he took my money and handed me my order.) But I know sometimes they'll have one person with the headset taking the order and another person just handing out the food--or at least that's how it is when I imagine the innerworkings of a fast food establishment--so I didn't think much more of it.

Then this past Thursday, we ordered from the same place for lunch and I went to pick it up. It was sort of a long order, so there were quite a few "yes ma'ams" and "no ma'ams." When I got to the window, the same guy was there. Except this time, he started chatting with me.

"It's finally warming up out there," he said.

My friends, he spoke with the voice of a woman. A real life high talker! Not a loud talker, a high talker. Just like the Seinfeld episode.

I wasn't able to look at him because I felt bad and also because it was taking everything I had not to laugh. But on the other hand, it was such a rare phenomenon that I was tempted to call someone just to let them hear.

He seemed like a nice guy, and this was the second time in a week that I had called him "ma'am." But what could I do? He sounded more like a woman than most women I know. They put him in the drive-thru where no one can see him. Plus we're basically in the sir and ma'am capital of the world here. It's entrapment!

I'm sure many "normal" people would let the story end there. But not me. Oh no. This wasn't over. For the next couple of days, it was all I could think about. I jovially shared with family and friends my story of meeting the high talker. I even pondered the possibility of a Bone Reality Tour, with the high talker and my Festivus Pole as the featured stops. Or, the only stops. But at the same time, I felt terrible about the whole ordeal.

After much consideration, I devised a plan. I would go back up there and no matter what, I would say "yes sir" and "no sir" when I ordered to make the high talker feel better. It seemed like the natural thing to do.

It was perfect. So inspired. Yet so simple. I imagined how good the high talker would feel to finally be called sir after hearing ma'am day after day after day. It made me proud that I was such a good person.

I carried out my plan yesterday. Of course by this time, I was sick of eating at the place--it's far from my favorite anyway--so I decided I'd just get a coke. What follows is the unedited version of the conversation that transpired shortly before 1:00 PM Central Time Saturday afternoon:

"Welcome to KFC, may I take your order?"

"Yes. Uh, yes sir." (I almost forgot, right off the bat!) "I'd like a medium Mountain Dew, please."

"One medium Mountain Dew. Is that all?"

"Yes sir."

"That'll be two-fifteen."

$2.15?!?! Suddenly coke has become more expensive than gasoline? Wow. Still, I figured it would be well worth it to right this wrong and bring this episode to a happy conclusion. I pulled up to the window and, um, well... it seems the high talker wasn't working.

Turns out there was but one flaw in my carefully designed plan. And that was it. So basically I paid two dollars and fifteen cents to call a 16-year-old kid "sir."

I'm sure many "normal" people would let the story end there...

"I won't make the same mistake by coming here again, cos I can't tell difference between the hers and hims. No, I can't tell the boys from the girls. And friends, it's really messing up my world..."


  1. Your funny! I like the way you explore the limits of Southern hospitality.

  2. Do you only use sir or ma'am? Because I prefer if people call me "Miss". Ma'am makes me feel too old.

    ps. Go Auburn

  3. Haha - that's great. I'm sure Mr. High Talker is used to getting the "yes/no ma'am" all time, but I love that you tried to make it right. lol.

  4. Now if you had grown up with the Yankees you would not have been in that situation. We just do not use Ma'am or Sir it makes life so much easier. After moving the land of Ma'am and Sir 11 years ago I still get funny looks because I never remember to say it.

  5. While the entire post had me laughing, this line sticks out as the funniest by far: Plus we're basically in the sir and ma'am capital of the world here. It's entrapment!

    You Southerners make it difficult. Up here I say, "Yes, please" or "No thanks" and thus avoid the conundrum in which you found yourself firmly planted :) It's much simpler that way and... I hate it when people call me "ma'am." I feel way too young to be a "ma'am"... and I want to still be too young in 30 years. Therefore, I figure that if I don't want to be called "ma'am," no one else does either O:)

    Thanks for sharing your adventures with us.

  6. This reminds me of the time the bagger at the grocery store checkout asked the woman ahead of me in line whether she wanted "paper or plastic, sir." Honestly, without seeing the person's face, I hadn't been able to tell what gender the person was either. Fortunately for the bagger, the customer's hearing wasn't good... or at least she pretended not to hear him the first time. :o)

  7. I grew up a good Southern kid too, but I make an exception on the sir & mam thing...If I can't see you...then I don't know what to call you.
    So was he as high as Elaine's friend's boyfriend? LOL!

    oh and thank you for telling me about the toothbrush...cuz I would really hate to continue to use it now that I know...only one thing, our sinks aren't anywhere near the toilet. So that would mean that you had to really throw the toothbrush into it!

    OH and DH wants to know when Festivus is going to be held...he's got lots of grievances to air!

  8. Sage - Thanks. I wasn't sure if it was just a Southern thing. But Wikipedia did have a line that said "Usage of ma'am is common in the southern United States."

    Susan - I've never used Miss. I never think of ma'am as an age thing. I say it to girls who are ten years younger than me.

    PS: Roll Tide!!! :)

    Blondie - Well, I just want to make people happy. Plus, I didn't really have anything else to do :)

    PennyCandy - Haha. The land of ma'am and sir. I love it. The regional differences sure are intersting. Thanks for the comment.

    TC - Well, I think it's considered more of a polite thing here. Though I admit I have felt older when someone referred to me as Sir :) Well, except for Sir Bone. That's perfectly fine. Makes me feel like a knight.

    Speaking of, I can't believe you had no comment about my correct usage of (lower-case) coke.

    R8chel- Oh that reminds me. There used to be a cashier at the grocery store and I never could tell about. High voice, earring, and eyelashes any girl would die for, but closely shorn hair. I called him/her ma'am one time and he/she looked at me like he/she might have been offended.

    Perhaps we need a gender neutral greeting.

    Renee - Yes! He could have played the high talker on Seinfeld with no problem!

    I would imagine that Festivus will be the weekend of the 20th-21st this year. I got a lot of problems with you people!!!

  9. Your hysterical. Me laughed often and loudly

    Think you're the younger Southern, straight, yes sir, David Sedaris

  10. Reminds me of when my husband broke his arm and we couldn't tell if his ER doc was male or female. Female hands, female bone-structure, long hair, man voice. Yikes. Think it was a guy, but we really still don't know.

  11. Lol- Oh Bone...
    We just love you :) And of course hubs and I are all set to watch Jack come back! (We're taping it actually- so we can skip the commercials)
    I've need a Bauer fix for a VERY long time now! :)

  12. Nice Bone! I'm sure you had spit in your food. I'm kidding, well not really. It was a nice try. There's always next time.

  13. I'm working on my "predictability." I figured that was a pretty predictable answer, so I went against the urge to write it O:)

  14. I was visiting with family Down Under a few years ago, and my sister and I went to the store. As we walked through the parking lot an elderly man in his car waved us across in front of him.

    I guess I've been State-side too long because without thinking about it I waved back and said "Thank you, sir."

    My sister thought it was hilarious. "We don't say 'Sir' here," she said.

    Then again, Sir in the British colonies has a slightly different connotation. One usually needs to have met the Queen on bended knee to be considered a Sir ;)

  15. Pia - Thanks! Well, it doesn't have the same ring as "the younger Jason Morgan," but I'll take it :)

    Kontan - Oh I hate those, when even after interacting for awhile you still can't tell.

    Mayden - Yeah, it's been too long! I suppose that could be good for the show though. The whole absence makes the heart grow fonder thing.

    OK Chick - Oh, I hope not. That's why I try to never send anything back in a restaurant. Yeah, I figure I can try again this week.

    TC - Well congratulations. I think you should celebrate your newfound unpredictability by having an ice cold coke. May I suggest a Sun Drop.

    Capn John - Haha. Yes, I suppose it does. Whenever someone calls me Sir, I feel a little bit like Paul McCartney. It makes me want to speak with a British accent.

  16. Ahhh this has totally happened to me before. I didn't go into an elaborate plan to go back though, never really though of it but I was totally embarrassed for the person who ended up being a guy.

    Happened off Blondie's site, and had to check ya out.

  17. I'm always laughing or grinning or just plain feelin' happy when I visit here and read your shananigans.

  18. omg you are too funny Bone!

    The only good part in the highly overpriced soda in restaurants these days, is that it makes me drink more water! I just cant/wont pay 2-3$ for a soda that will probably kill me and I am only gonna pee out anyway! (ok perhaps tmi...)

    Hope you are well and preparing for a fabulous Thanksgiving!

  19. So, I knew exactly where this story was going. ahaha. Love it.

    p.s. So I'm in New York this week and one of my To-Do items is to eat at the restaurant. You know the one. I'll order a big salad just for you. :o)

  20. LOL! Good story! I did have a similar situation the other day at work. The person's name was John or something typically masculine. He sounded like a woman. And since I generally do not believe most of what I'm told (particularly at my job) I challenged him on it. He said "yes I know, I sound like a woman." Then I felt bad. But he is used to it, he was very nice. But I still felt bad.

  21. Unlike TC, It's not ma'am that would bother me, I say it still sometimes, being a former Tarheel turned Floridian. It is the tone... so just watch your tone, "young man" and hurry back to that drive-thru so we can hear the rest of the story. (please)

  22. Hilarious. I've done this. Feel dumb. Sad times.

    On to more important things--

  23. Has anybody ever called you normal?
    Just wondering
    (if you're wondering who I am--1) I know you will wonder
    2) You taught me about the Bama's and the South in general