It was late. We were hungry. A holiday week of many-a-meals eaten at odd hours had thrown our metabolisms into a funk and appetites onto a schedule of their own. Driving home hours after consuming yet another large 4 pm afternoon meal, I gave in to the hunger cries from the back seat and decided we could all benefit from a late-night burrito and fries fest.
Pulling up to the drive-thru window, I began placing our order. With each item, a return voice echoed me perfectly. A voice that took us all by surprise. At first, we found delight in mocking the voice coming out of the drive-thru window speaker. Over the top and almost as if the fast-food chain had gone to an automated voice activated ordering system, the voice had a playful, sing-song rhythm that exuded happiness. Surely no one working the late shift on a holiday weekend could be that happy — it had to be fake. But when the voice answered a question no automated system could, I realized it belonged to a real person — and a real joyful one as well.
Once confirmed it was indeed an actual human on the other end of the box, I immediately stopped my mimicking return (the one entertaining to my kids) and finished ordering our batch of carbohydrate-rich evening sustenance with a respectful tone. Without missing a beat, he repeated the order back with clarity, professionalism, and pure joy for the job he was doing.
Clarity, professionalism, and joy: three qualities I typically don’t use to describe the dude working the late-night shift at a fast food restaurant on a holiday.
When we reached the window, I overheard him taking the next order with the same attention to detail as he gave to ours. While handing him cash as he gave me our grub, I told him he had an awesome, “radio-quality” voice and that I appreciated his service. A huge smile appeared as he said with genuine gratitude, “Thank you. I really do enjoy my job.”
Looking into the restaurant, it appeared as though he was single-handedly running the show with nary another employee in sight other than the cook. Having had my share of dealing with disgruntled employees throughout the week, many showing signs of anger having to work when so many others had the time off, I expected more of the same misguided entitlement issues coming to the surface and being directed towards me. But not the Del Taco Drive-Thru guy: he was clearly making the most of his situation and providing more value than their “buck and under” menu could ever offer.
As we drove off with our bags filled with fresh, hot food and lots of spicy sauce packets, I shared my admiration of his work ethic with my kids. “I loved that dude’s attitude,” I told them with sincerity. “Regardless of the job and having to work during the holiday weekend, he gave it his all. That’s what it’s all about, really, enjoying the moment you’re in rather than dreading it until another, more favorable moment you may be anticipating comes along. Those moments will certainly come, but why miss out on what might very well be your sing-song moments along the way.”
While shoveling crinkle-cut fries in their mouths, they both gave me the look and eye-roll they always do when I ramble on about life moments that capture my attention: the look that says “Mom, you are losing your mind.” Maybe. But then again, maybe they will take this little tidbit of guidance and put it to use one day when they are climbing up whatever career ladder they choose.
Burritos, fries and a valuable life reminder. Thank you, Del Taco drive-thru dude.