A brake job you can no longer ignore might well take you to a part of town that is otherwise drive-through country. Just so, the New Year has led me at the crack of dawn to a garage beside a once trendy mall, now wintered by the caprice of fashion and market. I dropped off the vehicle and scanned adjoining streets for a perch to kill some time. No prospect of a latte anywhere in sight, you understand, so as the sun rose, I took refuge in a handy Burger King cheek by jowl with some vape shops.
The late-night skeleton crew chirped with early birds in the drive-through while a tall man, in all likelihood the night manager, set up a fresh batch of coffee at the industrial percolator, the last chore of his shift. He turned to me asking, ‘And what would be your pleasure?’ I gestured to that fresh brew. He nodded as I crossed to an empty booth while the coffee hissed and dripped. As I settled myself I noticed that a corner of the building was cordoned off, a bright orange window booth slightly askew. Then I could see that the building itself, like a strayed sailing ship, had been stove in from outside. A vehicle, on the occasion of some mayhem – perhaps of failed brakes – had likely sailed off the busy crossroads and launched itself into the parking lot, embedding its nose in the Burger King. Which, the night manager had likely witnessed, but who now appeared perfectly serene as he delivered my cup of fresh joe.
The morning shift began to trickle in, some wearing the haggard looks of having come directly from another job. I could hear the night manager, disguised in baggy sweats but with a hint of, well, royalty, greeting each as they arrived with a hug and warm words, the working poor showing how they survive the struggle. No exuberance, to be sure, the day’s demands too heavy for that. But none of this could be shouldered, it seems, without a ritual of affection and assurance that, though in wincing straits, they would see one another through the pell-mell of breakfast burritos and whoppers.
The Burger King at Club and Guess may well have been knocked off its footings by things that go bump in the night, but a wee-hours manager of firm and gentle composure, and his burger joint comrades, hold it together with a grounding of warmth and attentive touch, and – good Lord – very little else.