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Rudest Customer Ever

I was sixteen years old. This was my first customer-service job. I’d worked since the age of 12 under the watch of one parent or another. So I’d do filing or copying for my mom, babysitting or pet-sitting for neighbors, or work for my dad’s department at UK, helping with documentation of experiments and running errands across campus in the summer.

But once I had my driver’s license I could use my mom’s car to work evenings and weekends. (I lived way out in the country. No mass transit options.) I filled out a half-dozen applications in a single day, and got hired by Burger King. Those were the days when EVERYONE had a salad bar, and Burger King was all about “Have it YOUR way!”

As with all fast-food places, it was feast or famine. There was a movie theater across the street, a high school nearby, and WAY too many people running through our drive-through as their last chance for hot food for a solid 15 miles north. At least.

I was (before dealing with constant pain became one of my tasks) a fabulous multi-tasker. So, as a well-brought-up Southern girl with a nice smile, I easily worked both front counter and drive-through with ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Nowadays this takes three or four people if they’re good. I’m not bragging, that’s just how it was. And the register didn’t tell me how much change to give. I had to figure it out myself. And I don’t think we had debit cards then, either.

AND I had to wear brown polyester. A tunic and pants, with shoes that had great tread, ’cause that tile floor was seriously greasy 24/7. And work for $2.85 an hour (yes, sub-minimum wage in 1985 – still not sure why). Pic clearly not me. I’ve never learned to apply eyeliner.

So when this smarmy guy comes up and orders his Whopper without mayo or pickle or whatever, I put the order in. While I’m putting in orders from drive-thru. And those automatic drink dispensers? Not invented yet. I had to stand there and hold the cup against the lever to fill it up. And I by God made SURE everyone in drive-thru got the correct number of straws and napkins, and only the requested condiments. Because my boss was a bit scary and I’d already pushed open the employee door too hard and sent him flying head-over-heels into a stack of five-gallon pickle buckets. On the first day I met him.
So, Smarmy Guy. He’s middle-aged and his gut is stretching the buttons on his shirt. But he can carry a tune. He steps to the side, waiting for his order, and starts loudly singing the latest commercial jingle.

“Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce,
special orders don’t upset us.
All we ask is that you let us serve it your way.
Serve it your way at Burger King.
We serve it your way, at Burger King!”

Yeah, that got old after about the second time he sang it, arms crossed over his chest and big grin across his face. He eventually got his food. If this experience made him feel good, then. . . I can only imagine what he was doing a decade later. But I know what I was doing a decade later. I’d graduated from the selective BSN program at UK with a 3.5 GPA, taken a job in a cardiac critical care unit that hadn’t accepted a new grad in a decade, married that intimidating boss, and was living in Louisville – a happy mom to my first son. And I was being head-hunted for a position with the largest cardiology group in town. Happy times!

I started writing this as an answer to a Quora question, but decided it was too wordy and turned it into a blog post instead. Quora is my new Pinterest. Thank God for my timer, or I’d be down the rabbit hole for sure!

What Would Joanna Gaines Do?


I haven’t linked up with Mama Kat’s Writers’ Workshop in a while, and the prompt about “Seven things you love about your favorite TV character” was a no-brainer for me. But she’s a real person: Joanna Gaines.

— 1 —

Her style of dress. It’s OK to wear a t-shirt and jeans. Really, it is. Or a knit maxi-dress with a denim shirt over it and the sleeves rolled up. Joanna always looks likes she’s dressed for whatever may happen. She’s wearing sandals to show the house, but she’s got boots on for demo day. She’s a mom of many who lives on a farm. She has no need for platform heels, micro-minis, or anything else that’s solely “decorative”. As I told my husband before we got married, “Choose decorative or functional. You can rarely have both.” Joanna is both and so much more, but the rest of us can only be inspired by her.

— 2 —

Her design style. My sectional sofa is large and chocolate-brown because we needed a new sofa and I wanted one to match the fur and seat as many dogs and people as possible. I was miserable, still working full-time while preparing for my third (of four) cervical spine surgeries within two years. I sent my son and his girlfriend (now wife!) off to shop. Catherine is a force of nature and delivered exactly what I needed. But other than the tiny IKEA desk I work at in a corner of our dining room there isn’t a stick of furniture in my house I have chosen. But I know what I like. I know I could turn Joanna loose, with Catherine to choose colors (like my peaceful Lake Blue bedding!) and I’d arrive feeling at home. I think it’s partially that she really gets the “texture” component in design. A soft rug, a loopy pillow, a splintery sign on the wall – that makes it work for me.

— 3 —

Her ability to multitask. I used to be the queen of multitasking. Seriously. Now I can’t find my phone, glasses, or car keys. This woman raises several small children, has a working farm with chickens and goats and stuff, designs houses for other people, and decides what goes in her shop in Waco, TX and online and on her blog. And there’s a book coming out in October. Oh, yeah, and stars in a popular TV show.

— 4 —

Her hair. She has pretty hair, but she’s not all girly about it. It’s either down, in a ponytail, or in a literal knot at the back of her head. I love that! My hands go numb when I reach above my head, so clearly I’m never going to be sporting a fancy hairstyle. I’ve had my hair “done” exactly once – for my eldest son’s wedding. It wilted before the wedding even began, and it took me two showers and extra pain pills to get all that product out of my hair!

— 5 —

Her love of Chip. He’s one of those guys that you love to have at a party, but I think I’d probably kill him within two weeks. Normally, it would be one week, but he does seem to be able to fix a lot of things. The shopping trips together are cute on the show, but I’m about 98% sure after the film crew leaves she tells him to go anywhere else and leave her alone to shop and think. I’m kinda hoping she also cusses like a sailor, too.

— 6 —

Her youthfulness. I remember many years ago trying to turn cartwheels with my nieces. It didn’t go too well! But Joanna’s still doing backflips on the trampoline! Although I’m sorry, Jo-Jo, my kids would NOT have been allowed on your trampoline because it had no surrounding net. Ask any pediatric neurosurgeon what bought his last Maserati – backyard trampolines.

— 7 —

Her positive attitude.  This is the big one. My husband has always told me I’m a pessimist, and I’ve always insisted I’m a realist. Well, the last few years I’ve been the prophet of doom.  Up to and including a suicide attempt just because I didn’t want to be here when all the horrible stuff happened (home foreclosed on, dogs euthanized, son dropping out of school, living in a homeless shelter until I died of a stroke from untreated high blood pressure and constant severe pain). Thankfully, I’m still here and none of those things have happened. But we’ve been damn close.

More reasons I should be Trump’s running-mate:


Until you’ve owned a small business you don’t know how rewarding or how frustrating it can be. It’s no wonder more people don’t do it. My first experience with being a small business owner was when my husband and I bought a local franchise for a national chain of a birth announcement company. It involved putting an eight-foot animal often associated with the delivery of babies in new parents’ front lawns, with keepsake bundle in its beak with the baby’s name, birthday, weight, etc. We also offered personalized items we delivered to the hospital for distribution to family and friends. Candy bars, mini candy bars for older siblings to take to school, golf balls, fridge magnets, and a wide assortment of other special items that even included ammo for a military dad to share!

But running a small business is hard work. My husband worked 365 days a year, often from dawn until after dusk, and I manned a booth at baby fairs in four major cities in two states. We answered the phone twenty-four hours a day for six years. The one long weekend we took to visit friends in Atlanta we checked voicemail often, but the customers who heard they couldn’t get their delivery within twenty-four hours were openly hostile, even after my husband explained he hadn’t had a day off in five years and that he couldn’t find anyone willing to fill in for him, even for forty-eight hours. The work was just too hard. Mind you, this was work I’d done when my youngest was three months old, and I’d done it after driving through a horrible thunderstorm to a home three counties away I didn’t have an address for, but was to know by the farm implement in the yard. I did it with the baby in the station wagon, praying I wouldn’t get struck by lightning while wielding the heavy post-setter. And the woman never paid us. Is it any wonder fifth-generation welfare recipients take a guaranteed check from the working taxpayers instead of starting their own business? Especially when it costs more to get your taxes done if you’re self-employed, more to buy the tax software to do them yourself, and then you are charged a self-employment tax?! We had to go out of business after 9/11. Gas prices skyrocketed and people were afraid to let anyone know they had a new baby in the house. No one wanted to buy the business, so we shut down and spent the next year paying off a loan on a business that no longer brought in any money.

Obviously, I’m offended by the government bailing out large corporations and forcing more expenses on small businesses. Who has become familiar with the term “independent contractor” during the last eight years. I certainly have. My husband, like many others works full-time (much more than full-time, actually) for a company. But they do not consider him an employee – he has a “contract” with them. So he gets no benefits. No health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, sick days, vacation days, paid holidays. He’s a courier who uses his own vehicle, buys his own gas, pays his own commercial car insurance, and pays fees weekly to the company he contracts with for equipment rental (a scanner which works intermittently), a company that makes direct deposit available (really?!) and a uniform rental service. He has paid $1,500 in uniform rental fees and is still wearing his three-year-old uniforms. He looks like a homeless man when he goes to work. He also has to pay for his own annual drug screens. Why? Because he’s employed by a relatively small company that would go out of business if they had to pay for the things they should. But instead their employees work hard and still end up living at poverty-level.

The “American Dream” of working hard and earning a good living is gone. So has the “get an education and you’ll do well” version. I know too many people drowning in student loan debt, no matter what degree they’ve earned, or how high in their class they ranked. The young doctor seeing you in the hospital may well be wearing clothes from Goodwill under their lab coat. They are probably thankful for the free doctors’ dining room at the hospital, because it’s the best meal they’ll get all day.

I know too many elderly people who have to choose between medications and food. Hell, I’m forty-nine and some months I’ve had to make that decision. And it stinks, because the easiest ones to give up (blood pressure meds) because they don’t make you feel any different, are also the ones that can cause the most damage when you skip them.

I have lots of tidbits to share, but it boils down to this: The President of the United States of America is no longer the leader of the free world. We are no longer free. As a country, we’ve sacrificed our freedom for comfort. John F. Kennedy would have been ninety-eight years old today. When he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” I’m sure he never imagined reality TV or the Octo-mom. Seriously, who would have?! But his words are as valid today as the day he said them. If you want to make your country better, let it start with you. If you’re one of those “celebrities” that keep promising to renounce their citizenship if someone they don’t like gets nominated or elected: Delta’s ready when you are, honey!

Remember: Tweet @realDonaldTrump to tell him @AngieBallard should be his running mate!

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