You wouldn’t think such a simple task — standing in a fast food line and ordering food — would be such a treacherous production tinted with repressed Racial hatred; but you never know what you’ll end up ordering up when you’re stuck in a fast food line at Burger King.
I was in such a situation over the weekend when a friend and I attended a Burger King on Sunday. The restaurant was practically empty. We only wanted to buy a bottle of water and leave.
The moment we stepped in the joint, two Black women dressed in their Sunday best with children in tow, looked at us — we saw through the window they had been milling around the lobby reading the menu before we entered — and they ran to “beat us” to the lone cashier stuck working the Labor Day holiday weekend. There were no other customers but them and us.
My friend and I joined the “line” that now consisted of the two women, their children, and a massive amount of street attitude as they purposefully, we felt, had the cashier go through every item on the menu and explain to them what was in each foodstuff, as well as what was not in it…
“How spicy is the spicy chicken?”
“What’s not in the veggie burger besides meat?”
“Do you put lettuce on all the sandwiches?”
“How many fries are in a large and medium?
After ten minutes of that foolishness, my friend and I looked at each other and knew were were being played with in a purposeful game. Was it because we were somehow seen as “White Intruders” in a traditionally Black neighborhood? It definitely seemed like we were supposed to be taught something, or feel something, because the two women kept looking back over their shoulders at us and giggling as they asked never ending questions.
I finally decided to break the game and said, “If you don’t know what you’d like eat, do you mind if we order a bottle of water?”
Then, of course everything broke loose on us. We were cursed out. We were told to stay in our place. We were “White Boy” water-mocked. We were shouted at in ever-increasing, ear-piercing, volume. It was so easy and so predictable.
I wanted to say — “You don’t have to be loud.” — but I knew that would set them off even more.
I thought of quietly saying — “You don’t have to be the stereotype…” — but I decided that would never be heard, even though they might think on it later in the day in a private moment.
My friend and I smiled at being caught in this furious dance in which we were not moving and decided to leave the screaming behind us.
We walked out of the Burger King and bought our water elsewhere.
We did wish that, instead of playing some kind of weird Racial game with us, those women had just ordered and moved on — but Labor Day at Burger King wasn’t going go down that quiet.