Or at least, if it wasn’t him, he seemed to think it was.
So I’m standing in line with the rest of the herd at Mickey D’s today at lunch. It’s a little more crowded than usual; each line to order is about five people deep. There are three registers on the front counter, but only two are for inside service. How do I know this, you ask? Because of the 8" x 12" laminated sign in front of the third register which reads “This register is for drive-thru orders ONLY!!!”
Anyway. Standing in line, standing in line, standing in line. It’s taking quite a while, for some reason, but no big deal; I’ve got a book.
I sense someone standing to my left, and glance over. There’s a guy at the counter with three kids, and his wife is behind him. At least, I assume she’s his wife; she keeps orbiting him. He’s taken up station at the register. The register with the sign. The one that says “This register is for drive-thru orders ONLY!!!”
I wonder briefly why the man is standing there. Probably has a problem with his order, or wants some extra honey-mustard packs, or something. None of my business. I delve back into the plot intricacies of Carl Hiaasen.
Finally! I get to the counter. I place my order. I look again to my left after I order. Guy’s still there. Three kids are still there. Woman is still there. Now a sixth person has joined the group, standing behind the woman. Doesn’t seem to be part of their karass; looks like a construction worker of some sort.
But the man is now affecting my herding ability. In this McDonald’s, you place your order, then move a step or two to the left of the register. That’s where they serve your food when it’s ready. There’s even a helpful laminated mat placed on the counter, with a big “Pick up order HERE” imprint on its far left side. The man is standing right in front of that imprint. The guy who placed his order right before me can’t herd properly, since the other guy is blocking the end of the cattle chute. I moo impatiently, but to no avail.
As I’m standing there patiently, swatting flies with my tail, the guy leans over the counter and twitches the sleeve of the girl who took my order.
“Is anybody gonna take our order here?” he asks.
Instantly my bovine senses are on alert. This guy is breaking the Code of the Herd! He’s moved to the end of the Chute, and is now affecting the speed with which the McDonald’s girl can fulfill my order! He can’t do that! I toss my horns and moo more strenuously, but he takes no notice.
“That’s the drive-thru register, sir,” the girl answers.
“You need to have a sign, then,” he says. “There are a bunch of people in line for this register. You should alternate us in or something.”
I look back. That is true; the line behind him has now swelled to approximately five people (not counting his kids and possible wife/satellite). They are chewing cud contentedly. They have fulfilled the herd responsibility of Forming a Line.
I look again at the sign. The sign right in front of the register. The one that says “This register for drive-thru orders ONLY!!!” The sign that is squarely in front of this guy’s navel.
The counter girl is quicker on the uptake than I am; she immediately recognizes the Emperor of the World. Her actions are swift and decisive – she turns and taps the shift manager, and goes back to her register.
Shift manager comes up. He’s obviously tired and harried; it’s the middle of the lunch rush. He’s filling three orders and balancing sixteen shakes with one hand, while he runs a register with the other. “Yes sir?”
The Emperor speaks. “We’ve been waiting in line, and no one has taken our order.” I moo in disagreement (softly, but belligerently). There was no line you were waiting in. You just walked up to the counter and stood in front of the register. The register with the sign. The sign that … well, you know.
The shift manager looks puzzled. “This is the drive-thru register. It’s not for inside orders.”
The Emperor does not raise his voice. Another sign of true power. That should have tipped me off, but I’m still in herd mode. And the end of the Chute is still blocked. “I’ve been standing in line, waiting for someone to take my order.”
The shift manager still doesn’t realize who he’s dealing with. “Sir, there hasn’t been a line here. I’m on drive-thru; I’ve been running this register. You can’t have been standing in line.”
“If this register is for drive-thru, you should have a sign,” said the Emperor.
Wordlessly, the shift manager touches the laminated sign. The sign right in front of the Emperor’s navel.
“There are a lot of people standing in this line,” said the Emperor, still without raising his voice. That is true. Herd members, assuming their Emperor would not be stupid enough to stand in an area without a functioning register, formed up behind him. There is now a line behind the Emperor fully as long as the lines at the other two registers. “I suggest you alternate us in on that register.” He points to the one in front of which I’m still stuck. On account of the Chute being blocked. By him.
The scales suddenly fall from the shift manager’s eyes. He has an epiphany; he recognizes the august presence who stands before him. He turns to the counter girl and says “Work these people in.” And turns to fulfil his other obligations.
My food arrives at the end of the chute; I pick it up (daring to enter the Sphere of Imperial Influence to do so) and go sit down. Wild ideas are coruscating through my mind as I chew my cud. I didn’t even know we had an Emperor of the World! How powerful he must be, to alter the plainly stated Laws of McDonald’s! How important he is, to not only deem his time more valuable than the others who waited in the proper lines, but to immediately elevate the other Herd Members who unknowingly got into line behind him and who now will get served faster than they should have! How lucky we all are that he has reproduced, so that his offspring can carry on the Imperial Way!
Ultimately, however, my wayward and disconnected brainwaves distilled into three crystal-clear thoughts as I drove back to my stall … uh, office:
The Emperor of the World is not as tall as I’d thought he would be.
His more ardent followers will be distressed to learn that he apparently can’t read.
I should have gored him.