A Stroll Down to the Dairy Queen

Posted: September 16, 2012 in The Roper Files

Yesterday was a good day; summer is surrendering itself to fall slowly and the temperatures plummeted a good thirty degrees. I spent the day drinking coffee and listening to jazz CDs, grilling myself a cheeseburger for lunch and for dinner going all out and boiling noodles and slicing garlic bread for a big spaghetti dinner. After dinner I was sitting around congratulating myself on an excellent dinner but a pit feeling in my stomach said some dessert was in order.

The lime cheesecake pie I had made for myself earlier in the week was no longer of this world as was the carton of ice cream I had in the freezer. It was almost 9pm; almost everything except the bars close at 9pm in this town and I was almost out of gas. Then the light bulb lit up in my head; the Dairy Queen down the street would still be open for another hour. I could walk there and get a chocolate malt instead of driving anywhere. Win/win situation….

Slipped  on my sandals, grabbed the house key and my wallet and I was on the way. It is cool out this evening; the clouds overhead are dark and promise a rain they have not delivered as of yet. I walk past a two-block stretch of apartments to my left and a two-block stretch of vacant lot where matching apartments used to be but were bulldozed recently. I used to know people who lived in these apartments. None of them live there anymore, now most of their residents speak Spanish. I can see people smoking and drinking beer in the shadows watching me walk by. This neighborhood is constantly changing but the DQ down the street has somehow survived through the years.

As it comes into view, I can see a long line of headlights in their drive-through and the parking lot is full of cars. As I get closer it becomes apparent I wasn’t the only person in town thinking about dessert; the place is full of adults and teens. This place has been at the same location for at least fifty years and looks every day of it. The building I’m sure has been modified somewhat over the decades but looks pretty much the way I remember it looking when I was a tiny tot or later on when I was a teenager. I used to know people who worked here but of course that was years ago; now it’s mostly a mix of black, white and Hispanic teenagers behind the counter. A medium sized chocolate malt is $3.02 with tax now ; I fork over three bills and two pennies to the apathetic-looking Hispanic teenage girl across the counter, take a number and a seat and wait.

The joint is packed this night with a crowd of all ages from tiny children to senior citizens. I sit and wait for my malt and examine the food menu hanging from the ceiling above the counter; it’s amazing how good the items look on the laminated plastic display. Yet past experience has taught me the food here isn’t as good as it used to be. The burgers are greasy and as flavorless as the obviously frozen french fries. I only come here for an occasional malt or shake like I am doing tonight. Looking around at the many senior citizens here, I wonder to myself if they come here out of some inner sense of nostalgia in hopes the food has somehow gotten better since their previous visit. One of them looks like the Worlds First Hippie: long white hair and Santa Claus beard, hunched over and crossing the room on not one but two canes. He is wearing a Beatles t-shirt; I bet HE remembers watching them on Ed Sullivan.

After a really long wait my malt is finally ready. I trudge down the dark street to my place taking an occasional sip from it. It’s cold, it’s chocolate, it’s liquid; all my desired requirements have been met. I know this will help me sleep tonight and all is well this evening.

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