single mom

Sociology of Sonic

I’m sitting at America’s Drive-In. I’m eating Pad Ka Pao, extra spicy. I thought the heat might burn away the lead that’s sitting in my stomach; the anger and dread and sadness I’m feeling, thinking about the word “custody.” The hormones I’m injecting are also making me want specific foods.

I’m at Sonic because I want the patented Cherry limeade with the awesome crushed ice. Some people get pissed because they fill your cup 3/4 of the way with it, but to me, its like a second meal. My dentist is loving me for that.

A round-faced Navajo guy with glasses brings me my lone drink, and I look away guiltily because I don’t have change to tip him. People still tip carhops right? Ever since I was called “cheap” in college,I’ve become obsessed with over-tipping. I have the same problem with thinking I smell bad all the time, due to high school trauma.

As I sip my Diet Dr Pepper, I notice another carhop. He’s about 35, but he’s trying to look 21. He’s got the tattoos on his neck. He’s white, but he’s trying to speak street Spanish. He wears baggy black pants, which paints him as stuck in the late 90’s. I recognize him from when I worked fast food in high school. He was a drug dealer back then.

Fast Food joints are excellent places for drug dealing. Employment requires no pee test, and drive-thru windows are ideal spots for smooth transactions. I wonder if this guy is still passing Meth over the counter, concealed in Styrofoam cups like the one I’m sipping from.

I look in the rear view mirror and notice how pale I am. I look sick. My eyes are red around the edges, but the hormones are also making my skin clear up, so I smile at my reflection.

A Beamer SUV pulls into the Drive-Thru, and it sticks out like a sore thumb against the caravan of work trucks, construction crews, and rusty, dented cars. The weathered truck beside me contains a man in an equally weathered cap. He came here for the tots and a foot long Coney. I came here for the shaved ice. The rich woman in the Beamer came here for her pregnancy cravings. Maybe others are coming to meet Baggy Pants, the drug dealer.

I spot a single mom. She’s wearing a hoodie and her black hair is so long it touches the back of her knees. Her preschool-aged daughter tags along behind her, as if connected by an invisible fishing line. She’s like a young Tantoo Cardinal; the actress White people base their fantasies of what Indian women look like. 

She’s not driving a car. She sits down in the picnic area of Sonic, which is tiny, but jam-packed with people at lunch. Her daughter jumps up and down, getting frustrated at her mom’s lack of attention. I picture my own daughter, yelling  insistently, “Mommy! Mommy! I can’t talk to you!” 

I watch the construction guys, stained overalls, flannel jackets, sunburned skin. My mouth is a ring of fire from the Thai Food, and I have to trash the rest of my lunch. My stomach is rising. I pull out of America’s Drive-Through, wondering if its the spice making me sick or the fact that the construction crew reminds me so much of my daughter’s father.


5 thoughts on “Sociology of Sonic”

  1. I love Sonic! It is pretty amazing how the people have such different lives but are pretty much the same as far as their work. I’m sure it was Rooferman that did you in…


  2. Dude, carhops still exist?!?
    For a minute there, I was wondering if my X moved back to CO. But he doesn’t have tattoos.
    I’m dying to know how the meeting w/ laywerdude went.


  3. Sonic….whoa. I was so glad to see Sonic is coming to Michigan soon, but not soon enough.

    I was there once. With my late daughter. A day after being told she’d die. 41 days before she did.

    Good memories.

    Good luck on Friday. I will be thinking of you.


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