Picture the scene: Chick-fil-A during the Friday lunch rush.
A line of drive-thru cars snaking out of the lot and blocking traffic. Every parking spot and table taken. A cluster of people by the front counter awaiting take-out bags. Kids screaming from the play room.
But it’s Friday and I want a Deluxe Chicken Sandwich with waffle fries, dammit.
The line goes quickly. These people know what they’re doing.
When it’s my turn, I give my order to a blonde girl behind the counter. In her preemptive defense, I want to emphasize her youth over her blondeness. My guess is she was about sixteen and working her first job.
In the fast food dance as old as time, I order.
“Number one—with cheese, waffle fries, Coke.”
“For here or to go?”
“And I can tell from your shirt that the name for the order is Mercy,” she says with that warm, genuine smile that must be straight out of the Chick-fil-A handbook.
That’s how she pronounced it—Mercy. I had no idea what she meant.
Seeing my obvious puzzlement, she nodded at my shirt.
Merci is stitched across the front of my sweater.
And to be clear, this is not some treasured souvenir from Paris. This is a fifteen-dollar sweater (pictured at the start of this blog) I bought from the Old Navy in the same shopping center as the Chick-fil-A.
I started to point out that Merci is French for thank you, but honestly, I couldn’t think of a way without coming off incredibly condescending.
“Um, no,” I said, as politely as I could. “That’s close, but my name is Melanie.”
I felt embarrassed for her, that’s why I gave her partial credit for Merci-Mercy being “close” to Melanie. By close I suppose I meant they both started with “M.”
Suddenly, I realized she was looking at me with the same expression I was likely using on her. One that said, this woman is a making a fool of herself but I don’t want to tell her so.
“Well,” she said, with southern belle bless your heart arsenic sweetness. “It’s a pretty good guess based on the name on your shirt.”
I was speechless as we stared across the counter, each thinking the other is a complete idiot.
“Merci,” I said when she handed me my tray.
Just kidding, dear Reader.
I didn’t come up with that bon mot until hours later.
In reality I muttered a thank you and slunk off to a corner booth with someone else’s name emblazoned across my chest.