The Wendy’s is just off the interstate, on the north side of Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Turn onto the blacktop, then turn at the red light,. It’s across the street from the Corvette factory. A half block away from the museum.
I needed the coffee, the drive ahead of me was going to be long, leaving Louisville, headed down to south Mississippi.
I’m also cheap and Wendy’s has the best coffee for senior citizens. They don’t do breakfast and I live for good coffee. If they don’t have fresh coffee, you just wait ten minutes. They will brew you a new batch.
I had the ten minutes to stand and stretch. The next few hours would be sitting behind a windshield, holding a steering wheel, weaving through the Tennessee hills, dodging soccer Moms and watching the eighteen wheelers fly by.
He was standing behind the counter when I walked in. He’s a couple of inches taller than I am. African-American, a little over weight. The tag on his shirt said “Manager.” The workers gave him room as he moved around.
“Welcome to Wendy’s. How can I serve you?”
“Two coffees, Senior citizen’s discount, please.” You have to ask for the discount. They won’t give it to you just because your hair is white as snow.
And, I have to say please. That’s the way I was raised.
“I’ll brew you a pot. It takes eight minutes. Can you wait?”
Someone else came in, ordered two Wendy’s burgers, one without tomatoes. Added the fries, four drinks and some chicken nuggets. He punched the computer screen and waited a minute. A lady from the back was handing him burgers and fries.
He started assembling their order on two trays on the counter. I guess he was waiting on the nuggets.
“How did you end up managing a Wendy’s?” I asked, thinking about the people who would be there during the lunch hour, maybe a bus full of high school kids. Maybe some Kentucky fans, headed to a basketball game plus all us retired folks who stop for the cheap coffee.
“I was in college, second year. Already was working four other jobs. Needed the hours. It takes a couple of part time jobs to have a full time job, you know. About to work myself to death, trying to stay alive and feed myself.” He had a smile that said “welcome.”
“Then a friend of mine told me Wendy’s would hire me, if I asked for a job. I asked. That was 29 years ago. I’m still here.
Now I’m down to just two jobs. I manage this Wendy’s and still take a month off to be a counselor at a Christian Boys Camp in North Carolina. Been going there since I was a kid in college, 29 years and counting.”
I just stood there, admiring the man.
“You got to give something back. I’m lucky, got a good job and time enough to help some kids at summer camp.”
I didn’t even ask for the senior discount. Paid in full.
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