At Whom the Bell Tolls


It was getting late.  Daniel was hungry.  He begged me to go to KFC for dinner.  I had just got back from Weight Watchers, so celebrating my second week of reduction in a row with fried chicken sounded like a good idea to me.  We drove over to the combination KFC and Long John Silver’s restaurant north of downtown Belvidere.

The dining room hours on the door said they were open until ten o’clock, but actually I think they were only open until nine.  It was about 8:45 when we arrived.  While the cashier was polite, it didn’t take a mind reader to figure out she was less than happy to see us eat in.  Most of the dining room had already been cleaned.  Daniel watched her intently as she took the order, took my money and arranged our chicken on the plastic tray.  We sat down at one of the booths by the front windows.  Daniel seemed distracted.  Normally, he’s very interested in the world outside on State Street.  Instead, he kept looking back at the serious young woman behind the counter.  I finally asked what was going on.

“I’m waiting for her to smile,” he said.  In an effort to improve customer service, KFC has placed a bell on the front counter.  RING ME IF YOUR CASHIER SMILES AT YOU, says the Colonel’s photographic likeness.  While Daniel likes the chicken, he likes to make noise even more.

“I can’t ring it until she smiles,” Daniel explained.  I looked over at girl.  Her manager had been talking to her.  While I couldn’t hear the specific words, the tone didn’t sound happy.  We ate and watched her soberly clean up around the restaurant.  She seemed a bit nervous (probably from being stared at by the creepy kid and his creepy dad in the dining room).  We ate our meals and were ready for dessert.

I walked up to the counter and made some wise remark about how we wanted a couple of those little parfaits in a bucket to go along with my Diet Pepsi.  It was pretty lame, but I remembered my training back at Burger King: if the customer so much as attempts a joke, make sure you laugh.  Sure enough, she smiled slightly and it was only disrupted for a moment when Daniel leapt at the bell and rang it mightily.

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