The Milk Crisis of 2005

I haven't always been an unemployed pseudo-hobo.  When I was in college, I often worked during Christmas and summer breaks serving food and bussing tables in my hometown.   I have a lot of stories I could tell you from those times, but one in particular sticks out in my mind.

I was having a really bad day.  I had barely slept the night before because being scheduled for an early shift hadn't made me any less nocturnal.  I hadn't gotten anything to eat either.  I forgot to pack a lunch and I was stalwartly holding out on buying something because working for $3.25 an hour plus a paltry amount of tips kind of makes you reluctant to purchase a $10 hamburger if you don't absolutely have to.

My sleep-deprivation and hypoglycemia were only aggravated by a string of rude and demanding customers - one guy didn't like the shape of his burger patty, a kid threw a fish stick at my head, some snobby lady made fun of my gaudy, oversized work uniform and I was verbally molested more times than I could count.  In light of all of this, I was overjoyed to see a friendly-looking old man come in and seat himself in one of the booths.


The seniors who came into the restaurant were usually delightful to be around and I felt relieved that maybe I would get to experience a fulfilling and kind interaction for the first time that day.

I brought him a menu and cheerfully asked if there was anything he would like to drink.  He was like


I quickly went and got him a big glass of cold milk.  I handed it over to him with pride, feeling good about my prompt reaction-time and smiling service. 


He stared at the milk silently for a few moments before shouting


I was surprised by his reaction to the milk, but I obliged his request and went back to get him a smaller glass.  We only had two different glass sizes, so I chose one of the smaller ones and brought it back to the man's table, again feeling proud of my ability to provide quick, tailored service with a smile.


He looked at me.  He looked at the milk.  He looked back at me.  Then his wizened face contorted into a menacing scowl and he shrieked


I felt a little discouraged, but not yet defeated.  As I noted before, we didn't have any intermediate-sized glasses, but that wasn't going to stop me from getting this man the exact right amount of milk.  No, I needed to find a solution!   That solution ended up being filling one of the large glasses halfway.  It wasn't the prettiest way to present milk, but it got the job done.  

I trotted the half-full glass of milk over to the man, who was now scowling at me from across the room like he was expecting me to fail.  I cautiously held it out to him. .  


It became immediately apparent that my crafty solution was not satisfactory. 


I said, "Sir, we don't have any medium-sized glasses.  We only have large glasses and small glasses."

Man: "What the hell are you talking about?" 

Me:  "The restaurant only has two sizes, small and large.  We don't have any medium cups." 

Man: "Why don't you have any other cups?"

Me:  "I don't know.  It's stupid.  I'm sorry." 

Man:  "Do something about it."  

Me:  "I'll try." 

I scurried back to the kitchen to work on somehow hand-crafting a medium-sized glass.  I had very little to work with.   We had some styrofoam to-go cups that were the same size as the large in-restaurant cups.  I took one of the styrofoam cups and cut about three inches off of the top of it with a steak knife.  It was not pretty.  It looked like I had tried to gnaw the cup apart with my teeth.  But it would have to suffice.  I filled the monstrosity I had created with milk, took a deep breath and walked toward the man's table.  I could see him glaring at me, daring me to disappoint him one more time. 


My hands shook as I held out the cup to him, hoping, hoping, hoping - maybe he wouldn't notice the jagged edges, maybe he wouldn't care that there were little bits of styrofoam floating in his milk. Maybe.


Nope. 


He ended up ordering orange juice instead.