This past weekend we decided to visit the new Sonic drive-in, which just opened across from Scranton High School. It’s the first one in the area, and it was a big, big deal. During the opening week there were genuine traffic jams, and the local media treated it like a major news event. Which caused me to instinctively say, “Funk dat.”
I’d been to Sonic before, in other states, and there’s nothing wrong with it. I like it OK, but I’m not sure it merits all the ass-over-tits excitement. I mean, seriously.
But, by Saturday most of the initial hubbub had died down and I began thinking about their footlong Coney Island dogs. I asked Toney if she wanted to go there for lunch, and she had no objection. So, we went.
We pulled into one of their parking spots, and held a freaking Manhattan Project within the Camry, trying to decide what everybody wanted. I was prepared in advance (as is the custom), but Toney and the boys needed to consult the menu. Finally we had it nailed down, so I pushed the button. Which kicked off an adventure…
A female voice welcomed us to Sonic, and asked if it could take our order. I told her I’d have the #8 combo with onion rings and a small Dr. Pepper.
“OK, that’s a #8, footlong Coney Island dog. What side would you like with that? We have french fries, onion rings, tater tots, goulash, cob of corn, chow chow, souse, and poutine.” (I’m working from memory.)
“Um, onion rings,” I said, for the second time.
OK, so that’s a #8, footlong Coney Island dog with onion rings. Would you care for a Sonic Blast or one of our real ice cream shakes to go with that?”
“No, I just want Dr. Pepper to drink.”
“Dr. Pepper, a small Dr. Pepper.”
There was two minutes of radio silence. Then someone finally came on the line again and said, “Hello, welcome to Sonic. Can I take your order?” I’m almost certain it was the same person.
“Are we starting over?” I answered.
“You wanted the cheeseburger, no lettuce?”
It was a total cluster-copulation. And every time I FINALLY finished with one combo meal, she’d launch into her wrap-up spiel, offering a Sonic Blast (whatever that is), and repeating the order. It felt like she was willing it to be over.
“Hang on, I’m still ordering,” I’d have to say, and we’d free-fall into a bottomless pit of confusion. All four meals were a major chore for both of us, but we finally got ‘er done, and she repeated the order correctly.
“OK, that’ll be $28.37,” she replied. “Your food will be right out.”
$28.37? Holy crap! For a sack of hotdogs and congealed grease? It felt like a lot to me. We could’ve gone to the Chinese place for that, with real plates and silverware and tablecloths.
“Do we have to tip these people?” I asked Toney.
“It’s fast food,” she answered.
“But they’re on roller skates, and shit. I think they expect a tip for all that rolling around and novelty tray work.”
“I wouldn’t tip them,” she shrugged.
A few minutes later I saw someone who looked like Macy Gray skating toward our car, with a tray piled up with food. She didn’t look very sure of herself on those wheels, and I hoped she’d be able to stop when she reached us. I was mildly concerned she’d rocket straight into my rolled-down window, and cause thirty skin-melting onion rings to go airborne amongst my family.
But she managed the offload well, and I tipped her five bucks on the $28.37. Toney rolled her eyes at that, and we started tearing into our food. And when I unsheathed the hyper-extended hotdog, I saw that it had nothing on it. It was just naked: a wiener on a bun. Grrr…
I saw Macy go rolling through my peripheral vision, and tried to flag her down. But she just coasted on by… So, I had to move all the food that was piled up on my legs, and kick open the door. I went over to the command center, and some super-eager guy asked if there was a problem.
I told him the sad tale, and he said he’d make me a replacement right away. “Just throw some chili and stuff on this one,” I said. But he backed away from it, like it was a loaded gun. “We’re not allowed,” he replied. “I’ll bring you a new one.”
What the shit? I walked back to my car with a really, really long hotdog with no toppings, and climbed back in beneath my lunch.
And within seconds ol’ Eager Beaver was there thrusting a fully-dressed Coney Island at me. Then he stuck his head inside the car, and told us in a conspiratorial voice that the girl who took our order is new and has been making a few mistakes. His entire head and neck were in front of my steering wheel, and I was pressed back as far as I could go.
“It’s OK,” I said, my skull crushed into the upholstery, attempting to get away from the guy’s face. He continued to apologize, for a few beats too long, and finally left us. Good god.
Yeah, and the dog was pretty good, but the onion rings were, perhaps, the worst I’ve ever eaten. They had some kind of weird, musky aftertaste. It was like the flavor version of a basement with moisture trouble. Ketchup and barbecue sauce couldn’t even knock it down, so I just gave up. And you know it’s a bad situation when I leave uneaten rings in the sack…
In the future I might go there alone, but I can’t see me taking the family again. There are just too many superior options for $33.37. I can envision me craving a hotdog with a load of toppings some day, and going over there by myself. But not for a fambly lunch. Never again. And those onion rings are off the docket forever.
After we left Sonic, we went to the Steamtown Mall. Toney wanted to go to a store there, and I took advantage of the post office inside, which stays open on Saturdays until 6 pm. I needed to mail a DVD box set to some guy in Michigan, and this worked out perfectly.
And once we were finished, we backed out of our parking space and it felt like the front passenger wheel spun-out on something for a split-second. The heck? As we continued to back up, I saw that one of the Secrets had dumped the naked hotdog on the floor of the parking garage, and I’d just run over it. Two-thirds of it was mashed, and the remaining third was pristine.
“You threw trash out of the car?” I hollered.
“I didn’t know what to do with it,” the younger boy confessed. “Look how long it is.”
And for some reason that satisfied me, and I didn’t say anything else about it.
I’d give the whole experience a C-. The Coney Island dog was good, and I didn’t hear any complaints from Toney, or the backseat. But I think it was a little too expensive, and the rings were horrible. In fact, I think I can still taste them.
Thank you for reading. This is Jeff Kay reporting.