OPINION COLUMNS

The parking lot game

By Gerre Joiner | Published Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The recent remodeling project at Whataburger is finished. It was completed a few weeks ago, and we were glad to get back to normal. During our days of “displacement,” some of us guys went over to McDonald’s to drink coffee. We enjoyed the company.

I drove to McDonald’s one afternoon, went in the restaurant and saw two fellows drinking coffee. I knew them. Good guys.

Have you ever noticed that when we Texans greet each other, we ask, “How are you doing?” Now, we really don’t want to know how they’re doing. We’re just making conversation. Sometimes we ask, “What are you doing?” when we’re greeting someone. On this particular day, I should have used the “how” greeting instead of the “what” greeting. These two guys told me what they were doing.

They told me they were watching people walk across the parking lot and guessing if the walker would turn and go to the bathroom or go to the line and order. They mentioned that it’s possible for an astute observer to watch the way a person travels and know if he or she needs a Pepsi or a potty.

These guys told me that with just a little effort, one can tell if a person is interested in a Big Mac or the fast track to the bathroom. They say it’s something about the way a person gets out of the car and crosses the parking lot. The rate of travel says a lot. A fast walk is a huge sign regarding the destination. A trot is a dead giveaway.

I joined the guys in the guessing game for a while and found that I was no match for them. They had it down to a science, and I was a greenhorn.

I began to think about this exercise, wondering if something like that might happen at Whataburger. Well, I don’t think it would ever happen at Whataburger. I can’t explain it exactly, and I don’t think it has anything to do with the fact that the McDonald’s guys are Methodists, but I’m left to ponder the differences between the McDonald’s/Whataburger groups:

  • We have Methodists in our bunch, too. We have all sorts of denominations. We have Catholics, members of the Church of Christ, Pentecostals, Baptists of all sizes and shapes, and we even have some guys who don’t claim to have any kind of faith base at all. (Seems to me they’re a little “broody.”)
  • The McDonald’s guys I talked to were probably Republicans. I’ve heard they had some Democrats over there, too. Being a Democrat wouldn’t explain the parking lot game, though.
  • I think one of the McDonald’s guys drives a car. Now our guys would never drive a car. Some of us have two trucks just so we have something to drive when the main truck’s in the shop.
  • I think one of the reasons these guys drink coffee at McDonald’s is financial. They don’t mind paying for their coffee. I’m afraid that if Whataburger ever suggests charging us for their coffee, someone in our group will suggest that we take our business elsewhere.

Members of both groups are pretty much all the same kind of folks. We Whataburger guys and those McDonald’s guys were enjoying “social networking” before Mark Zuckerberg invented Facebook. We were sipping before anybody ever Twittered. We were swapping stories before the word “blog” was coined. We shared old-fashioned photos before a “Flickr” was ever flicked. We were helping each other find businesses and services before anyone was “LinkedIn.”

To coffee drinkers in either place (McDonald’s or Whataburger), “MySpace” has always meant “my space” and that you should move to “your space.”

We’re pretty much the same animal. I just can’t figure out why those guys were so interested in people walking across the parking lot at McDonald’s. Reckon it’s the Methodist thing?

Gerre Joiner is a semi-retired church musician and has lived in Decatur since 1999.

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