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“I want a drum stick”

The old man hunched over the counter at the Kaintuck Chicken Massacre with his eyes glued on the roasted chicken. I couldn’t quite hear the young man behind the counter just yet, but I could see the old man pointing at the piece he wanted.

“I want a drum stick”

This time I could year the young teenager responding; “Do you want a 3-piece or a 5, piece. The meal comes with…”

“I want a drum stick!”

The old guy knew exactly what he wanted. He wanted a drum stick. A decade or two earlier, this old fella might have adapted his order to the menu, but now the details were clearly nonsense to him. He was pointing right at the piece he wanted. Why wasn’t that enough?The kid, for his part, wasn’t authorized to act on the desire for a single drum stick. The buttons on the cash register didn’t include that option. He needed to translate the order into something else, something that fit the categories he was allowed to provide. In a few years, the young man might have had the confidence to attempt an explanation, but the old man wasn’t listening anyway, and he had no idea how to deal with the situation. so he just kept repeating himself.

The old man, of course did the same;

“I want a drum stick.

Somewhere in the back, I imagined, there must be a manager, someone endowed with sufficient authority to just give the old man a drumstick, perhaps resolving the technical problem by putting it on the house. Maybe, maybe not. A manager might well have insisted on the usual categories just as the kid had. In any event, there was no manager up near the cash registers. So, the kid just kept repeating the official options.

And the old man just kept repeating himself.

Decades later, I can still hear the old guy’s words as I took my own order out the door.

“I want a drumstick!”