Iowa Writes

SHEILA SIMON
May I Take Your Order, Please


Back in the ancient days when my daughters were small, back when children could be released from a car seat before they got a graduate degree, my husband and daughters and I visited my folks in Washington, D.C. We grabbed an extra niece one morning and piled into Mom and Dad's Chevy Caprice and drove to the National Zoo. Two grandparents, two parents, two children, one niece. Hold the sippy cup. 

We watched the animals with a keen eye for slimy and gross, always favorites. We watched a huge gorilla watch us through a glass wall. When he picked his nose and moved the end product directly into his mouth, the children squealed with the knowledge that they had been right all along. The adults announced it was time to move on.

At the tip of a meltdown we decided it was time to go back to Mom and Dad's apartment. We voted to drive through McDonald's along the way. This also is a measure of the olden days. Back then the daughters issued no diatribes against supporting a flesh-eating, trash-producing global corporation. Back then they liked the treats in the Happy Meals. 

My mother, riding shotgun with my daughter squeezed into her left side, organized our order. She listed each item with hash marks to indicate quantity. By the time we turned into the parking lot, Mom handed the completed list to Dad.

Back in the ancient days when my daughters were small, back when children could be released from a car seat before they got a graduate degree, my husband and daughters and I visited my folks in Washington, D.C. We grabbed an extra niece one morning and piled into Mom and Dad's Chevy Caprice and drove to the National Zoo. Two grandparents, two parents, two children, one niece. Hold the sippy cup. 

We watched the animals with a keen eye for slimy and gross, always favorites. We watched a huge gorilla watch us through a glass wall. When he picked his nose and moved the end product directly into his mouth, the children squealed with the knowledge that they had been right all along. The adults announced it was time to move on.

At the tip of a meltdown we decided it was time to go back to Mom and Dad's apartment. We voted to drive through McDonald's along the way. This also is a measure of the olden days. Back then the daughters issued no diatribes against supporting a flesh-eating, trash-producing global corporation. Back then they liked the treats in the Happy Meals. 

My mother, riding shotgun with my daughter squeezed into her left side, organized our order. She listed each item with hash marks to indicate quantity. By the time we turned into the parking lot, Mom handed the completed list to Dad.

Dad pulled up and started to order. He used his trademark voice, known on Capitol Hill for discussing education issues and budget problems. If he hadn't had a career in politics he would have been great on radio. So from the booming bass came the order: "We would like one chicken McNugget Happy Meal with an orange soda, one chicken McNugget Happy Meal with water, two quarter-pounders with cheese, two cheeseburgers," and on and on down the list to feed all seven of us. The list was read with the seriousness used to persuade colleagues in the House and Senate about the efficiency of direct student loans.

But there was a problem.

Dad had not pulled up to the speaker and microphone. He had pulled up next to a yellow parking pylon, the kind that's high enough so you can see it and avoid driving up on the curb when you swing around toward what really is the microphone.  My mother and husband and I were sputtering so hard that we couldn't catch enough air to tell Dad he was placing an order with a cement post. We were able to tell him this only after he announced the last "two small fries" on the list.

By the time he pulled up to the real microphone, we were taking off our glasses to wipe off our tears, and Dad was barely able to restate the order. 

So ask not what your country can do for you, and in particular, ask not too much of the old guys in the technology department.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


SHEILA SIMON

Sheila Simon teaches law at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, and she recently attended the Iowa Summer Writing Festival.

This page was first displayed
on October 28, 2008

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