First of all, my Admiral Akbar Lego mini-figure arrived today. So that’s cool. Though I’m a Trekkie at my nougaty heart, that heart has a chocolaty Star Wars shell sprinkled with sweet goodness from about a dozen other fandoms.
As I took the toy from its package and mentally pondered how best to set it up on my desk, I was reminded not of my Lego-filled childhood, but of a trip I took to a fast-food restaurant when I was a freshman in college. Join me in reliving a carefree evening in the late ’90s (insert wavy visual distortions and a shimmering sound effect here) …
I was hanging out with some friends—some older friends, because I was cool like that—at an off-campus house where we were watching Beauty and the Beast. This was the Disney movie, not the Linda Hamilton TV series—because (have I mentioned?) I was cool like that. Then someone voiced a hankering for a double-double, that twice-mystical hamburger creation available only at In-N-Out burger, the nearest of which was only half an hour’s drive away. So a good number of us crammed into a few available vehicles and drove.
Most fast-food eateries take your order, assign you a number, and then call out said number when your order is ready. Indeed, that’s how this In-N-Out burger does it today, but back then, the cashiers actually took down customers’ names and used them to call guests to pick up their food. As we waited in line, one member of our party decided we should all give names from Star Wars, to which I readily agreed—because, etc., etc.
I, of course, chose Admiral Akbar, the Mon Calamari Rebel military commander known most famously—to geeks, anyway—for shouting, “It’s a trap!” in Return of the Jedi. Who wouldn’t?
The In-N-Out employees clearly weren’t impressed with our idea. As our orders began arriving from the fryers and assembly lines, the guy at the pick-up counter flatly monotoned into the microphone: “Han. Darth. Your orders are ready.” We thought it was marvelous.
“Yoda. Luke. Your orders are ready.”
My friends picked up their bags of burgers and fries, their shakes and sodas. Then, when my turn came, I grabbed my order as the worker called out, “Jawarhalol. Your order is ready.”
I pride myself on knowing some pretty obscure facts and characters from Star Wars, but this name was new to me.
“Jawarhalol?” I said loudly, turning to the crowded restaurant. “Who’s named Jawarhalol?”
A man who’d come in after us—a man I’d never seen before—glared at me as he picked up his dinner. I looked back at him, realization striking me like a rare well-aimed blast from an Imperial stormtrooper. I was unsure of how to explain why I seemed to be mocking him in front of my friends and all of the other good people trying to enjoy In-N-Out, so I just stood there.
He didn’t say anything either, but I’m sure he was thinking, “You’re one to talk, Akbar.”
I don’t know when that restaurant made the shift from names to numbers, but I’d like to think that my friends and I prompted the change. In-N-Out Burger apparently couldn’t repel cleverness of that magnitude.