I met the anti-Scrooge and didn’t realize it because it was a few years ago and during the summer. It only occurred to me recently because the anti-Scrooge is, or was, a manager at a Taco Bell and I don’t go to Taco Bell that often. Besides it’s a very specific Taco Bell, although it is pretty close to where I live and I pass by it often, which is why I know it’s special. First, though, I should explain that it was a combination of the holiday season and a recent trip to this particular Taco Bell that prompted my epiphany.
About a week ago I went to this Taco Bell because my wife and I didn’t have much food in the house and couldn’t figure out what we wanted anyway, so finally she suggested I go to the store and after that I could grab something from Taco Bell. When I pulled up to the drive-thru there were approximately nine-thousand cars ahead of me, or maybe three, but I still thought, Oh, great, this is going to take at least half an hour because fast food is never fast when you really want it to be and sometimes it’s not even food, but that’s another story. The cars ahead of me moved through quickly and when I pulled up to place my order a cheerful voice came through the speaker.
“Hey, how are you this evening?”
“Fine, how are you?”
“Super, great, wonderful, what can I get you this fine evening?”
I gave him my order and the guy said, “Okay, that’ll be one thousand, three hundred and five pennies.”
I was still laughing when I pulled up and I wished I had a handful of pennies, although handing that much change through a window would just be cruel. The young woman who took my money and handed me my food was smiling and I could see other employees moving around behind her, all smiling and laughing with each other.
This Taco Bell used to have a regular “Champion Of The Week” on its marquee—an employee who’d done an exceptional job that week. One day when I was taking the bus I only had a twenty and since it was right next to the bus stop I went in to get some change. I ordered a drink. The manager came over and handed me a cup.
“Go ahead, have one!”
I laughed and explained I didn’t really need a drink. He opened the register and said, “How’s about a ten, a five, four ones, and four quarters?”
“You’re gonna be Champion Of The Week,” I said.
He said that as the manager he was responsible for picking the Champions. When I said I thought it was a great idea he nodded. “Yeah, they get an extra fifty dollars so they like that.” So it wasn’t just getting their name on the sign and bragging rights. There was a financial incentive too.
The manager was a young guy, which just adds to him being the anti-Scrooge. Though Dickens gives us bits of Ebenezer’s past he’s old when he’s visited by the three spirits. The Ghost Of Christmas Yet To Come doesn’t specify how many years into the future it’s taking Ebenezer. Even if he didn’t change his death could be in one year or ten years hence; he’s a changed man by the end of the story but he’s still gonna die eventually. The only difference is he becomes a benefactor to Tiny Tim and improves the lives of the whole Cratchit family, and his generosity will have ripple effects.
That brings me back to the Taco Bell manager who was obviously a good guy and a good manager—generous, friendly. He treated the other employees with respect. I don’t know if he’s still there. The sign out front doesn’t name a Champion Of The Week anymore, but it still seems like a good place to work. As I pulled around there were three employees standing outside by the back door talking and laughing, blowing clouds of smoke in the cold. Three spirits, I thought.