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Monday, January 31, 2005  

Where’s the Fire?

One of the reasons we were excited about moving into this neighborhood back in the early 90s was because there was a Dairy Queen four blocks away. This would be the closest either one of us had ever lived to a DQ, and we’d missed Dairy Queen terribly during the previous few years when we didn’t own a car. We figured that once we had our house on the edge of Minneapolis, with our new (used) car, we’d be going through the DQ drive-thru all the time. And in the summer we’d walk there and back, so as to minimize the effects of all those Blizzards we’d be enjoying.

The first couple of weeks were pretty busy, what with getting all moved in and settled. But during the second month, we spent hours there. Unfortunately, that was during one trip through the drive-thru.

Seriously, this was the slowest drive-thru we’ve ever been at. And that's saying something. Cars are wrapped around the building at all times, and usually one or two of them has run out of gas. People order lunch and by the time they get it it’s dinnertime. You drive to Dairy Queen and by the time you leave it’s Dairy Prime Minister.

Parking and going in wasn’t any faster. Once I went inside to pick up a few treats and when I came back out to my car the license tabs had expired.

We knew this wasn't endemic to DQs all over the country. Rare is the road trip when we spot a DQ and don't stop, and we've never had an experience where the drive-thru was so slow that walking the rest of the way would have been just as fast.

Obviously, it didn’t take us long to give up on this particular Dairy Queen. Oh, we’d still hit the drive-thru every once in a while, but only for something simple like a Misty Slush, and only if we didn’t have anything else going on for the rest of the week. And we don't have any illusions that the loss of our business threatened its existence in any way. Every summer day, the picnic tables on the front patio are occupied by slow-moving families and unhurried suburban teen posses. They mocked us with their ice cream treats and their abundant free time. And the DQ itself mocked us every day, as it stood directly on the way home from Trash's office.

And then, while I was driving Trash home from work one day, we spotted those magic, wonderful, life-changing words spelled out in temporary letters on the sign:

UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT

We hardly dared hope what this could mean. After we got home and had dinner, I went back out to pick up dessert. I was back within minutes.

"Was it closed?" Trash asked from the back room. She couldn't believe it when I brought her sundae to her. "Did you go to a different one?" she wondered.

It's not accurate to say we spent a lot more time at that Dairy Queen over the next month, but it would be correct to say that we paid a lot more visits. We squirted through the drive-thru lane at, if not freeway speeds, at least on-ramp ones. We loved it.

One Sunday evening we even went inside and sat down at tables to enjoy our snacks, because that was still faster than sitting in the drive-thru used to be. We spotted someone we thought was the manager, and when we confirmed it, we gushed to him over what a great job he was doing, how much faster everything was now, how much better the service, haw much better the ice cream now that we were getting it before it had fully reached its liquid state. His mom happened to be visiting the restaurant at the same time, and she beamed proudly over her son.

A week later the place burned nearly to the ground.

The good news is that the store wasn't totaled. Temporary letters went up on the sign, saying that they would reopen soon. And indeed, over the next six months. the DQ wasn't just rebuilt. It was remodeled. Reimagined, if you will. There was an entirely new roof, snazzy ads on the outside walls, and a sparkly new solarium. Not bad work for half a year. Especially considering that I'd been known to wait that long for a root beer float. When it reopened, I quickly hit the drive-thru. While waiting at the window, I could see the new, ultramodern interior, with menu boards mounted on stainless steel rails angled down toward the customers at the registers, and the superefficient layout of the kitchen and dining area. I had plenty of time to admire these things while waiting. In fact, I'm still waiting.

I never found out what happened or what caused the fire. I don't know what went on in that kitchen under the new manager, but in retrospect it makes sense that the combination of deep-fat fryers and cookstaff moving at relativistic speeds is a potentially incendiary combination. It also makes sense that the one manager who had the place operating at something resembling efficiency would have departed in short order, whether it was for being too good for his surroundings or for burning them down. Either way, the effect on us is the same. We're making our own damn root beer floats.

Today's best search phrase: "geeky pop-eyed skinny little dude with superhuman licker." Actually, I think you're looking for Match.com. Good luck.

posted by M. Giant 8:30 PM 7 comments

7 Comments:

Get out! Are you talking about the DQ on 50th? That was like five blocks from our old house on York? Worst Dairy Queen EVAH. But when we left, they had not yet burned down...who knew?

--Gael

By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 31, 2005 at 8:47 PM  

There were a few surprises for me when I moved to Minnesota from the east coast. One was tornados in the summer. I knew to expect the winters, but the fact that the summers are dangerous, too? Two was how everyone wrote checks for everything. For movies. For fast food. For purchases under $5. And three was how the Minnesotans love Dairy Queen. For a state that ostensibly has winter for 7 months out of the year (or at least that's what we tell outsiders to keep the population here under control), it seemed a strange love affair. I've never figured it out.

Speaking of strange, the year I moved here, the DQ down the street from my job also burned down. Yet it's not the same DQ of which you speak. Curious.

By Blogger Girl Detective, at February 1, 2005 at 7:18 AM  

In Texas they call DQ the "Texas Stop Sign." do they use that in other states too??

By Anonymous Anonymous, at February 1, 2005 at 7:26 AM  

Greetings. The travails of the single dad got my attention but have to say I did a lot of DQ dietary damage in Minneapolis while living there. I think I know the place as I had a friend about a mile away. Not a profound commetn you might be thinking? Well, you'd be right. Rude but right. Crock on.

By Blogger Gordon Stettinius, at February 1, 2005 at 10:05 AM  

I have a "Dairy King" just down the road from me. My po-dunk town in Ohio isn't large enough to support a full-fledged Dairy Queen. And, not only is it an ice cream shop, it's also a motel. Yes, the sign actually reads something like "Dairy King Ice Cream and Motel." It's like having a jewery store with a massage therapist operating inside. Oh wait, we have one of those too.

By Blogger Katy-Maty, at February 1, 2005 at 11:59 AM  

That sounds a lot like our rock climbing gym/video store.

By Blogger Joanne, at February 1, 2005 at 9:43 PM  

When I was younger, my family did a lot of travelling, almost all of it by car. (The exceptions were three trips to Los Angeles, one by bus - gack, one by train - not bad, one by plane - enh.) My dad always said that you knew you'd found civilization when you saw a Dairy Queen. It didn't matter if it was smack out in the middle of nowhere with no other buildings around it, it was civilized territory. Of course, now I live in a little tiny town without civilization. We don't even have a Dairy King Ice Cream and Motel.:-(

By Blogger onyxblue, at February 2, 2005 at 10:54 AM  

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