It's not that I'm a die-hard Dairy Queen fanatic, it's just that it reminds me of my childhood.
While no one has ever looked forward to eating real food at DQ, in every town and city I've lived in, Dairy Queen's ice cream has always been a staple. Whether it was a post-game celebratory Blizzard or an after school pick-me-up, DQ was always there when you needed it. It was the comforting grandparent that didn't judge you for only eating sweets when it has a kitchen full of perfectly fine food.
But when I moved to OC a few months ago, I quickly learned that wasn't the case out here. The closest DQ was in Huntington Beach, roughly 20 minutes away from my apartment, and virtually no one went there with any regularity. Still, at 9:40 on a Tuesday night, I was fairly certain that the "local" Dairy Queen would still be open and serving Blizzards. I was right, kind of.
In a night that can only be described as a whirlwind of fast-food managerial chaos, I was informed by the panicked college-aged girl at the drive-thru window that the manager had left and taken the keys with him, preventing the store from shutting down their kitchens properly and close.
In addition to all of the commotion of what now was a headless chicken of a fast food joint, the ice cream machine had also broken down, spitting out water instead of ice cream. The kitchen looked like it was a grease fire away from having to call in the National Guard for a State of Emergency.
"It'll just be a minute, I'm so so sorry," the young lady said between cursing under her breath and shooting frantic glances back at the other employees attempting to fix the ice cream machine a few minutes after I had ordered a Blizzard.
Over half an hour later, the ponytailed drive-thru worker had to stop taking orders because the state of their kitchen and ice cream machine left them unable to serve just about anything. Well, that and the fact that it was now well after their 10 p.m. closing time.
The man driving a black convertible behind me cursed and honked his horn, uninformed that the DQ had already turned off their grill and fryers before their ice cream machine had broken down. He already tried to place his order, and with his children in the back seat, the obese-lite man was determined to show his offspring how not to behave in a drive-thru, throwing fingers, slurs, curses, high beam flashes, and whatever else he could think of in the general direction of the drive-thru worker and myself.
I considered leaving and coming back the next day, as the girl in the window said she'd give me my money back, but I thought of how long people waited for the return of the Cotton Candy Blizzard, and I determined that it would be a crime against dessert to bail now. It was just as bad as I expected, but I'm still glad I tried it once.
As I assured the apologetic worker that I'd punch pink-faced man in the face if he worked up the courage to confront either of us, the biggest Blizzard-based miracle since Frozen hit, and the ice cream machine sputtered back to life.
After a few moments pouring in the cotton candy mix and Blizzard-ifying the ice cream (I'm pretty sure Blizzard-ify is the culinary term here), I was handed a small cup full of vanilla ice cream with multicolored confetti sprinkles and a slight pinkish tinge. The fast food-working heroine even turned it upside down when handing it over to prove that it had the perfect Blizzard consistency.
"I'm going to get cursed out so much as soon as you leave," the most patient and apologetic employee in Dairy Queen history said.
"You should just close the window and tell him over the speaker that you had to close down due to a kitchen malfunction," I suggested. To be fair, it wouldn't have been entirely a lie. Their kitchen closed at 9:45, and even though they couldn't properly shut it down without the keys there, they weren't serving anything but ice cream (until that broke) when he had placed his order around 9:50.
She nodded and closed the window as I pulled off with the prized Blizzard. I felt bad enough for her that I wanted to leave her a tip, but I was totally out of cash, and asking her out on a date didn't seem appropriate.
Who knows when the manager finally came back with the keys? Maybe they closed up shop before they could officially turn off the lights. Either way, I hope that drive-thru worker gets a raise or a bonus or something for dealing with assholes (like the guy behind me) who take their ice cream way too seriously. Serving Dilly Bars shouldn't be a dangerous profession.
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As for the Blizzard: it wasn't even good. I'd totally recommend one of the chocolate (or Reese's or Oreo) ones in a chocolate-dipped waffle cone instead, but I sure as hell had to sell this one as the best thing ever for anyone who saw me wait 40 minutes to get one.
But there was something perfect about it. The black convertible pulled out of the parking lot right behind me and ended up a few lanes over at the next block's intersection. I'm not sure if he saw, but I did what any respectable human being would do in that situation. I rolled down my window, raised the frozen treat out of the center console of my Civic, and toasted him with my newly acquired Blizzard, and it was just perfect.
Follow Josh on Twitter @jcchesler for his inner ramblings about food, Game of Thrones, and candid photos of Charles Lam.