When I was a kid, Sunday was the day my brother and I usually spent the most time with our dad.
He was pretty stressed out during the week and Sunday was his only real day off.
One of our rituals on this day was our trip to get some fast food.
My mom usually had to work, so it was his job to feed us. Given his love of anything fried or grilled and his hatred of actually having to cook something, it was a no-brainer that we usually ended up at McDonald’s or Burger King.
On really special occasions, he would take the extra fifteen minutes to drive us to the Wendy’s, one town over.
This was special for two reasons. The first being that we considered Wendy’s a step up from the usual fare. But the second was that we knew we would be laughing our asses off as my dad referred to all the employees in the store as “Wendy.”
“Hey Wendy, you forgot my large fry!” He would say to the guy behind the counter.
“There’s no paper towels in the john, Wendy!”
“Gimme a number 3 with a Coke, Wendy!”
Most of the time, they’d just take it and chuckle or pretend like they didn’t hear him.
Every once in a while, someone would get indignant and point to their name tag as they informed him that their name was actually “Peter” or “Shelly.”
He would calmly reply that the restaurant was clearly called “Wendy’s”. By his reasoning, if a restaurant is called Wendy’s, it implies that Wendy must be the name of the employees who work there. Or else it was false advertising.
I know it doesn’t make any sense, but it was usually good enough to get us some free Frosties when the manager inevitably came over to smooth things over.
One day, as we were leaving with our hush money Frosties, one of the employees my father had referred to as “Wendy” was outside, taking out the trash.
As we walked by, he muttered under his breath, “Enjoy your jizz-filled Frosty, dick.”
It was barely audible, but we heard it. Of course, I didn’t know what “jizz” was back then, but I could tell it was bad, from my father’s reaction.
“What the hell did you just say, Wendy?” He asked, getting in the punk’s face.
“I said, ‘Enjoy your jizz-filled Frosty, dick,” he said, much louder now. “Your name is Richard, right?”
Now, I know you’re thinking that’s not a big deal, that he just read my father’s name off of the credit card receipt or something, but keep in mind, this was back in the days before you used a credit card to pay for something like a 12 dollar fast food meal. Credit cards were for buying sofas and 27″ TV screens. My father was clearly taken aback.
“Yes, my name is Richard.” He said, cautiously.
“Well, “Dick” is a nickname for “Richard”, isn’t it?” asked the kid whom my father had referred to as “Wendy.”
Now, this was news to my brother and I. Wendy was establishing a precedent hereby we could legally call our dad “Dick” anytime we wanted! Our respect for our father was vanishing into thin air as the seconds went by. We wondered how he was gonna pull out of this one.
“That’s true, but you didn’t call me ‘Dick.’ You called me ‘dick’. There’s a difference.”
“I’m not following you,” said Wendy. We weren’t following him either.
“Well, in the one case, you said ‘dick’, you didn’t capitalize it, so it couldn’t have been meant as a proper name. You were calling me a slang term for a penis and you know it!”
Wendy just sat there, stammering and avoiding eye contact with my father.
“Buh buh buh buh,” said Dick, mocking him. We laughed. Wendy, who was now crying, tried to make a break for it, but Dick grabbed him by his apron. “Not so fast, I think you’ve got a job to do.”
“A job?” asked Wendy, in between his sobs.
Dick motioned for us to give Wendy our jizz-filled Frosties, which he made Wendy eat right in front of us.
“Whatever this “jizz” stuff is, it must taste pretty awful!” I thought, judging by Wendy’s expression and the gagging sounds he kept making. At one point, he threw up and Dick made him scoop up the contents back into his Frosty cup and continue eating it.
A small crowd had formed around this scene, but again, this was back in the 80’s and Dick just explained he was teaching this punk kid a lesson and that was good enough for the assembled masses.
When Wendy was done, my dad brushed off his apron and told him to get back to work. Wendy went inside, defeated. As he reached the door, he called out, “Oh hey, Wendy? Just so you know, you’re gay now.”
Wendy started crying again and ran inside as the crowd cheered.
My father had won back our admiration and respect. The rest of that day, my brother and I fought over who would get to bring him his next beer or change the channel for him.
That wasn’t actually the last I saw of Wendy. I remember sneaking out for lunch during high school with some friends and there he was. Only now his nametag said “Wendy” and he was wearing a dress. Also, he was black. Maybe it wasn’t him.
Irregardless [sic], I didn’t have the chutzpah to ask him how he knew my father’s name, that Sunday afternoon, so long ago. I can only assume it was magic.
I like to think it was though. For Dick’s sake.