The flim-flam man

I stopped by the Burger King over at Barkeyville the other day. It had been a long time since the last time I was in that particular "BK." In fact, I'm not sure I had been there since "the incident."

The best I can figure, it must have been 1989 or 1990 when I was encouraged to make a hasty departure from the BK in the middle of the night.

Oh I didn't do anything wrong. I just happened to be traveling with the "Flim-Flam Man."

And the Flim-Flam Man might be the reason you pay what you pay for a bacon double-cheeseburger.

You folks around my age might remember the Burger King jingle "Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, Special orders, don't upset us, All we ask is that you let us serve it your way, Have it your way"

Well, on that night some 30 years ago, special orders did upset ‘em.

It all started innocently enough one Friday afternoon after we finished up work at a little shop that cleaned new and used parts for a locomotive engine plant.

It had been a hot day and Wade and I stopped by the local church of unholy consumption for a cold mug of beer.

We were joined by "Red," whose last name happened to be Wade but we don't want to confuse him with the fella by the first name of Wade.

Cousin Randy happened to stop by and we were all enjoying the mugs of cold beer when Randy mentioned there was a "Three Stooges" festival going on that night in Pittsburgh.

Not everyone appreciates the sophisticated comedy of the Stooges, but we all did.

There was still time to go home and get a shower and meet back at the bar. Cousin Randy offered to drive us all down there in an Oldsmobile he called "Cold Blue Steel."

It was about that time a fellow by the name of "Ed" heard us talking. Ed drove a beer delivery truck and he had just made his last delivery of the day at the very bar in which we were talking Stooges.

Ed was a good guy and when he asked there was room in the car for him, we readily agreed he was welcome.

Unbeknownst to us, Ed's company would be a factor in the evening's events because Ed had to have the beer truck back in Oil City early the next morning for another day's work.

Soon, we were all off to the Syria Masque in Pittsburgh where we enjoyed a few Stooges shows, watched some pie throwing contests in the halls and then started back to good old Salem Township.

Somewhere along the road, just north of Pittsburgh, Cousin Randy flicked the headlight switch on Cold Blue Steel and be doggoned if that little lever didn't snap right off inside the steering column with headlights stuck on the high-beam setting.

Now under the bright lights of the city, approaching motorists didn't notice but when we reached the darkness of the rural areas, we were "high-beaming" every approaching vehicle and they, of course, were high-beaming us back.

It was already well after midnight and in the summer time, the sun would likely be rising in just a couple of hours.

We considered stopping along the road somewhere and waiting for a brighter shade of daylight.

But Ed had to have the beer truck back in Oil City for reloading before the sun came up.

Like I said, we all liked Ed and we didn't want him to get fired for leaving the beer truck at the bar all night and missing the morning loading time.

So, we continued on high-beaming oncoming traffic and eventually arriving at Barkeyville.

A stop at the open-all-night Burger King seemed like a good idea at the time like most good ideas seem like a good idea at the time.

I believe Cousin Randy and "Red" already had their order in maybe Ed did too, I'm not sure, all I know for sure is I didn't have my order in when Wade stepped up to the counter.

"Can I get a double hamburger?" asked Wade.

"You sure can, Honey," said the woman behind the register. "But it's 25 cents extra (it was 1989 or 90)."

Wade said that was OK and asked if he could get cheese on it, too.

"Yes but that's 10 cents extra," said the woman as she pushed some buttons on the register.

Wade said that was OK, too, and then asked if she could add bacon to the sandwich.

"Yes, but it's 25 cents extra," said the woman.

"That's OK," said Wade as he approved the extra charge. "I'd like a medium Coke, too."

Randy and Red, or Randy and Ed, or Randy, Ed and Red all had their bags of food in hand.

The woman behind the counter stared at the register for a long few seconds.

"That's bacon double-cheeseburger," she said out loud in a not-so calm voice.

"That's a bacon double-cheeseburger," she said a little louder and looking at Wade.

"A bacon double-cheeseburger costs $2.49 you ordered a bacon double-cheeseburger but you're only paying $2.34" she almost whispered.

Then she started to shout "You're a flim-flam man! You're a flim-flam man! You ordered a bacon double-cheeseburger but you ain't paying for a bacon double-cheeseburger! You're a flim-flam man. I'm calling the police! Flim-flam man! Flim-flam man!"

I guess we could have stayed and debated the point, but with Cold Blue Steel's headlight problems and Ed's need to get his beer truck back to Oil City, we decided it might be best to leave.

We started out the door and the woman came from the behind the counter and shouted she was going to write down our license plate number because we were all flim-flam men.

"Flim-flam men! Flim-flam men! Flim-flam men!"

I wasn't worried about it It wasn't my fault Burger King had a flaw in its pricing. I didn't have an overdue beer truck. I wasn't high-beaming opposing traffic and I wasn't a flim-flam man, but doggone it, I didn't have a cheeseburger, either.

We cut across Route 208, back to the bar and dropped Ed off with his beer truck. We didn't encounter any police.

The memory of that night faded away as I looked at the menu board at the modern, clean and efficient Barkeyville Burger King.

"Can I help you?" asked the young female clerk behind the counter. She wasn't old enough to have been born when the flim-flam man stopped there on the way home from Stooge-Fest.

"Can I get a double-cheeseburger with bacon?" I asked.

"You mean a bacon double-cheeseburger?" she asked. "Sure. Anything else?"

I ordered an iced tea.

Apparently, the flim-flam man had left his mark on the BK menu no more double cheeseburgers with bacon, only bacon double-cheeseburgers.

The author is the editor of the CLARION NEWS.