By Coulter Fussell
My deadline for this column is in three hours. It’s coming down to the wire. The problem is that my chosen subject for this column has been an elusive butterfly: the reopening of Sonic.
For months I’ve envisioned the grand reopening. In my mind’s eye I saw a great, cheery crowd of friends, loved ones, and fellow Vallians all gathered in the various hodgepodge of vacant parking lots on South Main, cars backed up for a mile, children hanging out of pick-ups laughing with slushy stained lips while waving to friends with ketchup covered fingers, county people coming in on their horse and buggies, the flash of a reporter’s camera, the atmosphere like a festival as the sounds of baseballs cracking off metal bats in the distant ballfields count off tater tots as they sell.
Last Friday, Sonic put up a sign that said “3 Days Til Open.” Perfect! It would be open on Sunday and I would be able to write about our joyous town renewed with life while simultaneously drinking a milkshake. But I began to worry when one day passed and the “3 Days Til Open” sign didn’t change to “2 Days Til Open.” I really worried when on the 3rd day it still said “3 Days Till Open.” I’m no Einstein but there should have been some subtraction going on.
I knew it was a bust when on Sunday afternoon the sign was totally blank. Wouldn’t be the first time Sonic didn’t deliver in a timely fashion despite their slogan “Service at the Speed of Sound.” More like “Service While You Hear Some Sounds…Namely Top 40s Hits From The Early 2000s.” Both of which are better than their other slogan, “Even Sweeter After Dark.” I’m no prude but that makes me slightly uncomfortable. Back off, Sonic, I’m a married woman trying to buy my kid a Wacky Pack.
When Sonic burned, I was in the middle of an intense search and rescue mission with Snooky Williams for our dogs, Mr. Shorty and Pedro, who had just suspiciously run off together a few minutes before Sonic began to smoke. Brad Tedford reports having just brought home his family’s supper from Sonic only to realize that they had left out his chicken sandwich. He called Sonic to tell them he would be coming back for it but when he arrived Sonic was in flames. Naturally, Brad’s sons blame his chicken sandwich for the fire.
Upon hearing the news, a grief-stricken little Grayson Moore pulled close the pretend mayor’s coat he wears and asked his mama Kelli, “Where are we going to get hotdogs now?!”
I’ve missed Sonic. So many memories. Like the day I ordered a Sticky Bun Sonic Blast only to realize that the “sticky bun” pieces in my Blast were actually frozen bits of spicy breakfast sausage. That was strange. Or the time Megan Patton texted me that Sonic was now serving “Real Ice Cream” and she was worried about what sort of ice cream she had been eating before then. Or the voice of Ron coming through the intercom with its particular melodic cadence (I do a pretty good Sonic Ron impression.) Or running by Sonic at 7 a.m. and hearing people order things like “A large chili cheese tots and a small coffee.” Good morning!
Was it Brad Tedford’s chicken sandwich that burned Sonic down? Was it Mr. Shorty and Pedro in another clandestine act of impulse that caused the fire? Was it little Grayson Moore in a covert and complicated operation to somehow secure future votes of fellow hotdogs lovers, already corrupted by politics at age five?
We’ll never know.
Actually, we will know. I’m sure everyone who worked there knows what happened. I heard it was electrical.
Either way, I’m ready for my Diet Cherry Limeade.
Sonic, it’s time.