The folks in Arkansas are very nice. All that smiling and waving, the courteous nods and warm handshakes. “Thank you, sir. Have a good day, sir. You come on back now sir, you hear?”
Arkansas should change its nickname from the Natural State to the Polite State.
And even though I’d screwed something up with their inventory, my customer was no different. “It’s okay, Mr. Kip,” said Bobby-Jo, the project manager. “My mama taught me everyone is allowed to make a mistake now and then.”
It was Friday, the last day of my assignment. I was leaving Arkansas for good. Despite the courtesy, the biggest thing I would miss about Arkansas was the Little Rock beer.
Still, I wanted to show my appreciation to the customer for having me. But what do you do for a company with thousands of employees in offices throughout the world?
I decided to bring in donuts. Of course, everyone likes donuts. Especially the ones with the little sprinkles on top. Besides, I was running late for work. Donuts would be a fast solution.
I’d been driving past Shipley’s Do-nuts all week. This morning there was a big sign out front: Best Blueberry Do-Nuts in Craigshead County! Git Some Now!
Perfect. A dozen blueberry donuts would make them forget all about the thing with the inventory. I would leave on a positive note.
Unfortunately, the drive-thru at Shipley’s Do-Nuts was backed up twenty cars deep. The parking lot held more cars than ticks on a hound dog. I would have double-parked but there was an Arkansas police cruiser sitting out front, so I drove my rental car across the street to the Save-A-Lot and pulled into a handicapped space.
I was really late by now so I walked against the light, and was nearly killed by a young man in a truck carrying chickens to the nearby processing plant. He honked and flipped me a double-bird.
By the time I got to Shipley’s Do-Nuts, it was 8:20. The wrap up meeting was due to start in ten minutes. But a big box of blueberry donuts was sure to make them forgive my tardiness.
An elderly woman stood by the front door. “Excuse me, are you waiting to order?” I asked.
“Over there, sonny,” she said, and pointed her cane. The line wrapped around the building and down the street. There must have been three-hundred hungry Arkansans waiting for blueberry donuts.
I appealed to her Arkansas courtesy. “But, I just need a dozen blue…”
“That dog ain’t gonna hunt, you idjit,” she yelled. “Now get over thar in that line, fore I whup on you with this here walkin’ stick.”
Apparently, not everyone in Arkansas is nice.
It was five of nine before I got to the counter. The girl at the register wore a pink and white-striped dress the size of a circus tent. Her name badge said HENRIETTA. “I need a dozen blueberry donuts, fast,” I said. “Maybe I could still catch the tail end of the meeting.
Henrietta stared at me. “Boy, is you daft?”
“Din’t you see the all those people in line before you?” She laughed. “Them blueberry donuts sold out faster’n shit through a goose.”
I was beyond caring. “Any glazed? Chocolate cake? Apple fritters?”
Through it all Henrietta shook her head, her massive jowls trembling like a worm in hot ashes. “Nope, we’s as empty as a rain barrel in February.”
“But…I need something for my customer.”
“Cain’t you hear me? We done sold out.” Henrietta squinted at me through glasses like coke-bottles. “Boy, if brains was leather, you couldn’t saddle a June bug, you know that?”
“There’s nothing left? Nothing at all? I waited half an hour. I can’t go in empty handed.”
Henrietta relented. “Well, we do have some of them French things, those craw-sands.”
“Craw-sands?” Then I remembered I was in Arkansas. “Oh, croissants! Perfect. I’ll take twelve.”
“We only have two.”
“Two croissants? That’s all?”
“And they’re a little stale. Don’t have much call for none a’that French shit here in Craighead county.”
I walked out of Shipley’s Do-Nuts empty handed. I was forty-five minutes late for the meeting. My boss would be furious. “Have a wonderful weekend, sir,” called Henrietta.
Ten minutes later I walked into the conference room. The meeting had just finished. A big empty box with the Shipley’s Do-Nuts logo sat on the table.
Bobby-Jo smiled up at me. “Mr. Kip!” We was getting worried about you.”
I explained what had happened, how I’d stood in line waiting for the best blueberry donuts in Craigshead county, how the old woman and then Henrietta had ridiculed me, and how I’d failed at last to bring my customer something to show my appreciation.
“Well, that’s okay, Mr. Kip. I gotta tell you, your boss was on the call, though. She was madder’n a mule with a mouth full of bumblebees, but we got her calmed down some. All’s well as ends well.”
“What did she say?”
“Well, seein’s as you done such a good job here, even though you messed up our inventory worse than all get out, she’s assigned you to us permanent-like. You’re gonna be here with us in Arkansas until Gabriel blows his horn and calls us all home to heaven.”
How could she do this to me? “Oh. That’s…great news, Bobby-Jo.”
“And Mr. Kip? Next time you just come on in direct to this here office. We got us a standin’ order with Shipley’s, every Friday morn. Three dozen blueberry donuts.” He grinned. “Let me tell you something son. They are de-licious.”