It was a discussion about the Sonic burger chain on the Lileks Bleat site that reminded me of my thievery. It was not at a Sonic, though, that my villainy occurred, but rather at an A&W.
One hot summer day, many years ago, my parents and I pulled into A&W to get dinner. I don't remember where the rest of the family was; unusual that it was just me and the folks. It really was a miserably hot day and Dad had no air conditioner in the car. He believed the vent window was all you needed. Which was okay, if you weren't standing still, and didn't mind ashes blowing back at you backseat denizens. Why we decided to go to a drive-in restaurant when it was hot and the car had no air, I do not recall. But we all loved A&W.
We each got two frosty glass mugs of root beer, that's how hot we were, how cold their root beer was. Those hefty glass mugs weighed like a pound empty, so beautiful with that ice dripping down the outside, oh so glorious on an evening as relentlessly boiling as the day had been.
It was fun, I remember that. No one was fighting; no one was mad. I wish I could remember what had been going on. I was at an age when you feel like you're a porcupine, quills always at attention, but there was none of that. It seemed like we were all happy to have some awesome root beer, and happy to be together, no matter how hot the car was.
My dad handed me the second mug after I'd drained the first, and having nowhere to put the empty, I just placed it in the well. In the fuss of burger wrappers and napkins and all I must have accidentally kicked it under my dad's seat. After we ate, we got all the debris loaded onto the tray, pressed the button for service, left a tip, and off we went.
That was more than twenty-five years ago and more than seventy miles away. That A&W is gone. The car is gone. Mom and Dad are gone.
Here's the mug.
That was not the last time I ever went to that A&W, but it was the last time I saw glass mugs handed out to the cars. Sorry, everyone. I feel like I need to confess, like Raskolnikov, like my inner Sonia is urging me, "Go at once, this very minute, stand at the cross-roads, bow down, first kiss the earth which you have defiled and then bow down to all the world and say to all men aloud, ‘I am a mug stealer!’ Then God will send you life again."
When we found it we didn't quite know how to return it. My folks didn't think it was a big deal. I didn't swipe it as a souvenir or hold on to it in the hopes that someone would invent an Internet and an eBay and I could sell it for a gazillion dollars. It really was a dumb mistake via automobile. Petit larceny auto.
I've used it many times since. It is one tough piece of glassware.
I'm sorry I accidentally stole the mug. But I'm glad I have it nonetheless, to remember a hot summer evening in a really hot station wagon, with two of the people I love best, two people whom I miss the most.