Add Cream to that Soda

When I visit Kristi at her assisted-living facility we often like to go get a drink at Sonic. And Paul, Kristi's boyfriend, likes to go along. So it's often the three of us going to get drinks, to lunch, or to take Kristi shopping when she needs something.

If you're not a regular reader, I met Kristi at our church plant Freedom Fellowship. Kristi is blind from a brain tumor removed when she was young. She's also in a wheelchair, though she can walk short distances, though unsteadily. She's mainly in the wheelchair for safety reasons.

Paul is Kristi's on-again, off-again boyfriend who also lives at the facility. I'm not sure about the extent of Paul and Kristi's romantic relationship, but they provide each other companionship and given Kristi's blindness Paul frequently helps Kristi out.

Anyway, like I said, Kristi, Paul and I like to go to Sonic. Sonic is a Texas institution. To illustrate this, consider this analysis by Stephen Von Worley regarding geographical spheres of power among burger joints in America. Specifically, Von Worley created the picture below examining the saturation of McDonald's restaurants in relation to competitor restaurants:

How Von Worley created the plot:
...each individual restaurant location has equal power. The entity that controls each point casts the most aggregate burger force upon it, as calculated by the inverse-square law – kind of like a chart outlining the gravitational wells of galactic star clusters, but in an alternate, fast food universe.
Using this technique all the black areas of the map above are controlled by McDonald's. But notice that big blue patch over my home state of Texas. Who is displacing McDonald's in Texas?
By far, the largest pocket of resistance is Sonic Drive-In’s south-central stronghold: more than 900 restaurants packed into the state of Texas alone.
Texas is Sonic country. If you've never been to Sonic it is unique in that it's a drive through. And at some Sonic locations the servers will actually roll up to your car on roller skates. It's a fun retro vibe.

One of the most popular things about Sonic are the drinks. Sonic has all sorts of drinks and all sorts of flavors you can add to the drinks. It was at Sonic that I was first introduced to vanilla Coke when I came to Texas for college.

So when Kristi, Paul and I were recently driving to Sonic I asked both of them what their drink order would be.

"I'll have a Cherry Cream Vanilla Dr. Pepper," Paul said.

This is, incidentally, the kind of drink you can get at Sonic. You can add vanilla and cherry favoring, among many, many others, to your drink. Kristi said that Paul's order sounded good so that's what she wanted as well.

Trouble was, while I knew Sonic had cherry and vanilla favoring I wasn't sure they had cream favoring.

"Paul, I don't think they have cream favoring," I said.

"They do." Paul answered.

I pushed my doubts. "I don't think so."

"They do, trust me," Paul assured.

We pull up and I look at the menu. I scan the list of drink flavorings. I see cherry. I see vanilla. But I don't see cream.

"See Paul," I say, "They don't have cream. It's not listed."

But Paul is firm. "They do have cream. I've gotten it before. Many times. Just ask them."

My pride kicks in. Should I trust my judgment or Paul's?

Mine, of course.

I was about to give into my prejudice and just order a Cherry Vanilla Coke, minus the cream, but when I pushed the button to order I hesitated and decided to ask the question.

The voice crackles out of the speaker. "Hello, welcome to Sonic. Can I take your order?"

"Yes, but I have a question. Can you add cream as a favor to a drink? It's not listed anywhere."

"Yes Sir, we sure can."

Paul, in the backseat, is jubilant. "I told you! I told you they have cream! I've gotten it many times."

Kristi laughs. I shake my head and admit defeat.

I order Paul and Kristi two Cherry Vanilla Cream Dr. Peppers. I get my standard Vanilla Coke.

Driving back home I eat humble pie.

"I admit it Paul, you were right and I was wrong."

"That's right," Paul says with a huge smile, "I was right and you were wrong. You didn't believe me. But you were wrong."

Ever since that drink order Paul and I have retold this story to each other many times. "Hey, remember that time when you were wrong and I was right?" We laugh and reminiscence about Paul's victory over me in the great Does-Sonic-have-cream-flavoring? debate.

This is a small story about an inconsequential event. But this story has taken on a great deal of importance in my life as I confront my educational biases and prejudices.

I have a lot of education. And I like to think I'm pretty smart. But I don't know everything. At Sonic that day I had a PhD and Paul had experience. And experience won out. Paul knew what he knew because he had lived it. And that experience trumped my formal education in ordering drinks at Sonic. Having a PhD doesn't teach you that Sonic can add cream to a drink. But experience can teach you that. And experience is what Paul had and what I lacked.

I've learned to listen to Paul. Because of his experiences Paul knows things that I don't know.

Like that day at Sonic when he was right and I was wrong.

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