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Karmic debt repaid 

Jesus loves me but Popeye hates me

If you read my other column in this paper, Grazing, you might have been following what I call the "Popeyes Chronicles." Popeyes is a fast-food franchise that specializes in Cajun-seasoned fried chicken. I've been cracked-out on Popeyes for years, always visiting the one on Boulevard at Ponce de Leon.

I've complained nearly weekly for months about service at the restaurant, and readers have been sharing their own stories. Now, at last, Popeyes has taken eerie revenge on me.

I stopped by the restaurant about 5:30 p.m. two Saturdays ago. As usual, they were out of what I wanted. As is also usual, when I checked my revised order, I found that they'd forgotten part of it. And, of course, I once again protested the bad service.

"Just once, I'd like to come in here and find you not out of something," I declaimed to the counter girls whose backs were turned to me as they filled other orders.

"I'm so sorry," one of them said without turning to face me.

I left to drive home and discovered that my car would not start. I was marooned in the Popeyes parking lot after making a scene in the restaurant! I called my partner Wayne to come pick me up after slinking back into the restaurant and informing the counter girl what happened.

"I'm sorry I lost my temper earlier," I said.

"You did?" she replied. I concluded the occurrence is so common that it is regarded as ordinary.

At home, I rifled through my car stuff to find the Chrysler road service contract I'd bought a few months earlier when I had another problem. I called. They told me they had no record of my purchase. When I told them I had the card with an ID number on it, the dispatcher told me it didn't matter. "Even if you have all the material, I can't authorize service because we have no record. We will have to charge you $60."

I hung up angry and called AAA. They allowed me to subscribe but also informed me that, as a new customer with an immediate problem, I'd have to pay extra for the day's road service.

Fine.

I drove back to Popeyes. Wayne went with me. While we waited for road service, with the hood raised, at least four homeless types descended on us. Each of them claimed to be a mechanic. Each claimed to have a battery he'd give me. I kept telling them to go away. Wayne went and hid in his car.

"You need to calm down, Mr. Big Man," the most aggressive one told me. "No need to get hostile. That is some bad karma."

"Whatever!" I replied.

Road service arrived. The guy looked under the hood while the homeless men directed him. The guy seemed completely unruffled. Finally, after several attempts at jumping the car, he announced that the battery was completely dead. I would have to get a new one, but, by this time, all the auto parts stores were closed.

I decided I'd leave the car overnight. The manager assured me that it would be OK. He pointed to another. "That one has been there for months with no problem."

Sunday morning, I woke up early, went to Auto Zone in Wayne's car and purchased a battery. When I got to Popeye's, I found the driver's window of my car smashed out. Moreover, when I tried to replace the battery, I discovered the old one was held in place by a ridiculous clamp that would require a socket wrench to remove.

By this time I was miserable. In fact, I drove home crying. "I'll never complain about the Popeyes staff again," I promised whatever god was torturing me.

When I stopped sobbing, I called AAA for road service again. I asked Wayne to accompany me back to Popeye's. Wayne was reading the Bible.

"Why are you reading the Bible?" I asked.

"Because it's God's word," he said.

"It's good that you are reading the Bible," one of the Popeyes staff told him.

The manager came out. "I'm so sorry," he said. "I hope you won't let this influence your opinion of us. I know you are a regular customer."

I couldn't bring myself to tell him I was the writer dissing his staff every week.

Meanwhile, road service arrived. A man in a crisp white shirt and tie, a Bible in his own hands, appeared. He said he could replace my window. I told him I planned to go to the glass shop in the morning. I've been so many times, they give me a discount. He told me Jesus loves me.

"But Popeye hates me," I replied.

The road service man succeeded in removing my battery and installing the new one. I picked the broken glass off the driver's seat and drove home.

Friends tell me if I go back to Popeyes, I deserve to be tortured. But I figure this is the gods' way of telling me to be more patient, because I ain't giving up fried chicken.

Cliff Bostock holds a Ph.D. in depth psychology.

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