Chasing basketball teams around West Texas in the playoffs the past couple of weeks has given me a greater appreciation of the fast-food places that I frequent in Lamesa during often-rushed lunch breaks from the newspaper office.
For the most part, the service at our local businesses is fast, the people are courteous, and the food is about what should be expected.
Such certainly wasn’t the case on two separate occasions recently when my wife and I hoped to pick up a quick bite to eat on the road while returning home late at night from far-flung basketball games.
The first night, seeking a change of fare for our palates, we pulled into a fast-food hamburger chain outlet that is not available in Lamesa.
Just second in line at the drive-through order station behind the business, we figured we might get our food and be back on the road in just a few minutes.
That, we learned when we pulled up to order, wouldn’t be the case.
Thankfully, we were informed in advance by the voice on the intercom that it likely would be a 30-minute wait to get any food.
After I got out and made some motions that likely made them think I was some crazy guy, the folks in line behind us were  courteous enough to back up a bit so we could get out of the one-lane lineup and head somewhere else.
As we pulled away, the apparent cause of the delay became evident when a school bus – loaded with hungry basketball players – pulled into the parking lot, likely having called in advance of their arrival.
At the next place down the street I punched the order button and waited... and waited... and waited...
A flashing message assured us the button had been activated and our order would soon be taken.
Meanwhile, we could see the employees inside the business standing around chatting and laughing.
After a long wait I eventually pushed the button again, a little bit harder, and our order was taken.  
We likely got back on the road only a few minutes faster than if we had opted for the 30-minute wait at the first location.
    Just two days later we found ourselves back in the same town in much the same situation.
    Opting again to try that first burger chain from earlier in the week, we drove past most of the other fast-food places along the main highway through town.
    But, as luck would have it, as we pulled into the parking lot there were at least four or five cars lined up waiting just to get to the order station.
    After a u-turn in the parking lot we headed a mile or so back through town to a chicken place we both like – and again, one we don’t have in Lamesa.
Pulling up to the outdoor menu board, we were informed over the microphone that they were out of this, out of that, out of this, and out of that.
With all this and that in mind, we placed an order for a meal deal that was not on the “out-of” list.
Sorry, we were informed, but they also were out of the side order we wanted – and the only side on their menu that I could eat without trying to dip a fork or spoon into a styrofoam bowl in my lap while driving down the highway with one hand in the dark of night.
So off we go once again on a third leg of what would become yet another 25-30 minute effort to grab a quick bite of “fast” food on the way through town.
Maybe next time we’re going that way we’ll pack some sandwiches and sodas in advance.
Or perhaps we’ll just opt for a honey bun and chips from an all-night convenience store.

Russel Skiles is the publisher of the Lamesa Press-Reporter.