Drive Thru Most Triumphant

The Aktu Taktu on Skúlagata, site where Larissa the Unfluent bested her great but respected nemesis, Icelandic.

The last few days have found us with something of a full house. For one, we are dog-sitting our landlord’s aging, mildly neurotic, initially-suspicious-but-eventually-quite-cuddly dog, Sími (I haven’t figured out the origins of his name, but “sími” is also the Icelandic word for “phone“). For another, we have had a house guest–one of the other Fulbrighters who lives and studies in the West Fjörðs unexpectedly needed a place to stay while in Reykjavík for four days. It’s actually been rather nice. For one, we have, if only temporarily, a dog, which is The Best. For two, since we have a guest, we made an effort to get together with other Fulbrighters, having everyone over for a game night, which we haven’t done before. Also we went out for a bit last night, which was fun in itself, but also eventuated one of my greatest Icelandic triumphs to date: ordering fast food, at a drive-thru, in Icelandic.

Since we are dog-sitting, our landlord generously said that we could use her car over the week if we wanted/needed to. And given that the buses stop running just before midnight, we decided that we would take advantage of this offer last night. On our way home, we realized that we were a bit peckish, and luckily, there was an Aktu Taktu glowing in the distance. We drove up to the menu and scoped out the wide array of fast food options (it was quite exciting–I haven’t had drive thru fast food in probably years), settled on our selections, and then drove up to the window to make our order.

It is worth noting that I would have never in a million years tried to order fast food from one of those scratchy-sounding, impossible-to-hear-clearly order boxes that you often see at drive thrus, as that would have just been plain doomed. But when we drove up to the window and were greeted by a very young, very pony-tailed woman who seemed quite nice, I decided to give the whole ordering-in-Icelandic thing a shot.

The most delicious fast food chicken sandwich to have ever been ordered in Iceland(ic).

I will admit that she did most of the speaking, and that what I was able to say was not good Icelandic by any stretch of the imagination. But: communication, guys! Whoot! A short list of some of the amazing conversational highlights at the drive-thru:

  • I placed an order for a veggie sandwich, two hot dogs with everything, and a chicken sandwich meal deal (with  fries and a soda).
  • She didn’t quite understand me, so she double checked the order, asking about the number of hot dogs and what I wanted on them.
  • We confirmed that I did not want the full meal with the hot dogs or the veggie sandwich. (I should point out that if you get the pylsa tilboð (the hot dog meal deal), it comes with one hot dog, a Prins Póló chocolate bar, and a soda. Which is hilarious.)
  • She explained that bottled soda was more expensive. I said I didn’t want that.
  • She asked what kind of fountain soda I wanted. I replied “Coke,” with an Icelandic inflection, naturally.
  • She asked me to wait while she got everything.

At this point, I was nearly over the moon, and bless my companions, they were very sweet and congratulatory. We sat there at the window for a few minutes, unsure of how drive thrus work in Iceland. Do we go forward to the other window? Do we wait here? The car behind us honked, so that settled that. We drove forward to the next window, which promptly was opened by another person. I broke character spoke in English this time to explain that I had already ordered, but had never been in a drive-thru in Iceland and wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do now. “Wait here!” she cheerfully replied, and left. So I waited. Then, back came the first girl, with hot dogs. Back to Icelandic! She gave me some extra napkins–for the hot dogs–and I said thanks. She left. Then another girl came back (lots of people working Friday night, I guess) and gave me a bag with the rest of our food. So I didn’t get to fling myself out of the car window and embrace the first woman, thanking her effusively (in Icelandic!) for speaking with me and not switching to English. Which I very nearly would have done, so smart on her.

Anyway, fast food has never tasted so good. We got exactly what we ordered, which was exactly what I had actually meant to order. Which means that this was the longest conversation that I have successfully had in Icelandic. And there were multiple witnesses to my triumph! Huzzah! I win Icelandic! What a confidence-boosting way to go back to classes on Monday.


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