Fast-food workers: The undead
No one would suggest these lads and lassies should be captains of industry and atop every bit of minutia around the fryer, but is it too much to ask for at least a Forrest-Gumpian dedication to see the order through to its successful completion?
Why, when I order a Grilled Stuffed Steak Burrito, do I often discover a doughy, unpalatable Chalupa in the bag?
At 2:30 a.m., after 18 minutes in the drive-thru, when I slur to the White Castle fellow, with enthusiasm and my signature politeness, "...and LOTS of ketchup," why does "LOTS of ketchup" translate in the undead's mind to "NO ketchup, bee-atch"?
When I order 6 Beef 'n' Cheddars and 2 Regular Roast Beefs, is there a reason the 2 Regular Roast Beefs are omitted from the order? 6 + 2 = 6.
Must I treat the worker like a schoolboy and search the bag each time? Big, fat, awkward silence as I, the principal, rifle through, while the rest of the impatient grease eaters burn holes in me with their stares?
Today, I zipped into the local Chinese joint on the way home. There was one table of diners, so the crew HAD to be on top of things. But I immediately became wary when I caught the inanimate gaze of the counter girl, followed by the equally torpid voice: "Can I help you?" There was wooden movement of the laboratory kind, but nothing to suggest the presence of a human brain.
Nonetheless, I pressed on. "One order of sesame chicken, and one order of chicken fried rice." I stepped aside with the efficient shuffle I've always planned to use if I ever visit the real Soup Nazi.
The counter girl wrote down the order. Chicken/chicken. What could possibly go wrong? She disappeared into the kitchen.
At home, my hard-working girlfriend awaited. I imagined the reception I'd get when I strode through the door; she likes my sad-sack delivery of sesame chicken slightly more than she'd enjoy an icy Cosmo served on a desert island by lone other strandee Colin Farrell wearing straw boxers. A little sesame chicken, and then, if I was lucky, a little reward mogambo.
Mere minutes later, a different girl emerged from the kitchen, holding the goods. I unhinged somewhat, because she looked just like a larger version of Counter Girl #1. I scanned her torso to search for squirming, angular bulges, but saw none.
"That's $11.12," she said. No sign of brio. I paid and left.
At home, the little woman's eyes positively dripped lust when she saw me come in with the bag. All I had to do now was gnaw down some chicken fried rice with an occasional happy grunt while she devoured the sesame chicken, then enjoy me reward. There'd be no need for any witty conversation, mateys. Yaaaaaaaaaargh!
My little love tart laid out the stuff. Chicken fried rice, white rice, bean sprouts, sesame-chicken sauce, soy sauce, and fortune cookies.
Out of nowhere came a look of concern to her loveliness. "Where's the chicken?"
Mr. Willy slumped towards the equator.
Is there some magic to adding the chicken to an order of sesame chicken? I don't recall ordering "Sesame." Not that they'd got that part right, either.
When I went back, the place was empty. It had been maybe 12 minutes since I'd left. Big doppelganger looked at me from behind the counter. I saw no signs of recognition whatsoever--first time she'd seen me in her life. I had to look at her and say, "I-was-just-in-and-ordered-some-sesame-chicken-but-you-forgot-the-chicken" in my most mechanical voice. When in Rome, and all.
She pawed through some bags and produced the new sesame chicken. No bonus egg roll or fortune cookie. No coupon for a free chickenless sesame chicken. No happy, contrite smile. Some spit, maybe. I turned to leave.
I expected no apology, because young people today have been trained away from the common niceties such as "please" or "thanks" since guns are available. I haven't heard "I'm sorry" from anybody under 30 since the 80s.
"Sorry about that."
Whoa! Human after all. There goes my theory. Mr. Willy tingled.
I got back home. The world was good again.
The new sesame chicken box contained little nuggets of fried chicken. No sesame. No essence of sesame. No sesame had been harmed in the making of the replacement sesame chicken.
I think I saw a tiny wisp of steam come out of my little love muffin's ears. You never notice how flavorless bad chicken fried rice is until the prospect of naked fondling is sucked out of it.
I forced down the last dry grains. My little love strudel chewed her sesameless chicken with her mouth open. Deep in a pair of whitey tighteys, Mr. Willy donned his jammies.
Millions of fast-food workers soldiered on.