Monday, December 5, 2011

Slow-Cooked Fast Food

You know what frightens me a little about us? -- people, I mean. We are really eager to accept things the way they are, even if they are way worse than the way they were pretty derned recently.

Oh, sure, we'll moan about "how it used to be," but, for the sake of ease, something in our heads makes us want to accept stuff, "as is." Things go more smoothly that way, I guess.

Or maybe we do this because we feel like we simply can't stand up effectively against things like plummeting standards. One of the most popular American phrases right now (annoying as I might find it [imagine the whole of the American populace not adjusting its phraseology just to please me]) is: "It is what it is." Usually, this is a resignation: It ain't changing.

(Now that I'm on the subject of annoying phrases, would people PLEASE stop saying "I'm so over it" when they are still mad? Hmm? "I'm so over it" -- annoying even in its proper use, by the way -- is supposed to mean you are finished with it -- done being angry; finished giving the situation your time and energy. If you drive your fist through a plate glass window while bellowing, "I'm so over it," not only are you putting yourself in grave mortal danger -- as well as nearly eliminating your future shot at become a concert pianist -- but you are really sort of proving that you are not, in fact, "over" anything.)

Anyway, I mention this issue of "dropping standards" because, two nights ago, Karen (my wife) and I were in a fast food restaurant. I was exceedingly grumpy because we were stopping to eat on our way to look for a new car (a process I would gladly replace with sledding naked, without a sled, down a hill of made entirely of stucco).

We walked in to find a long line leading up to one register and we were faced with the vexing decision: Does one walk up to the register with only one customer at it, or, does one wait until one is the next cow in line and then proceed to the indicated chute? I always felt that the former was the polite thing to do; yet, that there is certainly wiggle room in there for alternate reasoning: If the people in front of you were asinine enough not to move to the vacant registers on their own, do you owe them your courtesy? (Thoughts like these are the ones that contributed to my current addiction to green tea and cookies. Yes, this is a cry for help.)

After a bit of a wait (my own wait undertaken while standing hunch-shouldered and under the weight of knitted brows, which must have been, in my unbelievably grim mood, so exaggeratedly knitted that any nearby, french-fry munching anthropologist might have expected he'd just made that elusive discovery he and his colleagues had sought for so many years) we were the lucky ones and we ordered: Sandwiches, fries, drinks. Standard.

"Your name?" she asked.

"CKharriesn," we said.

"Chris," I said, a hand gently laid on the arm of my charming wife, as I disentangled our names with -- if I might point this out -- very manly take-chargeness. "But . . ."

"Where do we wait?" Karen asked, smiling a pretty smile.

"Over there's fine," the girl said, smiling a pretty smile.

"But . . ." I said, grimacing the lost grimace of proto-humanity.

We waited. Karen sat at a booth. About a minute later, I had gotten the food and sat down.

"That was fast," Karen chirped pleasantly.

"Goes to show you," I said, hunching over my meal, rooting around for my stone knife among the paper napkins.

"What?" she asked, surgically dismantling her sandwich, the way she always does, before putting it back together properly .

"Huh?" I grunted.

"Goes to show you what?"

"Goes to show you," I said, "what we're willing to accept. Now we've moved-on to being pleased that we didn't have to wait too long for our fast food. Remember when you would order and they would just hand it to you and you would just sit and eat? Bing-bang-boom?"

She snorted a quick laugh. "This is going to be a blog post, isn't it?"

"More than likely," I replied, biting into a pretty good spicy chicken sandwich that (it occurred to me) in twenty years, I would probably be contentedly cooking for myself in the same restaurant, just before thanking the manager for the privilege of paying him, exorbitantly, for the use of his ovens and fryers.

(Some other time, I will tell you about the little fellow with wire-framed glasses and a pith helmet who tapped me on the shoulder with tears of joy in his eyes and a notebook in hand.)


  1. Look, I was just putting some mayo and on taking the etiolated, tasteless tomatoes off.

  2. "Etiolated"? If that's a real ord, you win.

  3. Etiolate is a real word. Voila:

  4. What's the world coming to when a wife knows words her husband doesn't? Ghastly.

  5. Having once served as probably the slowest McDonald's employee west of the Mississippi, I have to say that there's faster fast food and slower fast food, but back in the day of the 20-cent hamburger it wasn't always that fast. Now, I made my own contribution to the slowness--which was why I was frequently detailed to sweep up the parking lot, a task where thoroughness counted for more than speed. But some of the slowness was built into the processes.

    The guy at the register had to add up the tab with pencil and paper, and calculate the sales tax. It required several steps to make a milkshake. Carbonated drinks fizzed up, and had to be given a moment to settle before one topped them up.

    If we maintained an adequate stock of food to serve customers promptly, it was likely because we had a smaller menu. As I recall, the sandwiches were hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and Big Macs (maybe with double versions of the first two). I think that we had two sizes of fries, and the only dessert was a deep-fried pie.

  6. An interesting study in balance, George. Counter guys balance out parking lot guys; registers that make change balance out notepads and arithmatic; bigger selection and more people; more people, more registers . . . You'd hope, in the end, it would all stay fast, though. Ah, well.

    Oh, and curse you for reminding me of the glory of the old "Hot Apple Pie." Must have one today . . .