"It'll be about ten minutes. We're out of chicken right now."
What did she say? I must have misheard.
"It'll be a ten minute wait. We don't have any chicken right now."
Excuse me? This is KFC! Kentucky Freakin' Chicken! Did it not occur to you that a large portion of the people who come in here to eat will be asking for chicken? Like every damn one of them! You sell chicken, for God's sake. When you get down to the last two thighs besides your own cellulite infused ones, drop some more in the fryer, for crying out loud! This shouldn't be that confusing. They were even nice enough to put a big ass sign right outside the window, so if you ever inadvertently started making pizzas, you could be reminded that it's supposed to be chicken.
All right. Deep breath. I know that employees at fast food joints aren't supposed to be your basic rocket scientists. I mean, if they had a gnat sized brain or a passable complexion, they'd be working someplace else. Yet it is oftentimes mind boggling to behold the common sense vacuum one can find on the other side of that counter.
Oddly enough, the coolest response I ever saw from a drive thru jockey also happened to take place at KFC. College town. About 9pm. A friend and I pull up to the window for a quick snack. Unlike me, he's still trying to add passengers to the big friend bus, so he greets the young man with a hearty "How's it going?"
The kid looks back at him with what Robert Shaw described in Jaws as "dead eyes. Like a doll's eyes," and responds with all the enthusiasm of Steven Wright, "It's Friday night, and I'm working at KFC."
But that, gentle reader, is the lone exception, the sole proprietor of working grey matter in the fast food universe. Don't ever go into such an establishment expecting witty repartee or a lively badinage. This poor schmo realized the abject misery of his plight. The rest only seek to drag you into the mire with them.
High on my list of the world's most vexing questions is this: Do fast food employees get your order wrong on purpose or are they really that clueless? Let's examine both sides of what might very well be a two headed coin.
The basic goodness in my human nature would immediately point me toward a verdict of clueless stupidity. Not to mention a level of disinterest like Strom Thurmond at a black gay pride parade. And I mean Strom now. Yes, you might even sense a strong desire to be someplace else.
I mention faith in my fellow humans since it's better to screw up because
you're a drooling moron than because you're a vengeful little creep, right?
Of course, I'm right.
And there is a case to be made that most of these folks fall into the drooler camp. I just hope they make a habit of wiping their chins before they hunker over the burrito fixins.
See, I am not an elitist. I firmly believe that the job a welder does is just as important as the job a doctor does. Without the welder, the whole damn operating table collapses. Likewise if it weren't for fast food workers, we'd all be eating healthy salads and grilled fish, which would in turn prove to be a financial drain on both the aforementioned doctor and welder.
I also believe, however, that most people eventually sink/rise/settle into a natural level for their abilities. That's why I say that some burger slingers might be over-reaching. Moving a meat patty from conveyor to bun can be pretty darn complex apparently.
We've all been standing fifth in line at the counter, mindfully creeping closer to an AARP membership, while the fry machine beeps interminably, the kid in the back seriously contemplates his spatula and the counter employee with eyes narrowed in intense concentration tries repeatedly to stuff about five straws too many into the dispenser. Droolers.
It's tough to stay patient through the fog sometimes.
Yes, I said LARGE Diet Coke. The display screen above their tiny little pea head says LARGE Diet Coke. I don't care if the meal comes with a medium. I didn't order a meal. And yet, when I casually point out that the drink you just tried to hand me not only isn't what I ordered, but it wouldn't quench the thirst of a water-logged gnat, it somehow becomes my fault. What's that about?
Which begs the other possibility. And explains why no American in his or her right mind can ever knowingly piss off a fast food worker without having the word loogie flash through their brain.
I don't consider myself paranoid. Just ask the people following me. But when I get home on those rare hurried occasions that I forgot to check the bag at the window, and am forced to say, "Liver! When the hell did they come out with a McLiver?" I have to at least explore the idea that they did it on purpose. I mean, does that sound like an accident to you?
Let's look at the psychology. When is someone most likely to jack with someone else? When they're not happy. And who's less happy than the slackers at the Burger Barn as they wallow in bitterness over the fact that their parents think they should achieve more than creating the perfect ass indentation on the den settee? A rare few would be my guess.
So they compensate, as if they could say that word in three tries, by piling another straw onto the camel's back of your day.
Think about it. Every time they see another car pull up to the window, be it a shiny convertible Jag or a bondo coated AMC Javelin, they're forced to mutter to themselves, "I wish I had a car like that."
And it's not just the material things, there's got to be a buttload of envy shimmering up from under those cardboard hats. When you smell like yeast and pepperoni 24/7 no matter how hard you scrub in the shower, 95% of other people's lives look better than yours does.
And let me add another factor to this lobotomized stew. A whole bunch of the customers who come into these joints are droolers, too. You heard me right. Never let it be said that I am not a Solomon like being. The fault lies on both sides of the hand- smudged, diaper-printed stainless steel counter.
I don't think I need to tell you that these consumer doofi are to be found only one place, either - in front of you. They're the ones staring at the Taco Bell menu like it's their first time out of the house. It's the same crap, lady: beef, beans, onions, lettuce, and cheese. Just different names. And don't try to act like you've never been here, your 600 pound ass suggests otherwise.
But they're content to stare and contemplate such life mysteries as... what... whether the Mexican Pizza is really influenced by Italian Renaissance cuisine?
"I'd like a Burrito Supreme but with no sour cream, no tomatoes, no lettuce, and extra beef, but make that ground beef not shredded beef, and put the cheese on the bottom and top. Then on my next Burrito Supreme, I'd like..."
Jesus H Christ! If you're that picky, don't eat here. The only reason the twenty seven people in line behind you are here is because it's fast. And guess what? You've just taken the shine off that monkey, too.
But don't piss her off inside, oh no, or she'll be the one ahead of you in the drive thru line next week when you're starving but late for an appointment. You recognize her. Talking on the cell in her mini van while each member of the Cub Scout troop is asking individually what comes with the Happy Meal.
Then there was, no lie, the chubby little shrew who thought the rack of baby backs at the BBQ joint was too pricey. After glaring at the big menu for what seemed like, I don't know, the Fifties, she asked, "What do the ribs look like?"
"They look just like yours except they're not about to be broken, you chain-smoking gnome! I'm hungry back here!!"
Now I must confess that I get a tad cranky when I haven't had anything to eat. So perhaps I'm taking some of this too personally. But deep down, I don't think so. Nonetheless, if you're the sourdough burger assembly chief at Jack in the Box, and you're feeling kind of phlegmy, I'm writing under a pseudonym.
Like he'd know that word, either.