Thursday, April 29, 2010

Not-So-Fast Food

Like all of my contemporaries dashing to and fro from home to school to extracurricular activities, I find myself frequenting Dunkin Donuts for my caffeine fix. Amazing how busy I am that I can’t even find the time to put up a pot of coffee in the morning. Ok. In reality, just too lazy to get up five minutes earlier, let alone dig out the travel mug.

I ran into Dunkin Donuts on my way to work one morning recently. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the person in front of me gathering up his order and leaving just as I got to the counter. Perfect timing! I smile at the woman behind the counter and give a hearty ‘Good Morning.’ She’s pleasant enough, returning the gesture. I order a large coffee, milk, no sugar and a whole-wheat bagel with cream cheese. Not complicated. The clerk looks at me like I just ordered steak tar-tar and attempted to repeat my order back to me, “Large coffee with cream and sugar and a multi-grain bagel with butter?”

“No. Coffee, milk, no sugar,” at this juncture I shake my head ‘no’ rather dramatically to drive home the fact that I truly don’t want sugar. Hopefully I’ve annunciated ‘milk’ enough as there’s no gesture to distinguish milk from cream. But wait, there’s more: “Whole wheat bagel with cream cheese,” again, with very exaggerated inflection.

“Oh, sorry,” she begins, “Coffee, milk, no sugar. Multi-grain bagel with cream cheese?” OK. Halfway there. Deep breaths. Deep… cleansing… breaths… I muster a polite smile after my sarcastic huff, “NO. WHOLE WHEAT bagel with cream cheese.”

She tries again, “Oh. Ok. Coffee, milk, no sugar. Whole wheat bagel with cream cheese.” I nod affirmatively, smiling politely but my eyes are saying, ding, ding, ding! Johnny, show her what she’s won! Are you kidding? This is what you do… coffee and bagels. Are there really that many variations? How hard is this really? “Yes, Alex. I’ll take bagel and spread options for $1000.”

My quick cup of coffee added eighteen minutes to my commute. Don’t forget – while she eventually got the order correct, now it was up to the prep-person to prepare and bag my order.

I hit all kinds of traffic on the way home from work. By the time I drag myself through the front door, my hungry sons look like they’re about ready to gnaw off a paw. I gather everyone up and hit McDonald’s before karate class. We’re on a tight schedule today. Odds would be against two fast food incidents in one day, but this is my life we’re talking about.

As luck would have it, there’s only one person ahead of me in line as we wait to place our order. I don’t even have the look at the menu – it’s McDonald’s. I’m ready to blurt it out as soon as my turn comes. Two cheeseburger Happy Meals with chocolate milk, Caesar salad, medium Diet Coke. I don’t think I even glanced up at the boards behind the counter. Again, it’s McDonald’s. Simple stuff.

Simple to everyone except the person in front of me. He’s a rather portly fellow, a bit disheveled with high water pants that reveal mismatched socks. He’s carefully pondering his choices. I hear a bunch of “Ummmmm” and “Wait, what about….” I begin to very deliberately huff and puff behind him in an effort to make him aware that there are people behind him and this isn’t exactly The Four Seasons. There are no chef’s specials today. Let’s go!

My sons are beyond antsy. The hungry crankiness gives way to silly restlessness. Others in line are giving my boys the evil eye. I’m trying my best to corral them without making a scene. The scene I really want to make is with this clod in front of me who seems to make up with his discerning palate where he lacks in wardrobe coordination.

I’m screaming, if only in my head, “Good God! We all know you’ve been planning this meal since 10:00am! Clearly, you dressed for the occasion. Big Mac Combo, Large Coke!”


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