Thursday, January 3, 2008

Fast Food and the Apocalypse.

I don't intend the title to mean that I hate fast food. In fact, I love fast food. Actually, I'll eat pretty much anything but garbage, and even then it's an issue of how long it has been since said food became garbage, and even then, you would need to give me a pretty clear definition of "garbage" while I eat whatever the substance in question was. Maybe it's my antiestablishment streak that makes me want to eat whatever my girlfriend, television personalities, or the Surgeon General tells me not to. It's not an issue of respect, I just habitually wish to do the opposite of what people tell me in a lot of situations, for no apparent reason. In fact, my respect for the Surgeon General is pretty much the only thing keeping me from eating cigarettes instead of smoking them.
But I have a special place in my heart, or at least the stomach part of my heart, for food that is really, really, inedibly bad for you. If someone would have cast me as an additional control test subject in Super Size Me, I may have gained thirty pounds and had serious heart problems at the end of the month, but I would have been perfectly happy about ingesting a month's worth of McGoodness, plus all of the White Castles I ate to take a break from McDonald's food. So you can imagine how hard it is for me to a) not eat fast food for lunch almost at all anymore and b) eat healthier, smaller portions of food so I can drop a few pounds before my 30th, specifically in my face, where I seem to gain most of my weight. Most of the photographs taken of me over the last year or so make me look like I have a bocce ball lodged in my thyroid gland, but I'm straying from the topic.
So I've been trying to be good. Given, however, that it takes me forty-five minutes to hit up a plane of functioning consciousness after I get out of bed in the morning, I routinely forget to pack my lunch, which causes me to slap myself in the forehead when I finally do wake up while driving on the highway. Yesterday was one of those days, so I went to eat lunch at Arby's with my buddy Joe from work. This probably wasn't the wisest decision, because it's one thing if you avoid eating fast food, but it's another, far more perverse thing to go to a fast food establishment to order a salad, which, for analogy's sake, is the closest thing I can think of to walking up to a bar and ordering gasoline. The only reason that these places offer salad is so they don't get sued when someone holds them responsible for the wall damage caused to their houses when they have to be forklifted out of bed. So, I was kind of on edge, just on general principle, when I walked into Arby's.
And then I placed my order with the cashier, who we'll refer to as "Bobby." Actually, let's go ahead and make that "Bobby the Mouth-Breathing Idiot Man-Child." Let me force an interlude here by saying that I don't think that grooming at work is a big deal, and, despite my willingness to observe uniform code during my time in the service industry, I really don't think that the clothing you work in affects your work ethic enough to make a significant impact. But, for some reason, that thing where dudes turn their baseball caps slightly to the side just bothers the shit out of me. I have no idea why; it just always has, since people started doing it, what, twenty years ago? Maybe it all stems from my learning how to draw regular baseball caps when I was fifteen, and when I started at GL someone wore their cap to the side, and that threw me a huge curveball. Actually, that kind of sounds like me; I've overreacted to far less. 
Anyhow, Bobby the Mouth-Breathing Idiot Man-Child was rocking out the Arby's hat tilt, his eyes half closed and his greasy blonde crustache glistening under the fluorescent lights. Even though BMBIMC's hat bothered me for a split-second, I really wasn't trying to vengefully test his mental dexterity when I ordered a salad combo. Despite this, I recognized the expression on his face when he looked down at the cash register as one of fear and confusion. It was the same expression on my face when I was taking my AP Biology test my senior year of high school, and realized that I had no business taking that test when I looked at the first question and couldn't name ten ways in which water acted as a solvent.

As BMBIMC's brain began a self-destruct sequence in front of me, it occurred to me that maybe I was being unnecessarily harsh and judgmental when I decided that the man before me was a total waste of gray matter.  It's not like a prerequisite for jockeying the register at Arby's should be the ability to discuss thermodynamics with Stephen Hawking. Luckily, he still had the cognitive ability to call in the cavalry, namely his shift manager, who acknowledged his request by rolling her eyes so far back into her head that I'm pretty sure I saw an optic nerve or two. She came over to the register, pressed two buttons, and left. BMBIMC, grateful for the intervention, haphazardly hit a couple more buttons, and gave me my total. "Uh...that'll be $8.31."

I can barely do simple addition or subtraction in my head, but even I can immediately surmise that Kentucky sales tax on $5.95 probably isn't over two dollars, and if it is, I hope it's going to their public schools in order to save kids like the poor bastard drooling all over the cash register in front of me. I didn't want to be overcharged. "Um, I think you entered it in wrong. It's supposed to be $5.95 plus tax." The same look of confused terror crept over Bobby's face, but immediately disappeared to make room for smug self-certainty. "That's what...what she told me to do."

"Yeah, I saw her come over, but my total's wrong. That's like two dollars more than it's supposed to be." Bobby reacted by looking down at the register, looking at me, looking back down at the register, and staring at the drive-thru window where his manager was. "Uhh..."

I assessed the situation, and decided that even though I didn't want to reward Arby's Inc. an extra two dollars for hiring the gum sticking to the bottom of the shoe of humanity, there was a line behind me, and I wasn't about to lose my shit, or, for that matter, anger the hungry truckers standing behind me over such a minimal amount of money. So I told him not to worry about it, and I grabbed my salad and walked away.

As I sat down and ate my salad, which tasted like over-ripe tomatoes and defeat, I thought about how the two dollars didn't matter to me as much as the realization that we are all doomed. Melodrama notwithstanding, think about it. I mean, two or three hundred years ago, you either needed to be mentally strong or physically strong to survive, and now it's way too easy to get past the system that God set in place and Charles Darwin discovered. This principle, of course, would also have killed me off with the rest of the genetic misfires, given my horrific eyesight and lack of corrective lenses, but I digress. It's a sad day when you see that a lot of people aren't even trying anymore. We, the human race, are not going down in a blaze of glory. We aren't going to witness the three years of harsh Norse winters before the End of All Things. We aren't going to be around for the Last Resurrection before Judgment. We will be at Arby's, staring blankly at a cash register trying to comprehend the near impossibility of pressing three consecutive buttons in order to make the drawer open, hopefully without overcharging some embittered jerk who just wants to eat his McHealth Food in peace. 

Also, if anyone from the Arby's corporation ever reads this, better dumb down your register training a little bit.

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