GIVING IN TO THE IMPOSSIBLE ORDER By John Watts

 

impossible order

We all know the setting for the impossible order.  At fast food establishments it usually involves chicken and too many side dishes.  Combine the bewilderment for us as customers; (as we are greeted immediately in the front of the line before we can digest the COMBO options to the point of screaming out “I need more time!”) with the English as a second language challenges of many of the employees from contrasting nationalities, and you see the odds drop precipitously for achieving an accurate order.

The last time at Popeye’s, I figured the order was so easy that there would be no chance of any inaccuracies.  I asked for a “To Go” order of a 2 piece chicken meal with dark, mild meat and mashed potatoes as my side dish.

After driving home I realized that I had been bamboozled yet again.  The dark meat was white and the mashed potatoes were green beans.  Even the fork and spoon I asked for had magically been turned into a spork.

Each time–I tell myself to check the bag carefully before I leave.  Each time I vow that I will repeat again the listing of food and drink items to the employee, to make doubly sure.

The problem is compounded when you are married.  There is nothing worse than getting home and being told that you either didn’t listen properly or you didn’t better defend the honor of the home front by advocating for the accuracy of the order.

Forgive me for saying this (as a fatal aside), and keep it mind that it is only my opinion, but I believe that woman and wives have this syndrome down to a science.  It must be some new nature/nurture manifestation of roles like the old hunter/gatherer duties.  The way it plays out is this: the group take-out orders are given and the money collected, and it is the man’s place to go pick up the food correctly.  Take it from me—this is a sad and lonely assignment.  The good will and stature you’ve earned as a husband depreciates precipitously as you drive off into the dark.  The women or spouses role meanwhile is to wait back in the comfort of a warm car or a warm house, so they can critically inspect the returned “to go” order when it arrives to see if there are any imperfections or oversights (“where are the straws?”).  This scenario, I firmly believe, is a commonly agreed upon pattern so please don’t write me in some serious, sanctimonious tone and tell me you have seen it done in reverse.  I know there are always exceptions to everything.

Now that that is off my chest I can proceed.

So that I can tell you of the most dreaded of all fast food order scenarios known to man.  Co-branding or multiple tastes under one roof. I just experienced it tonight as a matter of fact.

A brightly lit overhead menu with KFC on one half and Taco Bell on other.  A perfectly complimentary, symbiotic example of corporate harmony!

Everyone wins right?

Wrong.  Because me the poor befuddled costumer is left baffled and befuddled and afraid to enter the vortex of the cordoned off line.

My head is squirming with thought bubbles.  “Do I go to the chicken side?”  Do I mix French fries with the chimichanga or the gordita?”

If the cashier has a limited proficiency of English or is just too bored to care, the devil is truly in the details.  ‘What if I get a crunchy taco instead of a soft one?”  “What if the numbers sound too redundant and it misses the order up like asking for the Number 10 order with 8 tacos?”

Sometimes you think straight and simple math will save the day as in “I want a Number 6 meal please” but often there are subtleties and variations that still need to be expounded upon with messy verbal exchanges.

With multi-branding the possibilities for mix-ups are endless.

Still I must admit it is fascinating to watch.  Does the young lady on the Baskin Robbins side ever cross over to the Dunkin Donuts side to get an item for the same order?  It is funny to watch the “right brain left brain” split universe of the co-branding.  I enjoy watching the various uniforms almost collide.  Do they feel like members of the same team?  I suppose that many of them become great jacks of all trades due to the repetition of frying white spicy chicken, making milk shakes or rolling burritos together.

As a plump middle aged man, I find all the infinite varieties of foods and flavors of the ONE ROOF TWO FRANCHISES model to be a sadistic invitation towards swallowing another acid reflux tablet before I go to bed.

But as it relates to the main theme of this piece and “the impossible order” I don’t think there’s much we can do about it.  It comes with the territory of this fast and impatient planet we live on.  We would do well to just live humbly and learn to expect to NEVER be in full control on almost anything until we are home and have our remote clicker resting securely in our hands.

In fact we should just forget about it.  I mean why should we bother?  Instead we should reverse the onus put on our shoulders and throw it back to them–saying to the clerk—“Why don’t you decide what I should get?  Whatever you think is good.”  That way we won’t be disappointed and once in a while we might even be pleasantly surprised!

 

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About John Watts

I like to write transcendental community based essays and stories along with photo journalism pieces.
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