There’s a barbecue restaurant around the corner from work. They push all this “WOOD FIRED OVEN” and “SMOKED PULLED PORK” stuff, but really when you go in there it’s like a Sbarro: everything is sitting in a little chute under heat lamps, and there’s a giant microwave in the back. But it’s also like Chipotle in that they slide you past the chute, grabbing handfuls of things from metal containers, and slap everything into a styrofoam clamshell,. No matter what you order as far as meat, sides, or drink, every worker in the assembly line says the same thing: “Great choice!” They smack their lips and slap a little cup of greasy, crusty mac and cheese onto your styrofoam platter. “Great choice!”
I get that this is positive reinforcement, it’s meant to signify that even these workers, these people who WORK here, are totally down with the food. They eat it all the time! And they LOVE it. It’s the same as when you work in a clothing store and you’re expected to wear the clothes they’re selling. I know what it is. But I can’t help but think that proclaiming something a “Great choice!” means that somewhere out there, there is some configuration of the food that is not the great choice: there’s some combination of something you could order there that they’d just look at with dead eyes and then say “$7.59, please.”
Also, you don’t know me. I might have some kind of mac and cheese disease or pork intolerance and this food will straight up kill me. Maybe I’m here for a piece of brisket to eat on the toilet so I can just keel over onto the tarp I’ve spread out on the bathroom floor. The point is, you don’t KNOW. You could be sending me to my suicide with a big old pat on the back. GREAT CHOICE!
It’s like at DSW when you stand in line at the register, the person says “Next shoe lover, please!” when it’s your turn. Then when you walk up there they go “HELLO SHOE LOVER!”
Anyway. The other day I went to the new Chipotle-style pizza place next to the Chipotle-style barbecue place across from the Chipotle. I’m in this place in my life where pizza sounds like a good option for every single meal. Also I’ve got a lot of anxiety right now. So I was nervous as fuck to go to this pizza place because I knew they were going to try and make the experience like AN EXPERIENCE and over complicate things and ask me all kinds of pizza questions. I mean, I didn’t want to build my own. I wanted something directly off the menu. My hands were sweating. I just wanted to get out of there (with a pizza). So the lady at the beginning of the Pizza Maker line asks the guy half a foot in front of me “Have you been here before?!” and he says no so she launches into this high-speed overview of how to select fucking ingredients off a list that you would like them to put on a circle of dough for you. Her lips were moving so fast I thought I was going to pass out, she was like the Micro Machines man of pizza mechanics.
So she explains the intricacies of a Basic Restaurant Menu With Under 20 Items On It and ol’ boy moves on. She then turns to me and offers me the exact same motormouth “Hihowareyouhaveyoubeenherebefore” to which I say, “Uhhhh YES” hoping she will just leave me alone, also because I was less than a foot away while she explained the whole damn thing to the other guy, so I felt like maybe I should get a pass. So she says “YAY WELCOME BACK” with this genuine smile on her face like I’m her best friend but I left town for a couple of months and she super totes missed me. Well, she missed me so much she decides explain the entire goddamn premise of the restaurant to me anyway! “Oh, so you already know that–” and then there it is again, the Guide to Getting Pizza Here. In my opinion, it should not be any more difficult than this:
1. I say the words meaning the kind of pizza I want,
2. You go get that pizza or tell someone who can get that pizza,
3. You take my money, then
4. I leave with pizza.
But no. They just had to dook it up unnecessarily. So after she’s done acknowledging what I already know and then repeating it to me, she allows me to order just a basic old no-frills pizza straight off the menu, and I move on down the line. The thing is? I’m cursed when it comes to ordering things. No matter what it is, if it’s something I really want, they will either be out of it or just screw up my order so that what I want isn’t what I want anymore. It’s a CURSE. It happens to me ALL the TIME. Ask anyone. So I’m standing there trying not to be excited about the ricotta cheese that, according to the menu, they’re going to add to my pizza. I’m shaking in my DSW boots because I can’t help myself! I’m repeating don’t think about the ricotta, don’t think about the ricotta over and over in my head, but all I can see flashing behind my eyes are giant dollops of ricotta sizzling and bubbling on my pizza’s crust. Oh, heaven! What joy! RICOTTA! So, of course, my pizza slides right past the cheese station with nothing but mozzarella on it. I follow it down the line and realize that at the part where the salt and pepper are offered as toppings for your toppings is the END. No ricotta for you, fucko. So I verrry delicately say, “Uhhm. Is…is that supposed to have…ricotta cheese?” The lady who was juuust about to toss my pizza in the Ready to Bake queue looks down at my nekkid pizza and says, “Oh, yeah, I guess it is.” So they add the ricotta. PHEW. This ricotta disaster has been averted, until next time.
So they pop my pizza into the flame den at the back and ring me up, and tell me to stand over to the side until my name is called. I stand in this huge crowd of people, some of whom have been standing there since I showed up at the end of the ordering line. I quickly realized why: cooked, boxed pizzas were piling up on the counter, unclaimed and cooling rapidly. Two guys were running the pick-up station: one of them arranging the hot pizzas on the little papers with people’s names and orders on them, then sliding them down to the guy who either boxes them or puts them on a tray, then hollers out the name on the order. However, the latter was a deaf guy. So not only was the attempt to pronounce a lot of different Sharpie-scribbled names very loud and in a fast-paced environment already awkward and difficult, he also could not hear what he was saying. Which maybe, MAYBE, pizza place? Mayyyybe that’s not the best job for this guy? Because it went like this:
Pizza Caller: “HAAAAHHHBUWWWWHHH? HAAAAHBUWWWHH?”
Pizza Line: ???????
Pizza Caller: Throws pizza onto stack of waiting pizzas, grabs another. “WUHHHBAWWIEEE?”
Pizza Line: Everyone stares at each other, waiting for someone to make a move. “Did he say–I mean…I can’t…”
Pizza Caller: “JUHBOHHWEEE?”
And on and on.
So all of the customers stand there in this crowd of awkward turmoil, and people just start grabbing random pizzas, reading names on boxes, swapping between each other, and getting the fuck out of there because nobody wants to point out that because of his disability the guy can’t be understood in such a loud and frantic environment. I mean, I can see how someone would read this like OHMAGAH, HOW CAN YOU HATE ON THIS GUY FOR BEING DEAF but that’s really not what it is, pally. They had at least fifteen employees behind that register making pizza crust, refilling ingredients, putting pizzas in ovens, and even the guy right next to the deaf guy who was just organizing orders for him. From what I could tell, none of these jobs involved needing to speak clearly or hear anything anyone asked you from across the counter. It was just such a weird choice to put him in that position. I was frozen because I didn’t know which pizza was mine and I was scared to make it more awkward for him by asking him which was mine and possibly still not understanding. So I just sorted through all of the boxes and looked for my name and hightailed it out.
The pizza comes out fast at that joint because they have this whole “Fast fired! Cooked in 180 minutes!” thing they’re always on about, it’s on every sign and menu and they even tell you that at the beginning of the line, whether you want them to or not. So when I lifted a slice out of the box by the end crust and tried to take a bite, it did what things do when you hurry and just went straight limp dick, sagging down onto my wrist, its toppings flopping out onto the bottom of the box. All of my beautiful ricotta just splattered all over the place. Ricotta disaster accepted.
Panic at the Crisco
Some days, especially these gray, cold, drizzly days of early fall and in this, the latest and deepest wave of clinical depression, the choice is clear:
A. Google ex-boyfriends, or
B. Watch ISIS beheading videos.
Since I’m still too scared and horrified to do B (thankfully), I just look up ex-boyfriends to be on the safe side. And OHMYGOD is that ever a bad idea! One is just as bad an idea as the other. They make you feel the same, anyway. It’s all tragedy porn in the end.
We had a dinner party on Saturday for four friends to christen our new dining room table, which we bought because we’re grown ups and we’re engaged and we thought that maybe we should stop eating every meal on the couch in front of The Daily Show. (The great thing about the TV though is that it’s a grown up TV which turns on an axis so we can still watch The Daily Show from our grown up dining room table so yeahhhh!) In an attempt to fuck-start my brain, I planned an elaborate menu including lots of difficult things I’d never made before that seemed a bit tricky. I timed everything with detailed reminders on my phone. I was going to be that person who can chat with guests while ensuring that her parmesan-thyme popovers rise perfectly and don’t burn and are also not eggy in the middle which is apparently a thing that can happen. And for the most part, I WAS that person, up until The Pants had the audacity to sit in the wrong seat as everyone came to the table.
“YOU HAVE TO SIT ACROSS FROM ME AT THE HEAD OF THE TABLE!!!!!!!!!!!!” I barked, somewhat louder and more shrill than I’d meant to, but in a way that was definitely indicative of what was going on in my head. My next thought was OH GOD WHAT IF THE POLENTA GETS COLD? Dinner was kind of tense because not only had I just yelped all crazy-eyed at my boyfriend like Carolyn Burnham, but there was a baby guest doing baby things (like crying and needing to be fed and stuff) and something about it freaked me the fuck out. It was so SMALL and BREAKABLE and NEEDED THINGS for which all adult conversation had to cease in order to appropriately deliver. It was a sort of culture shock, I guess. We’ve talked about babies, and the very real idea of having some of them, but when there’s one at your table and you’re freaking out about the texture/temperature of the polenta and the height of the popovers and the doneness of the fish and why can’t he just fucking sit where I envisioned him sitting?!, the whole idea of babies as an IDEA kind of goes out the window. Yikes, there’s an actual baby here! What do we do with it??? Don’t put it down, what if it gets mad?!
The thing about having babies around is that you have to be a chill person. They can smell fear, like hyenas or your mom, or mom hyenas. They know you’re anxious and worried about the polenta and they react by shitting their pants and crying, because what else can they do? I really don’t know how my friends do it. Babies seem really great and cute and snuggly until they start to cry and barf everywhere, then they’re just upsetting. What about me? Who’s going to stop me from crying?? It doesn’t matter anymore!
eggghhhhhh. This is all far too heavy for a Tuesday morning.