Harry Potter and the fast-food flunky enabler

Sunday, December 4, 2005

Husband-and-wife journalists Bob Miller and Callie Clark Miller share the same small house, tiny bathroom and even the same office. But not always the same opinion. The Southeast Missourian sweethearts offer their views on every-day issues, told from two different perspectives.

SHE SAID: This column was supposed to be about the indignity forced upon us during the two hours we spent watching the new Harry Potter movie last Saturday night.

For all I know, that's still what my husband plans to complain about. He was awfully upset, and not just because I spilled popcorn and KitKat Bites all over the theater floor before he finished eating.

But I feel a definite need to purge something far worse than the latest J.K. Rowling cinematic betrayal from my mind.

You see, I had a revelation this week concerning the world's greatest form of masochism: fast-food drive-throughs.

As you may or may not know from past columns, I am not a lover of condiments. No, thank you, I do not want ketchup (or is it catsup?), mustard, mayonnaise, horseradish or any other type of slimy condiment slathered on my burger. I just want tomato. And cheese. And a round slab of meat, preferably 100 percent beef, but who's counting? I want all that between two slices of bread that I hope have not been dropped on the floor.

That's all I want. And for heaven's sake, keep that whipped cream away from my milkshake.

Now, in a drive-through situation, I make my demands very clear, but I also do it with lots of "pleases" and "thank yous," because you can't actually see what they're doing to your food as it's prepared.

And those geniuses in charge of the fast-food giants have even gone so far as to install computer screens in the drive-throughs so the order takers can say things like "We want to make sure your order is correct. Is everything correct on the screen?"

And it always is correct on the screen. But by the time I get my food back to the office and open it up, darned if there isn't ketchup (catsup?), mustard and mayonnaise slathered on my burger, not to mention lettuce and pickles and onions. Ever try wiping that stuff off with a napkin? No, of course you haven't, because drive-throughs no longer automatically supply you with napkins.

And darned if there isn't whipped cream on my chocolate milkshake.

Generally if I'm going through a drive-through it means I'm running late anyway, so I rarely have time to go back and complain. You'd think, after a couple times of this happening at the same restaurant, I would stop enabling them to ruin my day by simply never going back.

But no. This week, I found myself sipping a chocolate milk shake out of three coffee stirrers simultaneously because although the fast-food employees managed to avoid the ketchup-mustard-mayonnaise slathering and even left the whipped cream off the shake this time, they could not provide me with a straw with which to drink the shake.

It was then, as I dug through the junk drawers in the office breakroom, searching desperately for an abandoned straw, that I had my revelation: I am a fast-food flunky enabler.

It is not their fault that "no mayo" sounds like "no tomato" through the static of an outdoor speaker. It is not their fault that over the roar of a car engine "no whipped cream" sounds like "please slather my shake with whipped cream."

No, it's my fault for going back for more and more and more.

Sort of like those people who read columns like this, gripe to their loved ones about what idiots the Millers are or, better yet, call Speak Out to complain and then turn right around and read next week's column. Why do you people subject yourselves to this?

If you dislike something so much, why keep going back for more?

Which brings us back to the Harry Potter movies, I guess.

HE SAID: The new Harry Potter movie is terrible.

cmiller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 128

bmiller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 122

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