Tuesday, January 18, 2005


Usually there's no pressure when you go to a restaurant. After all, you're going there to relax, have a meal, maybe some conversation, but, unless you have small kids in tow, it's not a big deal.

Same here. I can handle a new restaurant with a huge menu like a pro. I've been eating for half a century I should be a pro by now. Menus are no problem. Appetizers here. Soups and salads there. Drinks on the back.


Unless it's a fast food joint and the menu is on the Big Board. Then the pressure is on. I know for a fact that every other person in the joint practically lives there. They know the menu by heart. They've named their kids things like Big Mac and Small Sprite.

Everybody except me. I am totally deer-in-the-headlights with the Big Board and can trace it back to my very first experience at Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors. Faced with so many choices (and unknowns. hey, I don't know what "spumoni" is to this day!) I froze and ordered "chocolate." I was mortified to be such a coward and remember how I slinked out of the store with the Simpsons soda jerk's words ringing in my ears: "Ha, ha. Chocolate."

My fallback is to order Combo Number 5. Whatever it is. I don't care if it's Klingon Qagh (properly served live) so long as it comes with a medium drink.

This year I decided to overcome my fear of the Big Board and memorized a combination at KFC, a dark corner in my closet of fast food nightmares. Confidently, I walked in, stood tall and said in a clear voice: box lunch, two pieces, biscuit, no gravy, medium drink. The cashier looked catatonic. I repeated the order: box lunch, two pieces, biscuit, no gravy, medium drink.

Blink. Blink. No reaction.

I felt a bead of sweat form on my brow as I hastily scanned the Big Board. Finally I squeaked: lunch.

Cashier: box or tub


Cashier: two or four.


Cashier: biscuit or slaw.


Cashier: gravy


Cashier: gravy


Cashier: gravy

Yes, for the love of Pete, gravy, yes, yes, yes great heaping steaming gobs of gravy! And throw in some Qagh while you're at it.

Cashier: live or recently dead

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