Those of you who have been reading my various, now defunct, blogs over the years know I have a difficult relationship with fast food institutions. I mean, I get it that rocket scientists don’t work there. Really I do, but…
“What can I get for you?”
“I’d like a BLT.”
“What would you like on that?”
“Mayonnaise and onions.”
“Yes, but, Bacon? Lettuce? Tomato?”
“Um, well, yeah, that’s why they call it a BLT, right? So, yeah, and in addition, I would like mayonnaise and onions.”
Really? Is this a conversation that should have happened? True story. I don’t get subs there any more.
When they opened a KFC in the county, I was excited. I like KFC—it’s a guilty pleasure. It’s haunted with memories of my Dad driving to East Weymouth and coming home with copious amounts of forbidden (fried) foreign (southern) food. It was the politically incorrect Kentucky Fried Chicken back then. It came with American-processed-potato food that would have enraged my grandmother. I was always surprised Dad ate them (it?). Long ago, I decided it was an act of defiance on his part, and I liked that. The whole experience was decadent; I liked it a lot.
My experiences with the local KFC are memorable – but in a very different sort of way. I’ve only been there three times. The first time, the manager fussed at me for driving up to the second window (because there was no one at the first). He told the teenage cashier, “Wait on her anyway, I suppose.”
I was a little taken aback. But ok, whatever. We got home and the order was incomplete. I checked the receipt and had paid for everything I ordered. I called and asked, you know, could I get credit for that the next time I came through. It took a good while to get the manager on the phone. Someone actually hung up on me, twice. When I finally did get through to Larry, the manager, some 30 minutes later he said, “Well, if you bring all the food back, we’ll see what we can do.”
I looked at Ian and Ryan’s, now empty, plates and thought Larry‘s delusional. E-ffing delusional. Today, I would rank him with Moammar Gadhafi or Charlie Sheen (both of whom are honored with pictures in the top headline spots on CNN this morning). Hello? I wouldn’t have ordered fast food if I wasn’t very hungry. But before I could read Larry the riot act, he hung up on me. And shockingly, no one picked up when I called back. I wrote a scathing letter to KFC corporate… and never heard back.
I get it that Larry’s life isn’t everything he dreamed it would be. No one wants to grow up to manage a fast food restaurant. He is a middle-aged man working mostly with people young enough to be his children, or old enough to be his mother. He probably is not paid well and works too many hours. He smells like a fryer. And people don’t even see him really, he is in the service industry. But I saw him. Larry’s rudeness has emblazoned his image in my head forever.
My next trip to the KFC didn’t go much better. I pulled up to the box and ordered Ian’s popcorn chicken (American processed chicken-food) and mac-and-cheese.
“We gots no mac-and-cheese.” Came the reply though the box.
I struggled to put the grammar aside. “What?” I replied.
“We gots no mac-and-cheese. It’s our most popular thing and we ran out.”
I stared at the box mutely. Why—how—could they have run out of their most popular dish? They wouldn’t close for another three hours? Not rocket scientists I told myself. Not rocket scientists.
“Ok, fries then.” Ian would have to make do. When I got to the second window (they don’t use the first anymore) Larry took my money—and counted the change wrong. Go team Larry!
So, it wasn’t without considerable trepidation that I pulled into the drive-thru last night. The line was moving slow. When it was my turn, I ordered the mac-and-cheese first, ‘cause, you know, they had run out last time. No worries. 3 small mac-and-cheese. Cha-ching.
“2 popcorn chicken.” No worries. Cha-ching. Things were looking up.
“2-three wings and a biscuit, original recipe.” Cha-ching. I said it with confidence—almost bravado. I was going to survive this. My childhood memories of the old man in the white suit with the decadent food would gush forward and I would be content; comforted after an arduous day. I secretly wondered if Larry knew what arduous meant.
“We ran out of chicken.” Came the reply.
I couldn’t quite process it. No original, or extra crispy—they had run out of chicken. Chicken was what they did. It was like Burger King without the Burgers. I looked at the picture of the old man in the white suit. Stunned.
“Ma’am?” Said the young voice through the box.
“What do you mean, you ran out of chicken? How long will it be until the new chicken comes out of the fryer?”
“40 minutes. We haven’t put it in yet.”
“What?” I could have cooked it myself in 40 minutes. “Okay. How about chicken strips—I’ll take 2 6-piece chicken strips.” I was hungry. It was 8:15, I was thinking about hungry people at home. I was thinking, of course you haven’t put it in yet—because your boss, Larry, is a not only delusional, but an idiot. Jamie was on the speakerphone and witnessed this whole thing—I could not make this up!
“Would you like meals, or just the strips?” Apparently, the mac-and-cheese had scrolled off the screen.
“Just chicken.” I might have sounded testy. Now all I needed was a total. I waited.
“Ma’am?” the voice was timid, “We don’t have any strips.”
“This is Kentucky Fried Chicken, right? How do you have no chicken?” I glared at the Colonel. “Fine. Just give me a total. And I’d like the manager’s name please.”
“Um, ok $19.20. Why do you want the manager’s name?”
“Because you have no chicken!”
“Oh, ok.” But she didn’t give me Larry’s name. I took down the “if you have comments” number and will call it today. Sadly, it’s a local number and I will likely talk to Larry and end up more frustrated.
I drove to the second window. Jamie had hung up and was calling the amazing Chinese restaurant in the same shopping center. I felt bad for the little girl working the drive thru. Larry was nowhere to be seen. But I’ll know his face, forever. Forever, Larry. You have ruined a childhood comfort food. I hope the Colonel haunts your dreams and tortures your every step…
Word count: 1128.