Posts Tagged ‘fast food hamburgers’

mkonturWhen I was in college, my circle of friends and I played the obligatory college pranks along the lines of the now well-established genre of college humor, except that, being of a humanistic bent, ours were perhaps a bit more intellectual than the average frat-boy prank. One example: we noticed that that the help at a certain local junk-food outlet had apparently been instructed to ask the customers if they wanted ketchup on their hamburgers if they failed to mention it explicitly in their list of desired fixings. So, for instance, if a customer said “I’ll take a quarter-pounder cheeseburger with lettuce, pickles, tomato and mustard to go”, the girl or boy taking the order would ask, “Did you want ketchup on that, too?” If you left any other ingredient off your list of fixings, it was simply assumed you didn’t want it, no further questions asked. But ketchup must have been such a standard, that if you didn’t order it, it was thought more likely that you’d either forgotten it or simply taken its inclusion for granted. Oddly enough, this didn’t apply to mustard or any of the other standard ingredients. As to why the waiter/waitress put the question in the past tense, I can only venture the hypothesis that this was a sort of last-ditch attempt to revive the formal subjunctive – in other words, they must have thought it sounded more polite than the downright accusatory “Do you want ketchup on that?” Once anyone’s behavior in a college town becomes predictable, they become sitting ducks for pranksters. Ours went like this:

The first young man enters the establishment, seemingly alone, and orders a burger, perhaps a cheeseburger, with a long list of fixings, omitting the ketchup: “I’d like a medium hamburger with lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions – oh, and mustard.” “Did you want ketchup on that.” A look of disgust distorts the customer’s features. He replies, somewhat melodramatically, “I despise ketchup!” The cashier is taken aback, but dutifully hides her own consternation. The next young man comes in, also seemingly alone, and orders his burger in turn, listing a number of fixings, but without any mention of ketchup. Once again, the waitress asks the required question. A look of utter revulsion comes over the customer. He replies, as if offended by the mere suggestion, “Oh, I loathe ketchup!” The waitress is by now becoming visibly uneasy, maybe even beginning to suspect that foul play of some sort is involved. The customer picks up his order and retires with it to a solitary table, ignoring the first customer. To all appearances, they are strangers to one another. Then comes the third customer and the procedure is repeated with negligible variations. The waitress poses the fatal question, professional composure forcing her to hide whatever apprehension may or may not be creeping up on her now. The customer looks as if he’s going to be sick right then and there over the cash register, thoroughly revolted by the very mention of the vile, red, oozing epicurean’s nightmare. He recovers enough to inform the hapless cashier that, “Ketchup makes me want to vomit!” By now, even the most obtuse fast-food worker knows that she’s been made the victim of a conspiracy – yet another college prank – primarily, of course, thanks to the bad acting of our leading man. She feels confident enough to drop all pretense of professional etiquette, pounds on the counter and yells in exasperation – but also some relief – to the assembled plotters, “Guuuys! Come – ON!” Snickering, bewilderment from the one or two other diners present, and a quick exit with one or two flirtatious looks back at a now quite unprofessionally but understandably aggravated waitress/cashier.

I think only the testosterone-charged young provincial male will be able to relate properly to the feeling of triumph that he takes away from having successfully aggravated a fellow human being. Well, this was in Kansas, you know.

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