Friday, September 26, 2014

That elusive fast food luck

You’ve been craving this divine (and really filling so not your typical) ‘fast food’ from this joint where the lines are so long you drive by numerous times but never actually have the courage to step in. The odds have thrown you off each time and after much careful consideration you finally think of a perfect time. Friday afternoon, 3 pm. It cannot possibly fail, right? I mean, who else is going to be hungry for a substantial meal mid-afternoon on a Friday? It’s just past lunch time and way too early for happy hour. Got to be an exclusive experience, you cheerily tell yourself. Still, as a backup, you take a book along. Picking that absurd hour also means you have to skip lunch that day which you gleefully abide by because you mean business!
You land up at the joie de vivre (Chipotle, if you insist), walk in jauntily and the scene breaks your heart! A good twenty people waiting in line, some giant men included who you know for a fact take twice as long to order because they want everything twice as much and after a while the server rolls her eyes then argues then declines at which point a fight breaks out. The restaurants around are either closed or you don’t particularly fancy that cuisine so you decide to stick to your choice. But you know better than to wait in line so you find a corner table and yank out that book and coax yourself into reading it, one eye firmly on the line. The queue, much to your disbelief, never quite seems to shorten. The moment it appears to be tapering off, a few ravenous bodies barge in and make it impossibly long again. This continues in a loop but you are in no short supply of faith. Besides, the book’s picking up steam so it’s really a win-win.
At some point you glance at the watch and it’s been twenty freaking minutes, not that you’ve been keeping a count. You realize you need a new strategy. A simple read-till-the-crowd-vanishes will simply not suffice. So you move to the table closest to the queue which, just your luck, happens to be filthy, but come on, no one’s too big or too small for any job so you decide to be the good citizen you are and wipe the table clean. You collapse into the chair comfortably and begin reading again. The plan is simple. Let the line continue to shorten and just as you see someone walking through that door, bam, you jump in the queue. And it works! You hadn't spent days learning Nonlinear Optimization of Queuing Systems in MBA for nothing.
You’re finally in line and there are just two people ahead of you. It instantly lifts your spirits. A line that’s on an average about 20 and you get in when it’s just 2? A stroke of genius! You take a note of the guys in front of you look to kill time and they look a little like counterfeit Russian mafia. They even check you out like counterfeit Russian mafia. Not that you know how the counterfeit Russian mafia check people out but minor detail. They begin requesting their stuff with too many specifics but they actually seem like nice guys. You woudn’t know because you’re so darn thrilled to be close to the food you’ve been salivating over that it is a little overwhelming to zero in on your pick. The traditional burrito or the naked one? Taco Bowl? Quesadilla! And definitely an extra dollop of guac. Oh that thing is heavenly.
“Miss? What can I get started for you?”
“Ah yes, a veggie burrito bowl please with brown rice and black beans.”
“I’m sorry we just ran out of brown rice.”
           Before you know it she’s already stacked your bowl with a pile of white rice that you have no appetite for. Then she scrapes a container hard, thrice, to pull out all the stuck, disintegrating beans because that’s all that remains of them. Your heart sinks. But your stomach is growling. So you stay put despite the slap on the face. And from that point on, nothing goes right. She’s out of salsa so she spends five precious minutes replacing it. Ditto for the corn. Finally she throws in a bucket of sour cream because that’s what she grasped when you said, just a little bit of cheese, in your lyrical voice. Your eyes fall on the two bowls the counterfeit Russian mafia is checking out and holy cow there’s Mount Everest on those paper boats. Seriously, you don’t know any self-respecting people who’d order that. The Mount Everests remind you where your fair share of brown rice, black beans and the condiments went. You decide to make peace with it; spot the original table you had found and decide to relish your much deserved burrito bowl despite the minor inconveniences. The second you sit down and glance at the queue, you gasp. What queue?

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