Monday, April 25, 2005

The Wussification of America

Back in the day, going out to eat was seen as an adventure.

It wasn’t really an adventure, of course. Unless you consider being waited on hand and foot by overdressed strangers adventurous. In which case, you may also consider hailing a taxi cab an arm workout.

But it was an occasional treat. A respite from loaf-shaped meats and veggies suspended in gelatin. People were happy to try new things. Sure, it cost a little more, but people were willing to pay the price, if only to avoid having to choke down another creamed corn casserole.

Nowadays, going out to eat is an actual adventure. You might order a grilled chicken sandwich and instead find yourself being introduced to the taboo pleasures of cannibalism.

Back in July, David Scheiding was unwittingly inducted into an unofficial club usually reserved for madman killers and Brazilian soccer franchises. He got his first taste of human flesh. And, of course, he got it at Arby’s.

He bit into his sandwich and soon realized that something wasn’t quite right. He spit his half-chewed food out and discovered a slice of a person’s skin. Complete with a fingerprint.

And for some reason, he wasn’t too happy about it.


He should be thrilled about a couple things. One: he has an amazingly sensitive palette. I doubt that I would be able to distinguish the tip of a man’s finger and the usual flayed carcasses they serve at Arby’s. And two: with the inclusion of the fingerprint, finding the culprit couldn’t be easier.

But, no, old David got sick. Then he did what anyone else would do, he sued. As of today the case is still pending.

He’s suing for $50,000 based on the fact that his health was put in jeopardy…and he’s emotionally scarred. He’s psychologically unable to eat fast food ever again.

Sure, I can understand the first part. After all, the finger came from the restaurant’s manager who accidentally cut the tip off while chopping lettuce (looking at a picture of the filleted skin, I’ll assume he was cutting the lettuce with a meat slicer). He thought that he had cleaned all of it up and threw away all of the contaminated lettuce.

Obviously, he was really wrong.

Which baffles me a little. I’ve actually cut myself on a meat slicer when I worked in a restaurant. Almost anyone who’s ever worked in any kitchen has done the same thing and they’ll tell you – there’s a lot of blood involved. How could you miss a bin of bloody lettuce? They don’t sell red cabbage at Arby’s do they?

So, sure, sue they place because their manager is unquestionably a moron. But Mr. Sheiding’s claim about never being able to eat fast food seems a bit dubious. Count your blessings, I say. Most people, if given the opportunity, would gladly pay someone to put them off fast food. Those fat McDonald’s litigants for one.

But here’s my point. Finally. What the hell do people think they’re getting when they eat at a fast food restaurant? The Four Seasons?

No, it’s Arby’s. It’s McDonald’s. It’s Burger King. It’s Wendy’s.

It’s crap. It’s good-tasting crap. But it’s still crap. And don’t believe the carefully marketed corporate image either. That’s not real, people. They hire actors to do the commercials for a reason.

And it’s not just because all of the “real” people are too busy.

This food is being prepared mostly by low-wage earning drones who really could care crap less if your Chicken Fingers contained authentic fingers.

If these people offered to come to your house and make a nice dinner for you and your family, chances are you’d look at their grease burned and bandaged hands and say “no thanks, I can poison myself just fine thank you.”

And yet, we readily go into a fast food joint and plop our cash on the counter and patiently wait while those same people prepare our food behind the safety of a wall. Free from our prying, consumer eyes. And when our sandwich comes sliding down the stainless steel chute and gets placed on a dirty plastic tray, we take it, smile and shove it in our greedy little faces.

But god forbid, one in every 10,000,000 should contain some human remains.

They way I see it, I’m lucky if I don’t find an entire person in a Whopper. And I don’t care. If I do find one, I’ll politely ask him to remove himself from my sesame seed bun and continue my meal.

Because eating at a fast food restaurant is, finally, an adventure. Like skydiving. It’s not fun if there’s not the lingering threat that the chute won’t open.

Fun Fact: In 1991, during an attempted political coup on Russian President Boris Yelstin, the only way they could get sustenance was to order pizzas from Pizza Hut.

If an alcoholic Russian president can trust the food from a third-world fast food restaurant in such a hostile political environment, then I’d say it’s okay to get that burrito supreme from the local Taco Bell.

And it also puts to rest a common misconception about Russia perpetuated by Soviet comic Yakov Smirnov.

In Russia, pizza does not order you.

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