I usually avoid fast food outlets like I avoid street corner evangelists. However, every once in a while I have to make a concession. When I’m working, travelling between clients with little time in between, I sometimes have to eat while I drive. If at all possible I’ll find a nice café and get them to make me up a fresh sandwich and a juice. Sometimes there’s not much choice around. My only concession to fast food in instances like this is Subway. They at least use fresh salad and make the sandwich right in front of you. And the fillings, if you choose carefully, are fundamentally recognisable as food.
Today I had to make one of these stops. I went in and ordered my sandwich and (as I am weak on very rare occasions) I asked for a cup in order to have a soft drink.
The girl behind the counter handed me my sandwich and cup (as it’s the type of place where you fill it yourself) and then started heading for a cookie.
“What sort would you like?” she asked, gesturing to the selection on offer.
Confused, I replied, “Er, I didn’t ask for a cookie.”
She shrugged, “They’re free with a soft drink.”
Realisation dawned. “Oh, I see. Well, thanks, but I don’t want one.”
“But it’s free.”
“I know. But I don’t want one.”
“But it’s free.”
My face must have started betraying some level of consternation tinged, I’m sure, with anger. She actually looked at the next person in the queue and made a face as if I was the mad one. Her eyes were apologising to the next customer on my behalf.
“I don’t care if it’s free, I don’t want a cookie.” I thought this was about as clear as I could make it.
“If you buy a sub, you can have a drink and a cookie for two dollars,” she explained, even though I neither requested or needed any further explanation.
I decided to explain something to her instead. “Those things are nothing but little blobs of sugar and butter and I don’t want or need one, whether it’s free or not.”
“You still have to pay two dollars for the drink.”
I couldn’t bear it any more. I held out some money for her, staring at her, daring her to say another word. She took the money and gave me change, looking at me as if I was Rain Man.
And people wonder why there’s an obesity epidemic in this country.