Walking into your neighborhood fast food restaurant, you tend to expect bad service. Like waiting in line at Wal Mart; it just comes with the territory. Did you think you would get away with paying low prices without consequences? Some people might complain, make a stink, ask to see a manager. The rest of us wait with Soviet style patience; at least fast food is generally fast, so the annoyance doesn’t last long in the grand scheme of things. And – it doesn’t happen often – but there are times when someone almost raises unhelpfulness to an art.
There used to be an Orange Julius in the food court in the mall in Cherry Valley. The help at the counter were so uniformly unhappy that my wife and I used to refer to it as “Surly Burger” in conversation. When I lived near the Wendy’s in Bloomingdale, I used to count how many times I could go through the drive-thru before one of the unsmiling window workers actually spoke to me. I started telling everyone about it after it passed four or five visits. I remember driving through with members of my family and friends, just so they could be part of history. When – after eleven straight trips through without a word – one of the sullen employees mumbled something akin to “have a nice day”, I was bitterly disappointed.
I think this has become so much a part of the American experience, other restaurants have tried to bottle it. Ed Debevic’s in Chicago comes to mind with their rude wait staff. I’m not convinced though; it’s the difference between the real thing and a plastic Disneyland simulation.