Pop Tarts and Snails
by Rodney Ohebsion
I like going to restaurants. But I don't like ordering drinks. Because my beverage of choice is water, and I feel kind of cheap when I ask for it . People will think I'm saying, "I'd prefer a coke. But I don't want to spend $3 on it. So I'll settle for water. I don't want water. I want coke. But if it'll save me $3, I'll drink water. And if it'll save me $6, I'll drink rhinoceros urine. Whatever it takes. I'll do whatever it takes to save money. That's the kind of person I am. As evidenced by the fact that I just asked for water. When I see those extra few dollars in my pocket, I feel like I've experienced enlightenment. I'll sacrifice coke for that. I'll even sacrifice my first born for it."
Whenever I order water, I feel like I have to convince the waiter that I'm not cheap. So I say, "I'll have water. But just so you know, this shirt that I'm wearing cost $600. I paid full price for it. With 10.5% sales tax. Do you want to see my receipt?" One time I did that, and the waiter replied, "Oh really? Well my shirt cost $700. I'll go get your free water now, Mr. Rockefeller. "
I suppose I could avoid all of that by just ordering bottled water instead of tap water. But do you think I'm going to pay $8 for a bottle of water?
Not to mention the fact that if you order one bottle of water, the waiter might pressure you into getting more. If you finish one, he'll bring over a new one and start opening it without your authorization. As if to say, "You were out of water, so I assumed you wanted another bottle. That'll be $8."
Whenever a waiter does that to me, I turn the tables on him. For instance, if he has long hair, I take a pair of scissors out of my pocket and start cutting his hair. And I tell him, "Your hair was looking long, so I assumed you wanted it cut. That'll be $35. Plus tip. " If he's going to pressure me into buying more water, I'm going to pressure him into getting a hair cut.
Or sometimes I go with a different tactic. When he opens the second bottle, I say, "Oh. I didn't want another bottle. It's OK, though. Leave the bottle here. I'll just deduct the cost of it from your tip. That'll teach you some manners."
But the waiter's not the only one who pressures you into buying something. There's also that person who comes by and tries to sell you a $10 rose. That's extortion. "If you don't give me $10, I'm going to make you look bad in front of your date." It's like he's charging you an image tax. "If you don't want to look cheap and rude, you'll have to pay me $10 in image taxes." I don't mind it, though. I always buy my date that rose. It's the least I could do. After all, my date's the one paying for the meal.
But a lot of married men don't play that rose game. They tell the guy, "No thanks. That won't be necessary. This is my wife. She's going home with me regardless of whether I give you $10. She already knows what a cheap bastard I am."
Anyways, you got your drinks and your rose. Now let's order some food.
Sometimes the waitress begins approaching your table before you're ready to order. You're still deciding between two dishes. "Should I get the fettuccini alfredo or the baby back ribs?" Then you look back at your menu, and you notice another item that also seems good. "Or how about the 18 layer burrito? Maybe I should get that." You're busy juggling three items. So you make everyone order before you. "Ladies first." The ladies order. "Engineers next." The engineers order. "Cocaine users next." The cocaine users order. You're the only person left. The waitress turns to you. And you're still not sure what to get. You're thinking, "A burrito, pasta, or ribs. Or how about a hamburger?"
At that point, I like to create a distraction and stall for time. I just take my knife and fork and start playing a song for the waitress. "Flo. Look what I can do." Ching ching, duh duh, ching ching ching chang. And then the waitress says, "That's very nice, sir. But what would you like to order?" And out of nowhere I say, "The chicken chow mein." And as the waitress walks away, I think to myself, "Chicken chow mein? Where the hell did that come from? That wasn't even on my list."
I think it's a little weird that restaurants offer "appetizers." The implication is that you need to get your appetite going with food. Because apparently, there are people out there who say, "I prefer to eat food first before I eat food. I need to get my appetite going with some food. So I'm going to have some appetizers. I got to have that pre-food food. Otherwise, I might not be able to squeeze an extra few hundred calories into this meal. So I'll have the onion rings."
I think I have a good idea for a reality show. Have an American explain the concept of appetizers to some half starved African man.
"Basically, what we do in America is we eat food before we have the main part of our meal. And that gets us in the mood to eat more food. The pre food food is called an appetizer. After we eat that and get our appetite going, we move on to the main course, which we call an entree."
What will the African guy say? "I can definitely realate to that. In my country, we have something similar to an appetizer. It is called a lack food. When we have that lack of food, we experience a sharp increase in our appetite levels. You could say our appetizer is a lack of food. And unfortunately, our entree is also usually a lack of food. Anyways, you were saying something to me about how you prefer to food first before you eat food."
How will the American guy respond to that? "No, no. Not me. I never order appetizers. ... Actually, I order ten of them and send them to Africa. Along with ten entrees. But there are some other Americans who eat appetizers. Not me."
So there's the reality show. I don't think I'd watch it. It sounds pretty disturbing. I think I'll stick to Keeping Up with the Kardashians. I'll watch it with my new African friend. And he'll ask, "Why is Kim arguing with Khloe again? It seems like there is a regular disharmony between these two individuals."
And a week after he moves to America, I'll ask him, "So what do you think of America?" And he'll reply, "I must say that I am enjoying the abundance of clean, nutritious food. But I am not especially fond of this Kardashian family. Is there any way we can send them to Africa?"
But back to the restaurant.
If you spend any time dining out, you'll learn that you can tell a lot about someone by observing what he does at a restaurant. For instance, if he uses his fork to eat, then he's probably the type of person who watches 60 Minutes. But if he uses his fork to play the drums and lauch pieces of bread into the air, then he's probably the type of person who watches Looney Tunes. I personally watch both 60 Minutes and Looney Tunes. And I'm never sure what to do with my fork.
What about those people who can't eat at a restaurant unless they make very specific orders and off-the-menu substitutions? Sometimes they don't even want something specific. They just have to do some wheeling and dealing when they go to a restaurant. They think they're Donald Trump. "Let's make some deals. I got to do some persuading. The menu says you can substitute this for that. But I don't want this or that. I want the other thing. And I don't want the other thing as is. I want it the way I want it. Let me see if I can get this person to give me the other thing the way I want it, instead of this or that."
And when they end up with the other thing the way they want it, they think, "The menu said 'your choice of French fries or onion rings.' What did I get? Cole slaw. And I got extra carrots in that cole slaw. That's not even an option. But I got extra carrots. Donald Trump--you got nothing on me. Have you ever managed to substitute cole slaw for fries or onion rings, and get extra carrots? What's your cole slaw's carrot-to-cabbage ratio?"
Any time I see someone get cole slaw with extra carrots, I think, "I'm not going to make any real estate deals with this guy. He's too good a negotiator."
That guy is also probably into restaurant real estate. He's very concerned about which table he gets. He definitely doesn't want the one next to the restroom.
Some people don't mind sitting at that table, though. It's like you get a free show with your meal. It's very entertaining. In fact, it's so entertaining that it might get you to cancel your cable. I mean, why watchEverybody Loves Raymond reruns when you can go to a restaurant and watch people going in and out of the bathroom?
But most people don't want the restroom table. The cole slaw negotiator considers that a deal breaker.
Some people never ask for extra carrots or a cole slaw substitution. They're afraid to ask their waitress for anything. Because they've seen all those investigative pieces about waitresses who spit or pee in their customers' food. And they don't want to drink the pee of a pissed off waitress.
I'm like that. I don't want spit or pee in my food. So when I make an order, the entire time, I try to make friends with my waitress. After each item I order, I throw in a compliment. "I'll take the steak. By the way, you look beautiful. And can I also have a baked potato? You have amazing posture." And then at the end, just to make my point clear, I say, "Hold the spit."
Nowadays, I take things to the next level. Before I even start ordering, I say, "You look kind of tired. Would you like a massage? Before you get started, let me give you a massage. Just relax. Don't worry about my order. It's not about my order. It's about you. You've had a rough day. What do we want? What do you want? Let's talk about you."
Then after a ten minute massage and conversation, I give her my order. And when she says, "I'll be back with your food as soon as possible," I respond, "OK. I love you."
And I never request a Happy Birthday song. I don't really even get that custom. When you dine at a restaurant and it's your birthday, they sing you Happy Birthday. "After all, you came to eat at our restaurant. And I'm a waiter serving you food. I don't know you. You don't know me. Therefore, I need to sing you Happy Birthday. I also got you a gift. Two ounces of spit. It's in your cake. Enjoy. Happy Birthday, you son of a bitch."
That's why some people become waiters. To determine whether or not someone's going to eat spit.
Around here, waiters and waitresses have to as least pretend to be friendly. But in France, they have a different custom. Waiters are supposed to be rude. Especially when dealing with Americans. This is what happens when a French waiter gets home from work. His wife asks him, "How was you day, honey?" And he responds, "Great. I was rude to 23 American customers. I gave them the authentic French dining experience. One said to me, 'Can I have more water?' And I told him, 'Eat shit!' And would you believe he had the nerve to only tip me 14%? Unbelievable."
And then there are French chefs. They're very serious about food. Just imagine one in America who has a romantic evening with an American woman. He takes her back to his apartment. And then the next morning, he says, "Rebecca. You're a fantastic woman. I had an unbelievable night with you." And then he says, "Shall I make you breakfast?"
And she replies, "Yeah. Do you have any Pop Tarts?" And he asks, "What do you mean Pop Tarts? I'm a French chef. I can make you anything. French toast. Belgian waffles. An omelet. Whatever you want." And she says, "It's OK. You don't need to cook anything for me. Just put a couple of Pop Tarts in the toaster."
How would a French chef respond to that? "What do you mean you eat Pop Tarts? Corn flakes are bad enough. But Pop Tarts? Get out of my bed! Get out of my apartment! It's over between us. ... I can't believe I made love to a woman who eats Pop Tarts. The next time I romance a woman, I'm going to make her breakfast first. From now on, it's breakfast and then romance. Not the other way around."
Cooking is a strange art. You spend two hours working on your creation, it's presented to someone, and then he goes ahead and eats it. Imagine someone eating the Mona Lisa, and then saying, "It was really good, but it could've used a little more red."
I think the most interesting thing about cooking is the phenomenon that occurs whenever there's a barbecue. Any time there is one, 90% of the men there are convinced they're experts. "Yes. This is the correct strategy. Arrange the charcoal this way. Flip the burgers at the 8 minute, 23 second mark." When cooking is done outdoors, that's the attitude they have.
But when they're indoors, most of them don't act like experts anymore. [Husband:] "Honey. Can you make me a grilled cheese sandwich?" [Wife:] Why don't you make it yourself?" [Husband:] "That sounds a little too complex. Grilled cheese? What do I look like? Wolfgang Puck?"
When it comes to food, a lot of people think French cuisine is the creme de la creme. Most people get excited when you tell them food is French. "French food. Wow! Here's $150." It doesn't matter what the food is. It could be an actual Pop Tart. If you want to make money in the restaurant industry, just take a Pop Tart, put it on a plate, and say in a French accent, "This is un Tarte de Pop. The finest French pastry. The recipe has been passed down in my family for the last 24 generations."
I think that will work. I mean, if the French can get people to pay $100 for cooked snails, they can get $50 for a Pop Tart. "Hi. My name is Pierre, and I'll be your waiter. Allow me to recommend le escargot and un Tarte de Pop." Say that, and someone will pay you $150. "Hi. My name is Jim, and I'll be your waiter. Allow me to recommend snails and a Pop Tart." Say that, and someone will punch you in the face.
But snails and pop tarts aren't for everyone, even if they're French. Some foods, however, appeal to most of us, no matter how you market them. Like pizza. Almost everyone loves pizza. It doesn't matter what you call it. It doesn't matter what restaurant it's from. You could open up a place called "Saddam's Toilet Plungers and Pizza," and people would eat there. [Customer:] "I'll take a large cheese pizza, and a medium toilet plunger." [Employee:] "For here or to go?" [Customer:] "I'll take the pizza here, and the plunger to go."
But I'm not the type of person to eat pizza from anywhere. I make it a point never eat at restaurants called Vinnie's Pizzeria. Vinnie's Pizzeria? That seems way too cliche. Does Vinnie always have to have a pizzeria? I don't want to support that. I want to let the world's Vinnies know that they don't have to open and run pizzerias. They can do a lot of other things. Like join the mafia.
Actually, maybe Vinnie shouldn't do that. After all, he makes the best pizza in the world.
A lot of cities are convinced they have the best pizza around. "Welcome to Chicago. We got the best pizza in the world." "New York pizza. It doesn't get any better than this." "East LA pizza. It's basically a giant quesadilla with tomato sauce. And it's the best pizza in the world."
Then of course, there's genuine Italian pizza. A lot of people go to Italy and really look forward to the pizza. "I'm going to have Italian pizza! Finally!" Then when they come back from their trip, people ask them about it. "How was Italy?" "Amazing" "The Sistine Chapel?" "Unbelievable!" "The Coliseum?" "Incredible!" "The people?" "Charming!" "The pasta?" "Delicious!" "The pizza?" "So so. I didn't really like it. Me and my wife each had one slice. Then we gave the rest of the pizza to a homeless guy. "
Almost everyone likes pizza. Except for Italian pizza. Some people aren't too into it.
But generally speaking, people love Italian food. Italians seem awfully fond of it. A mob boss could be doing 25 to life in a maximum security prison--but if you visit him and ask, "How are things going?" he'll say, "They gave us spaghetti and meatballs on Wednesday night. I can't complain."
Contrast that to Jews and Jewish food. A Jewish woman could be eating in the most upscale restuarant in the world, while wearing a $100,000 dress and $2 million worth of jewelry--but If you serve her gefilte fish, matzah ball soup, and glass of kosher wine, she'll say, "I can complain. And I will complain. I came here for escargot, un Tarte de Pop, and Dom Perignon. Not this garbage."
Jewish men, on the other hand, are usually OK with their Jewish meal. But nine times out of ten, they'd prefer some chicken chow mein. With a glass of Manischewitz.
When some guy invented chow mein thousands of years ago in China, little did he know that centuries later, a Jew named Herschel would be eating it with kosher wine in New York.
But it's not just Herschel. Everyone loves Chinese food. And they also love saying the names of the dishes. "Let's see. We'll have the.... Beef chown mein, chicken lo mein, egg foo yung, kung fu chung, beef fried rice, coke with ice, bring us forks, moo shoo pork, and some dumplings, there is something, that we're missing, orange chicken, fifteen bowls of won ton soup, poo poo platter, hold the poop. And some fortune cookies."
Some Chinese restaurants have some really strange fortunes in their fortune cookies. "You will find true love. Unfortunately, it will be in a prison cell." "You will tip your waiter 40%. Or you will end up with a flat tire on your way home. Take your choice, buddy. It's one or the other." "Your blood-MSG level is at an all time high." "You will save 25% on your car insurance by visiting www.confuciusinsurance.com" "Your waiter pee-peed in the poo-poo platter." "There's a piece of toilet paper stuck to your shoe." "The valet driver stole your 'Who Let the Dogs Out?' CD." "You will more or less live the same dull life 'til the very end." "The fate of the entire world depends on some antique dealer in Santa Fe. What? Did you think it would depend on you?"
Bean burritos, on the other hand, all have the exact same fortune inside: "You will get a lot of gas."
Every time I go to a Mexican restaurant, I discover an entirely new food made of corn, beans, rice, and/or cheese. You'd think at some point, Mexico would run out of ideas. How many foods can you create using the same four ingredients? 834,572 and counting. They don't even stop at food. There was a Mexican George Washington Carver who came up with a few hundred thousand uses for corn. Mexican flags are made of corn, and Mexican planes are powered by corn cobs and hot sauce. And I'm pretty sure Tecate is made from corn stalks.
The Middle East, on the other hand, prefers to use sesame seeds and chickpeas. 10% of the economy there is in the "mash up sesame seeds and chickpeas into paste" industry. The faucets in Israel have three handle: hot, cold, and hummus. "Do you want hot water, cold water, or hummus? Which one?" Hummus flows through the pipes. Not only do they eat it, they also use it to shave. If you try to take a bottle of Gillette shaving cream to Israel, they'll confiscate it at the airport.
Let's move on to Polynesian food. I don't know anything about it, and I don't feel like doing any research. I just felt like mentioning it because it sounds exotic. Polynesian food.
So there's Polynesian food. And then of course, there's English food. No one knows why English people eat English food. No one even knows why it exists. Even English people say, "We know this tastes like shit. But we eat it anyways. We're not sure why." Or maybe they've never stopped to ask, "Why are we eating this?"
England features some of the worst food ever. It's like a few English people were sitting around one day hundreds of years ago, and they said, "You know what? Plain food tastes a little too good. Chicken? That sounds a little too tasty. Let's go ahead and take that chicken, add a few things, and make the worst combination imaginable. We'll spend an hour making everything taste awful. And we'll call that English food."
England has introduced plenty of interesting creations to the world of food. But I think the most notable food of all comes from here in the United States. Of course, I'm talking about fried butter. How was that invented? I think one day, some guy in the South said, "I like butter. But it's a little too lean for my taste. Why don't I go ahead and fry it?" And then he did. And he said, "Finally. Butter is fatty enough. It's finally reached an acceptable fat level. I knew butter was missing something. And that something was fat. The missing ingredient was more fat. But now that I have fried butter, I finally have something to eat with my bacon and lard sandwich."
That's not his favorite combination, though. His favorite combination is fried butter and an all-you-can-eat restaurant. "This is proof that America is the greatest country ever. Where else are you going to find all-you-can-eat fried butter? Ordinarily, there's a limit to how much fried butter is available. But here, it's all I can eat. When does this restaurant close? In eight hours? OK. I'll probably be able to eat another four pounds of fried butter between now and then."
When the first all-you-can-eat restaurant opened, I'll bet sumo wrestlers were pretty happy about it. "Now we can sumo wrestle on a budget. Finally. Sumo wrestling is affordable."
I'm thinking of opening a health food restaurant. It'll feature a half-of-what-you-can-eat buffet. "Try to aim for half. Take the maximum of whatever you can eat, and eat half of that. You don't need to go past half."
I also want to open a McDonald's competitor. Because I have a serious feud with that company.
For starters, they stop serving breakfast way too early. Like they're trying to mess up my sleep. I have to set my alarm just to get there on time--as if I'm in the army or something. I didn't sign up for that. I'm not trying to join the McMilitary. I'm not trying to be all I can be. I just want an egg McMuffin at 12:33. Is that too much to ask for, Ronald?
It's like they're going out of their way to get me up early. Maybe Ronald McDonald thinks he's some sort of dictator.
My stepdad used to get me up early, too. And he did that for no reason. He used to get me up at 6 a.m. every day. Even on Saturdays. I should pay him a visit. At 6 a.m. on a Saturday. I haven't seen a 6 a.m. in years--but I'll get up that early just to wake him up. Actually, he'll probably be up already. So I'll get there at 4:30 a.m. I won't even go to sleep that night. I'll go to McDonald's at 4 a.m., eat a few egg McMuffins, and then head on down to my stepdad's house. That sounds like a good idea. I'll do it on Father's Day.
But this isn't about my stepdad. It's about McDonald's.
Maybe they're some sort of a cult. They try to get you in there early, when you're most susceptible to their brainwashing.
Just sell me some food, assholes. Don't tell me when to get up and when to eat breakfast.
But that's not it. I was in there a few days ago, and I ordered an extra value meal with an extra chicken sandwich--as in one extra value meal and one sandwich. And they charged me full price for the second sandwich! That's not right. They should extend the extra value meal discount to the second sandwich. That's basic McMathematics as far as I'm concerned.
Discount (sandwich 1 + side order 1 + drink 1 + sandwich 2)
If you give me 30% off the extra value meal, you have to give me 30% off the second sandwich. Because it's like I'm ordering one and a half meals. You can't give me inferior value when I order more food. That's like a volume surcharge.
As you might imagine, I had a serious talk with the manager about their absurd pricing, and I asked for a discounted second sandwich. But she said, "No. We don't do that. If you want to get 30% off the second sandwich, you have to order a second extra value meal."
A second extra value meal! That's really what she said. What the hell was that lady thinking by even mentioning that? Is that what they teach at Hamburger U.? Are they trying to sell multiple sodas to people who are entitled to free refills? What the hell am I going to do with a second Coca Cola! Am I supposed to pour one over my head?
So I just ordered one extra value meal--and that messed up my nutritional balance. I'm trying to maintain a two sandwich per French fry ratio--and McDonald's is working against that. That's why we have all of these health care problems in America. It's because of McDonald's and their inflexible pricing.
So I'm not on board with Ronald McDonald & Co. My friend also isn't too fond of them. He hates McDonald's, and he loves Whole Foods Market. And he lets people know about it:
"I love Whole Foods Market. Sometimes I stand near the soy foods section for several hours, just to soak up the Whole Foods tofu goodness. And if I ever decide to have any children, I'll make sure he/she is born in a Whole Foods produce section. I mean, nothing could be cleaner than the inside of a Whole Foods Market--including a hospital room. After all, I've never seen a hospital with organic walls.
"McDonald's, on the other hand, is garbage. I let them know about it by the piss I leave on their Men's Room walls and floors on a regular basis. Of course, I never eat there. But I do a lot of ordering. In fact, every time I pass by a McDonald's, I go in and order a tofu burger, just to piss them off. 'Welcome to McDonald's. May I take your order?' 'One organic tofu non-dairy cheeseburger on whole wheat wheat-free bread, with a side of organic spinach and a grande acai juice. And put everything in a reusable bag made of hemp and recycled cat feces. Oh--and where's your outlet? I want to recharge my electric vehicle.'
"It's time for the government to turn all McDonald's restaurant into Whole Foods Markets. And while they're at it, they should give every person in the country $1,000 a month in Whole Foods Market health food stamps."
I think people in the real estate industry should pay more attention to Whole Foods Markets. They can use the "Whole Foods factor" when they want to figure out how much a property is worth. If they want to know about the quality of a neighborhood, the first questions they should ask are, "How many Whole Foods Markets are there per square mile?" and "How many Whole Foods Markets have recently opened in the area?" Check those stats first, and then move on to things like median income.
That's how I chose my neighborhood. I live in an apartment building that's located right between two Whole Foods Markets.
I go to Whole Food Market a lot. I'm really into health food. And not just for myself. I like to make others eat right.
I have an ice cream truck. But it only carries fruit. There are pictures of ice cream on it. Kids come up to me and order something like an ice cream sandwich. They give me their money. And I give them a carrot. Then they protest. "I wanted an ice cream sandwich." I don't even debate with them. I just say, "This discussion is over. Just eat your carrot."
I like seeing the expression on kids' faces when I give them a carrot instead of ice cream. Maybe that's why I do it. It's not about health food. It's about that expression. They were expecting ice cream, they could practically taste it, and then they're left holding a carrot.
Nowadays, we have a lot of food options. We have ice cream trucks, buffets, McDonald's, Whole Foods Markets, and more. Go to a typical supermarket for bread or cereal, and you'll find 300 kinds of cereal and 200 kinds of bread. The second I look at something like that, I think, "You know what? I guess I don't really want bread. I thought I wanted bread. But I don't want the 20 minute long analysis of what bread I should buy."
There should be a section of the supermarket where there's only one brand and variety of each item. Aisle 18: For People Who Don't Want to Decide. "I don't even want to look at all the types of bread you have. Just give me bread. And milk. And oranges. Don't bother me with the details."
They should also carry a wife there. There's one woman available. She's your wife. You don't have to choose. "I don't want to actually choose a wife. There are millions of single women in Los Angeles. For every type of bread in the the supermarket, there are 10,000 single women in this city. If I want to choose one, I'll have to go to a Starbucks, or church, or sign up for online dating. You know how many small talk conversations I'll have to have, and how many crappy movies I'll have to watch? Just give me a wife. Let's go. I don't have time to choose one. Just give me a wife, and let me move on. Let me get on with my life. I got my bread, my milk, my oranges, and my wife. I'm ready to check out."
I actually think some people put more thought into choosing bread in a supermarket than they do in choosing a spouse. With bread, it's, "24 carbs per slice? Let me see the ingredients. High fructose corn syrup? Uh uh. This isn't going to cut it." But with a potential husband, it's sometimes more like, "He only has three misdemeanors, and no felonies. This guy's a keeper. I hope he doesn't lose interest in me." Odds are she didn't meet that guy at the supermarket. And if she did, he was probably shoplifting.
My supermarket visits are usually pretty interesting. I'm not a shoplifter. But I am a shopaholic. I'm actually OK when it comes to shopping in general. But oddly enough, it's the whole "Limit X Per Customer" angle that causes problems for me.
Sometimes stores tell you how much of an item you're allowed to buy. Like "limit five per customer." Even if you're willing to buy more, they won't accept your money.
I see that as a challenge. Who the hell are they to tell me I can't buy six? Any time I come across something like that, I basically have to go over the limit. I don't even care what they're selling. Even if it's cat food. I don't have a cat--but if you tell me limit five, I'm going to walk out of your store with ten packs of cat food.
I guess that's what they want me to do. It's all part of their marketing angle.
According to some studies, when stores place a quantity limit on something, people tend to buy more of it. When tuna is normally on sale, the average buyer of it gets four cans; but when there's a 12 can limit, the average buy increases to seven. (I don't think that many people try to buy 24 the way I do.)
I think Presidential candidates should use the limit approach. "Obama 2012" is OK, but "Obama 2012--Limit One Vote Per Person" is better. That'll get Obama some more votes. And if he still somehow loses the election, he might still be able to make it as President of Safeway.
But getting back to my supermarket sessions. I'm very possessive when it comes to the items in my cart. They're mine! Not yours. That's why I electrify my cart when I'm not using it. You've heard of electric fences. I have an electric shopping cart. You're not going to take any tuna out of my cart. Those 24 cans belong to me. (I know the store is saying limit 12. But I'll tell you what. if they don't let me buy 24, I'll electrify the supermarket manager.)
Aside from plain old shopping, there are plenty of activities I work into my supermarket visits. Sometimes I open a box or bag of something, and offer free samples to the people there. I don't actually work for the supermarket. But I still take time out of my day to give people free samples. Because I'm a nice guy. I open a bag of chips, walk up to someone, and say, "Sir--would you like a free sample?" For some reason, the supermarket doesn't appreciate my efforts. Instead of paying me, they call the police. They don't realize that because of me, sales of Doritos are up 12%. It's because of the free Doritos I gave out. And because I told people, "Limit 3 bags per customer." That's something I do a lot.
In the event that I don't get arrested for being a good free sample Samaritan, I end up taking my cart to the checkout stand, with my 24 cans of tuna. And my club card.
The supermarket wants to make sure you have their club card. They're trying to brand you, like you're some sort of a cow. "You want food? If you use this club card, we'll give you 25 cents off. You know what? We'll up the ante. We're going to burn our brand on your neck. To make sure you know you're owned by Safeway. If you let us do that, we'll give you 50 cents off."
There are a lot of things you can do when you're waiting in line at a checkout stand. You can chat with the person next to you and try to get a date--assuming you didn't already pick up a wife or husband on Aisle 18. You can call your proctologist's office and loudly schedule an appointment for tomorrow. "Yeah. Tell Dr. Smith that the cream didn't work. My ass still burns after eating watermelon. I'm either going to have to get a new cream, or stop eating watermelon. Make sure Dr. Smith knows how much I love watermelon." You can react strongly to headlines on the covers of celebrity news magazines. "Britney Spears lost 10 pounds in 10 days on the rum and Twinkie diet? Yes! I'm so happy for her! I'm going to go get a a few hundred Twinkies. There better not be a limit."
Here's what I like to do when I'm waiting for my turn. I take all of my coupons, and I fold them into origami art. Then when my item is scanned, I say, "I have a coupon for that," and I hand the clerk a coupon that's shaped like a swan. Unless he's dealt with me before, he's not sure what to do. He asks me, "What is this?" And I say, "$2 off Tide." Then he opens the swan up, and discovers something like a coupon for Ajax. Because I use random coupons. I'm not trying to save money. I just want people to look at my origami. I'm in it for the art--not the money.
Sometimes I don't use coupons, though. Like when I'm in the 12 Items or Less Express Lane. Around there, you're not allowed to waste everyone's time with coupons--no matter how great your swans look.
The 12 Items or Less can set up a pretty interesting situation. I'm talking about when someone in front of you has 20 items in his basket. You glance at him. He glances at you. It's like a declaration of war. I know a lot about that situation. Because I'm the guy with the 20 items. Yeah. For a second there, you though you could relate to me. You thought, "Yeah. I hate it when some asshole has 20 items in the express lane." No, no, no, no. I'm the other guy. I'm the asshole. I love it. I feel like I'm a movie villain. That's why I do it. I don't even need those other 8 items. I add them just to set up my showdown.
Or sometimes I do something a little different. I really test the terms of the whole "12 Items or Less" law. Because that seems a little vague. 12 items or less? What exactly does that mean? What I like to do is take a few cartons of eggs to the 12 Items or Less lane. Then I take the eggs out of the cartons, and place them individually on the conveyor belt. Am I buying 4 packs of one dozen eggs, or 48 individual eggs? We usually have to bring over the manager for an official ruling. If he says that 48 eggs are 48 items, I just use those rubber dividers and separate them into four purchases.
I like those rubber dividers. But sometimes I don't use them. Like when the customer next to me is black. Because if I separate my groceries from his, it'll make me look like a segregationist. Doing that is kind of like saying, "I'm white and you're black. I'd prefer it if we had separate checkout stands. In fact, I'd prefer it if we had separate supermarkets. But since that isn't allowed anymore, I'm going to separate your section of this conveyor belt from mine. If I could, I'd paint my section white. Separate but equal. I'm a big fan of that. We need to bring it back. By the way, I'm glad that Heidi Klum and Seal got divorced. I'm just waiting for the day Eminem and Lil Wayne will stop doing songs together."
So as you might imagine, I don't use separators when I'm next to a black person. And I get offended when a black person uses one to separate his items from mine. I look at him and say, "Shame on you."
So in summary, when I'm in line at a checkout stand, I usually do origami, chat with my neighbor, call my proctologist, comment on celebrity news, test the 12 Item or Less policy, and combat segregationism.
As you might imagine, I'm really into the supermarket checkout process. But one thing I don't like about it is the scanner. Why is it the ultimate authority on prices? Any time a scanner says $4.24 for a box of cereal, I ask for a second opinion. I say, "No--I think it's actually $3.15. I want a second opinion."
And after all of that, I take my bread, milk, oranges, and wife home, and I put them in my refrigerator. Actually, I usually keep my bread outside of my fridge.
I have a pretty good relationship with my refrigerator. But, like most of us, I don't always do a perfect job managing it.
Sometimes you come across old food in the refrigerator, but for some reason, you just can't pull the trigger and throw it away. Because it's food. You don't want to throw food away. You think, "This melon seems a little old. Should I throw it away? No. I'll just keep it in the refrigerator. Maybe I'll eat it tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow it'll be more appetizing. After all, it'll be a day older. As it is right now, I don't want it. I'm not in the mood for 27 day old watermelon. But who knows? Maybe 28 day old watermelon is really good. I'm going to leave it in the refrigerator for a day. Or maybe even a week."
On the plus side, watermelon has a pretty good shelf life. It doesn't get that bad that quickly. But some foods really get rotten in a hurry. They don't mess around. It's like they're saying, "If you don't eat me now, I'm going to make your kitchen smell like a garbage dump."
Cooked broccoli is a pretty good example. If you leave it in the refrigerator for a week, it'll let you know about it. Even before you open the container, there will be a clue. You'll smell something. Then you'll try to pinpoint the source. You'll survey the refrigerator like you're Sherlock Holmes, and you'll put foods up to your nose and sniff them one by one. "Is it the yogurt? No. The pastrami sandwich? No. The oranges? No. How about the broccoli?" That's when you open a container, sniff for a quarter of a second, and then vomit for an hour.
It's like the broccoli is offended that you chose not to eat it. "You don't want me? I'm not good enough for you? You think you're too good for broccoli? You? The same asshole who ate spam yesterday? You're willing to eat spam, but not broccoli? I wasn't good enough for you yesterday. Or Tuesday. Or the five days before that. You've passed on me for seven straight days. That's it. You son of a bitch. I'll teach not to pass on broccoli again."
It smells like it's trying to get revenge on you. Broccoli's the most insecure vegetable in the world. "You didn't eat me. This is what you deserve." Lighten up, brocolli. It's not all about you. Maybe I just forgot. Or maybe I had too many vitamins in my system.
Broccoli doesn't care about that. It won't listen. You leave it in there for a week, and it lets you know about it.
But for some reason, two months later, the same thing happens. You put broccoli in the refrigerator, and you leave it there for a week, thinking, "Well maybe it won't go rotten so quickly this time. Maybe that last batch of broccoli was just in a really bad mood. I don't think this batch will do the same thing." And four days into it, you look at the container. And you think, "Should I eat broccoli? Do I want broccoli? No. ... Maybe I should just see if it's starting to smell bad. ... Ah, forget it. I'll just leave it in the fridge for a few more days."
I do that a lot, even though I make pretty frequent visits to the refrigerator. Sometimes I go to the refrigerator a few times over the course of an hour or so. I don't think I'm even conscious about the whole thing. I somehow wind up walking to refrigerator and spending ten seconds looking inside. And most of the time, I don't even get anything. I just leave empty handed, and then come back ten or twenty inutes later and repeat the same process. I don't even known what I'm doing. It's like I'm in some sort of trance. Maybe I'm just checking to make sure that there's still food in the fridge. I see what's inside, and I think, "Yup. It's still all here. The raccoons didn't get in and eat everything." Or maybe it's just a normal reaction to having a refrigerator full of food in your house. You feel compelled to walk towards the food source.
Maybe it's just nice to be greeted by the refrigerator light. The refrigerator turns on the light just because you're there. As if to say, "Hi! How are you? Welcome to your refrigerator. We got fruit, we got milk, we got eggs. What do you want? It's all about what you want. Here in refrigerator land, it's all about you and your appetite. What would you like to eat?"
But a lot of people are on diets. And for many of them, what they hear is, "What would you like to eat? Take that, and eliminate 90% of it."
I'm thinking of selling a refrigerator aimed at dieters. The exterior will be a mirror. And in order to open the refrigerator, you'll have to step on a scale and weigh less than you did the last time. And the second you open the door, the refrigerator will remind you, "Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels."
Nowadays, dieting just about goes hand in hand with eating. In Los Angeles, the average person is on 1.7 diets. "What are you on?" "Low carb, low fat, and Mediterranean. What are you on?" "Low fat, cabbage soup, and heroin."
Go to a newsstand, and 50 different magazine covers will feature a new secret to losing weight. Each magazine will say, "This is the secret. We've finally found the secret." Interestingly enough, I've never come across one that said, "If you want the secret to losing weight, just read our last issue. We already told you the secret. Why did you even bother looking at this magazine? Why does our magazine still exist? We let everyone know the secret to weight loss in our April 1, 2012 issue. That's the end of it. This discussion is over. Why is anyone still talking about weight loss? We gave you the secret! The secret's out."
Instead, they feauture a new secret that replaces the one from their previous issue. And they have three more secrets lined up for their next three issues. This is what happens when they have a meeting: "OK. So on August 1, the secret will be the low carb, high cabbage, medium coconut diet. Then on August 8, it'll be the medium carb, low cabbage, no coconut diet. Then on August 15, it'll be the low carb, high carb, medium carb diet. All three carb levels in one."
Have you ever been to the diet section of a bookstore? It's like 1,000 people are yelling at you with diet advice. And a lot of them are saying different things. There are thousands of diets out there. "Dr. Atkins, Dr. Shmatkins. Dr. Pritken, Don't Eat Chicken. Low Carb, low fat, eat this, don't eat that. Lose ten pounds in twenty days. It's really easy, just follow my way. Not his way. That guy's wrong. Don't listen to him. His diet's a con. You should not eat this in a house. You should not eat this with a mouse. You can eat the mouse, though. Because it's low carb. You can eat his cheese, too. You can even eat lard. South Beach, Paris, Okinawa, Milan. They're not just places, they're diets we're on. You should eat 30 bananas a day. Or how 'bout the Mexican Diet, ole!"
Some people have been on dozens of those diets. And some have been on just about all of them. They're like baseball card collectors. They're trying to complete the set. "I've been on 753 of 792 diets in existence. I have 39 more to go."
Maybe one day, there'll be some sort of backlash against that industry. A group of people who are dissatisfied with diets will band together. They'll go to to the Dieting section of a Barnes and Noble, and burn the damn thing down. And then they'll roast marshmallows over the fire.
I'm not so sure that's ever going to happen, though. Because people have high hopes. They get their hopes up any time they hear about a new diet. No matter how ridiculous it is. In fact, the more ridiculous a diet is, the better it sounds. "Eat nothing but grapefruit for six weeks? Wow! That sounds good. This guy's right."
We should have that color system of warnings just to know how insane a diet is. A Diet Insanity Level. All diet books should have that on their cover.
5% of this country belongs to a low carb terrorist organization. A bowl of rice to them is what the Israeli National Anthem is to an Islamic fundamentalist.
You can also go on the diet that involves eating right for your blood type. A lot of people hear about that diet, and picture scientists in a laboratory doing some serious work. They think that's how the diet was formulated. But do you want to know the real story behind the blood type diet? Here's how it was developed. Some guy taped a hundred pictures of food on his wall. Then he put on a blindfold and threw 100 darts at the pictures. The red dots became the typa A diet, the blue darts became the type B diet, etc. There you go. Eat right for your blood type. That's the story behind the diet. But it won't stop the diet's creator from telling you his ideas are scientifically proven. Guess what? He's full of shit. Check his room, and I guarantee you'll find a blindfold and some darts.
Am I going to get sued for saying that? If he sues me for that, then I'll file a countersuit against him on behalf of the people who lost and then regained weight on his diet. I'll find a lawyer that's right for his blood type, and then we'll take him for every penny he's got. I want all of his assets. The blindfold. The darts. Everything. I won't even let him keep his blood.
If you don't want to go on the blood type diet. there are plenty of other options available. For instance, you can pick up some weight loss bars. "These nutritional bars will help you lose weight. We had some scientists figure everything out." That's the image they're selling you. Then you look at the ingredients in those bars. "Sugar, milk, peanuts, oil, soy protein, flavoring." That sounds pretty scientific. As does the $3 price tag.
You might as well eat something random out of an ice cream truck. The average ice cream truck choice is as good as a $3 nutritional bar. Apparently, ice cream men know a lot about nutrition and weight loss. But they don't know how to sell three cents worth of ingredients for $3. Even their extensive knowledge of ice cream, dieting, and nutrition won't allow them to turn a peanut into a quarter.
On the plus side, if you go for the nutritional bars, you won't have to read a diet book. I'd rather pay $3 a bar than hear some diet guru say, "Diets simply don't work. Except for my diet. My diet works. After all, I discovered why fat people are fat. It's because their bodies tell them to eat the wrong ratio of CQ-alphacarboprofilactiketozona-vinimals3.1. If you want to go from fat to thin, you need to follow my scientifically proven, never-fail, three step program to reprogram the program that programs your body to be fat.
"So here's what you need to do. Start off by taking your height, converting it to inches, converting that number to kilometers, converting it back to inches, and dividing it by the square root of your left wrist's circumference. The number you're left with is your Ideal Metabolic Carbohydrate Processing Target Limit Rate On Tuesdays Through Fridays In Months Beginning With An X Or Q, or IMCPTLROTTFIMBWAXOQ. Write that number down. And then forget about it, because it's completely meaningless. Next, calculate your BMI by taking your weight and dividing it by your height. Now, no matter what that number is, you're way too fat.
"OK. Here's step one of the diet. If you think Elvis is dead, eat two servings of goat cheese a day for seven days. If you think he's alive, eat four servings of cow cheese every three days for seven weeks. If you're not sure, don't eat any cheese at all. After you're done with that, move on to step two. Eat grapes for a week, then eat mixed fruit for a week, and then eat grapefruit for three weeks. OK. Now you're ready for step three. Eat coconuts for the next ten days while watching season two of Gilligan's Island. And if, by some chance, you start to get sick of coconuts and season two of Gilligan's Island, then too bad! No one said this was going to be easy. Do you think that Ms. six foot tall, 110 pound supermodel wants to eat coconuts and watch Gilligan's Islandevery day like some kind of psychotic underfed robot zombie?! No! But she does it anyways. And you should to it, too. The End."
Is that the end? Actually, that's not the end. The diet is actually some sort of insane relationship. It's you and the diet's creator. You go on the diet, and he spends his royalty from the book sale. And then of course, there's a divorce. And then you go to divorce court. He gets to keep his money, and all you're left with is a fat ass. That doesn't seem fair. You should at least get your money back. More than that. You should get half of his assets. But right now, divorce courts favor diet gurus.
Sometimes it seems like there's usually nothing special about any particular diet. If you were to feed a 300 pound man nothing but rice cakes and Frosted Flakes for the next three months, he'd probably lose a lot of weight. Do you want me to write The Rice Cake Frosted Flake Diet? I will if there's money in it.
People have lost weight doing a wide variety of things. Of course, they don't always maintain the weight loss.
Here's how diets take off. Person A goes on the Big Mac and Tic Tac Diet, loses weight, and recommends the diet to Person B. Person B loses weight and recommends the diet to person C. It moves on to hundreds, thousands, and sometimes millions of people. We're all running around eating Big Macs and Tic Tacs like maniacs. And eventually, most of the people who lose weight end up gaining it back. Like Persons A, B, and C. And all three of them have spent $29.99 on The Big Mac Tic Tac Diet Revolution--a number one bestseller. Who ends up winning? Dr. McDonald, Creator of the Big Mac and Tic Tac Diet. It's a Ponzi Scheme. Most diet gurus belong in a jail cell next to Bernie Madoff.
Even scientists might not be worth listening to. One day, it's, "Load up on carbs." And then it's, "You know what? Forget that whole carb thing." "Eat three eggs a year." "Eat three eggs a week." "Don't drink coffee." "Drink coffee." "Avoid all alcohol." "Have one to two drinks per day."
I think at some point, we're not going to pay attention to nutritionists. They're going to become like the boy who cried wolf. "Coffee's bad for you. ... No it's not. I was just kidding. ... Coffee's bad for you. ... No it's not. I was just kiddin