By Tim Mollen
Journal entry: July 14, 2004 (age 35)
Each time I enter a fast-food restaurant for the first time, there is a moment when I decide whether it is a good fast-food restaurant or a bad fast-food restaurant. That is the moment when I determine whether the establishment provides a pump or packets for the dispensing of ketchup.
If a pump is provided, then I know the Meal will be a Happy one. I use a lot of ketchup, and I don’t like to work for it. With the ergonomically pleasing pump, I am easily able to create a red glacier on my tray. If the tray were a pre-Galileo map of the flat Earth, my pool of ketchup would be at least the size of the Indian Ocean. Eventually, through French fry agitation and condimental drift, it takes on the dimensions of the mighty Pacific. The unwholesome tastes of the individual fast-food items are quickly drowned by this tangy tsunami of tomato-based goodness.
If ketchup packets are the only option, I am forced to unleash a great wailing and gnashing of teeth. This helps pass the time during the ensuing 20-25 minutes, which I spend opening scores of the tiny packages. Each one contains less ketchup than has ever been used by anyone, anywhere, for any purpose. Efficiency consultants were brought in from Lilliput to determine the least useful portion size. The original engineering specs for the packet describe it as “kinda like half a business card, but squishy.” And one in five of the packets is booby-trapped so that the slightest pressure will cause it to squirt onto your shirt at an angle previously seen only in the Zapruder film. Granted, a portable solution is needed for the drive-thru and take-out. But what’s wrong with small plastic containers with a decent amount of the stuff, I ask you? Stop looking at me like that.
In an effort to address this important issue, I have initiated daily contact with the Kerry for President campaign. Here is a transcript of a recent phone call:
THEM: “Hello. John Kerry for President Headquarters. May I help you?”
TIM: “Is Teresa there?”
THEM: “Excuse me? Teresa who?”
TIM: “Teresa Heinz Kerry.”
THEM: “Mrs. Heinz Kerry is unavailable. Is there something I can help you with?”
TIM: “Yeah, just tell her Tim called again. Ask her what’s up with the packets, man. Wait – don’t say man. Say ma’am. Anyways, tell her they keep messing up my shirts.”
THEM: “Umm – OK, sir.”
TIM: “Just tell her. She hasn’t replied to any of my messages. Tell her and JFK2 that I’m considering setting Nader up with a girl I know from the Hunt’s camp.”
I know. I have McIssues.
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