Since this is Omnitopia Week on the blog, how about a report card for some of our “ubiquitous, ever-present environments”? Today let’s tackle one of my favorites: fast food.
1. Wendy’s – Pardon me, but what the fuck happened to Wendy’s? It used to be the standard bearer for quality back in the late ’80s and ’90s, but now each time I go to Wendy’s, they feel small and the bathrooms are disgusting. I suppose they jumped the shark when they stopped the buffet bar (home of the “Hold ‘Em Heels Deal” whenever we won a football game), but this is one establishment in desperate need of some focus-group testing and re-branding.
By the way, did you know Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s, was one of the National Guards that killed those kids at Kent State? I always thought that was one of the best urban legends in history.
2. McDonald’s – Truly the Michael Jordan/Madonna/Nike of fast food, McD’s successfully reinvents itself every four years while still serving the same crap you know and love. Bathrooms are almost always a safe bet on a road trip, and the fries rock. I almost never go there, because it is damned impossible to find anything on the menu that won’t remain in your large intestine for seventeen years. The entire restaurant is always covered in a microscopic layer of oil, which is both disgusting and fascinating.
3. Starbucks – Man, they did this place right. Kent thinks the coffee tastes like “monkey ass,” but he doesn’t do it the right way. Stick with me: a soy latté with four squirts of almond syrup drowns any and all soupçons of ass, primate or otherwise.
Plus, you have to admit your average Starbucks barista tends to be an interesting sort – they all seem to be indie rocker English majors with no discernable career drive. I mean, we were all indie rocker English majors too, but back then, we were indignant, disdainful and constantly talking shit about the patrons at Kinko’s while planning world domination.
4. Burger King and Hardee’s – I’m lumping these together because they’re both disgusting, Hardee’s more so. The reconstituted potato meal that makes up your average BK french fry is just above sawdust on the periodic table, and the restrooms at Hardee’s would be illegal in Afghanistan. We used to meet at the Burger King on Franklin Street next to Linda’s (affectionately known as the BK Lounge) but never since. And if you’re stopping at Hardee’s on a road trip, you better have a flat tire or a thrown rod.
Oh yeah, Hardee’s was the place that used to have signs that said “Our Biscuits Are Made From Scratch™!” You’d think the actual phrase was trademarked, but no: Scratch™ was a product of their own making, a trademarked mix of hydrogenated palm oil, Polysorbate 80, piano wire, bathroom caulk, and hamsters.
5. Taco Bell – Back in the early days of the internet, Sean and I used to troll UNC’s “gopher” program for the lamest Usenet newsgroups we could find. When we got to “alt.food.taco-bell” we knew we’d found a home. Every few days we’d post something like this:
From: Ian Williams (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: Taco Light
Date: Wed, 30 Nov 1993 21:48:36 -0500
Hey everybody. Whatever happened to the Taco Light?
I thought it was real tasty. I liked the flour shell.
I’m very, very lonely.
…and just sit around and wait for the sad sacks to roll in.
This probably gives you an idea of my and Sean’s dedication to all things Taco Bell, which was truly my salvation in high school (and the cause of my collapse from malnutrition – true story – my senior year).
“Think Outside the Bun” is a great tagline, but truly ironic given that Taco Bell basically makes eighteen meals with every mathematical permutation of the same five ingredients, but I don’t care. I allow myself their Mexican Pizza once a year (much like the Chicken Egg and Cheese at Time Out) so that I don’t, you know, die.
6. Subway – God bless Subway and their trying to not make America fat, but how on earth can they make pastrami and turkey taste exactly the same? They have five new breads now and they all taste the same too. I have to put seven quarts of horseradish sauce on my sandwiches just so I can distinguish their taste from the bag they came in.
And is it me, or does Jared on the commercials still look like he secretly wants to be obese again? It’s like he still has the fat-guy pants and the muu-muu just in case he decides he wants off this crazy merry-go-round.