Wednesday, January 20, 2016
I have spent the last few weeks tirelessly laboring on a thorough Yelp review for a local Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen. I feel my work is important enough that I would like to share it with my blog readers as well. However, since I know my readers are busy people, I've cut away all the fluff and excerpted the most salient material here. I apologize if some of you find this intensely disturbing.
I should have known I was in for a rough time when I pull into the Popeye's parking lot. There are no parking spots within easy walking distance except for a single space directly in front of the restaurant. Now, normally this would be ideal, but the space is clearly marked "20 Minute Parking." So great, now I'm in a race against time! Asking me to divine the future and somehow predict how long I'm going to be at Popeye's is a fool's errand, so right from the beginning I'm acutely aware of the fact that I'm going to have to rush my meal and watch the clock the whole time. If only this were the end of my troubles.
I go in and walk slowly towards the counter, trying to avoid eye contact with any employee who might inquire as to my culinary desires before I'm fully ready to order. I notice that they have one of those menus with a constantly shifting video screen in the middle. The problem is, all of the restaurant's current specials are displayed on that screen and that screen alone, one at a time. I have to stand there like a buffoon, watching the screens cycle through, hoping to get enough information from my glimpse at each special to not have to watch the whole cycle again. The cashier stares at me, smiling, undoubtedly mocking my perceived ineptitude.
Finally, out of a combination of resignation and time-limit-induced panic, I decide to order the spicy garlic fried shrimp combo. I am told that the shrimp are being prepared fresh, and that the wait will be a few minutes longer than I may be expecting. It is at this point that my psyche begins to unravel. I'm already desperately pushing against a 20 minute limit, and now my order is going to take even longer to receive because the cook doesn't already have the necessary components pre-prepared and sitting around? Unacceptable. At least I'm not the poor fool who orders the limited-time spicy wings and is told they are going to take "seven or eight minutes." Have I died and gone to Europe?
As I wait a seeming eternity for my food to arrive, I do what any civilized person would do in my situation: I pull out my phone and browse the Information Superhighway. Or, that is, I attempt to. Apparently this particular Popeye's is the one single point in the entire United States that I can't even get 3G to work. I'm standing there, watching the little blue bar at the top of the screen inch forward at a glacial place while my screen stares back, blank and dumb, as if shrugging at me. To add insult to injury, my phone indicates that I am connected to someone's wi-fi, but there is absolutely no evidence of this in my phone's performance. It just sits, impotently trying to load something far beyond its suddenly limited capacities. Rage boils within my guts, filling me with a kind of noxious hate gas and motivating me to shatter my phone against the eyesore orange wall.
Fortunately, my food arrives, narrowly preventing this act of wanton destruction. Sweaty and manic, I carry the basket of shrimp, fries and biscuit, with a serving of dill tartar sauce on the side, on a harried quest to find my seat. Which is when the next wave of disappointment hits me.
There are no booths available! Well, there's one, but it's kind of dirty and there is a napkin on it. The napkin appears to be unused, but that doesn't matter. The booth is still unfit for even the lowest life form to sit at. My choices, then, are limited to a smattering of tiny tables furnished with wooden chairs. And here I thought this was the year 2016! The very idea that I could walk into an eatery and not be guaranteed the luxurious cushion of a booth would seem ludicrous if I wasn't experiencing it in real time. I choke back tears as I sit at a table. Glare from the window threatens to blind me.
The next thing threatening to blind me is my fury, as I come to a most unpleasant realization: my food is too hot! I can barely take a tiny bite of french fry without my mouth's soft tissue being scalded. So not only have I had to to wait eons for this food, but it arrives at a temperature beyond edibility! My mind flashes back to that green-painted time warning inches away from my vehicle. My situation has gone from repugnant to downright inhumane.
Lacking anything else to do but wait for my food to cool to a level within the range of oral tolerance, I make one last pathetic, fruitless effort to load a webpage on my phone. My failure is as dismaying as it is expected. So THEN, with no other option aside from sitting and waiting, I start to think about my life. The lack of fulfillment, the financial woes, the macabre mystery of death, whose early onset is all but assured by my devouring of this fried food. An emptiness yawns in the chasms of my withered heart, the shimmering crispy breading on my shrimp winkingly mocking me. All decisions that I have ever made have led me to this. I lament years spent toiling in futility, lost forever to the sands of time.
The food itself is delicious. Perfectly cooked and seasoned.
As I crumple up my oily used napkins, I wish that I could somehow spit my sorrow inside them as well, to be deposited in a trash receptacle and emptied by a civic employee that is probably much happier than me. I mournfully head to the parking lot, where a horrifying thought bursts into my weary brain. Short of breath, I check my watch.
I have been inside the restaurant for 23 minutes. So on top of everything I have just endured, Popeye's has also made a scofflaw out of me. Decades of faithful adherence to the law, washed down the drain like so much lukewarm sweet tea.
So the next time you think that you know real suffering...the next time you allow your "first world problems" to lead you into dark and desperate places...remember my plight at Popeye's, and recognize what torment truly is.
I am currently accepting donations in the form of currency and/or fried food.
Joey Marsilio will also accept donations, in a complex and roundabout sort of way, in the form of purchases of his book, Henry Garrison: St. Dante's Savior, a la carte or in packs of ten.