Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Fast-Food Worker/Bob Hope Syndrome

Granted, this phenomenon might not be as well-known as the Stockholm Syndrome, and if I really worked at it, I might be able to come up with a catchier name for it, but maybe you've experienced this:

You're in line at a fast-food place and the person at the counter finally says, "Can I help the next person?" and it's you.

You step forward. The person makes eye contact with you. But as you start to give your order, the person's eyes move to your left, as if something's just happened -- as if, say, someone more interesting just walked in the door.

You get the person's attention again (I've been known to hold up an index finger, as if giving a sobriety test) and place your order.

This used to happen to me quite a bit, then I noticed it happening less. Then it happened again the other day.

I'm not angry about this; heaven knows, these employees don't make that much money. But it's happened often enough that I wonder what causes it. It's quite possible, of course, that someone far more interesting than yours truly has just walked in the door. (It wouldn't have to be, say, Elvis, though from what I've heard about him he wouldn't exactly be out of place at a Mickey D's.)

But I always feel as if I'm in one of those TV specials that Bob Hope used to do as his career was winding down. He and the guest star would appear in a skit, and it would soon become quite clear (perhaps I should make that "ridiculously obvious") that they hadn't bothered to learn their lines and were unabashedly looking over each other's shoulders to read the cue cards.

Then again, this syndrome also reminds me of a "Twilight Zone" episode where a guy (Howard Duff?) learns that his entire life has been scripted, or something like that.

Could this (once again cue "Twilight Zone" sound effect) be happening to me? To all of us? Are our lives merely scripts being played out, and are most of the people in our lives very adept at learning their lines, but the fast-food folks aren't that great at it because, well, let's face it, they are walk-ons, they are inexperienced, and they're just being paid scale?

Or am I just hard up for a way to fill this space today?

(And did someone just yell "CUT"?)

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