Fat-free McDonald’s

“My then-fiancé and I were waiting in line at our hometown McDonald’s. We were up next behind a gray-haired, kind of grizzly-looking guy in his 50s or 60s and everything was moving along until he got to the front of the line. The cashier asked him what he wanted and he asked, ‘Which of your sandwiches are fat-free?’

“The cashier looked understandably puzzled. ‘The lower-fat sandwiches? Like the grilled chicken?’

“‘No,’ the old guy said, irritated, placing his hands on his hips and raising his voice a little. ‘I didn’t ask for the low-fat sandwiches, I asked for the NO-fat sandwiches.’

“The cashier turned away, consulted a few co-workers, then went off to the side where there were a bunch of those ‘nutritional facts’ sheets in a clear plastic folder on the wall. She glanced at it a minute, and then set it on the counter in front of the guy, pointing down one of the columns.

“‘This lists our entire menu, sir,’ she said. ‘Everything has fat, except maybe the water and the Diet Coke. Look, even the light salad dressing has fat.’

“This did not placate the guy, who apparently was convinced he was being taken for a ride. ‘Unbelievable,’ he said, half-raising his hands in the air. He glanced behind him at the line, which was getting fairly long now that he was tying up one of the registers. I don’t know what he was expecting — a mob to rally with him, maybe, demanding mythical fat-free cheeseburgers? Since we didn’t all band behind him, he turned back to the cashier, raising his voice again.

“‘I didn’t ask about your salads. I don’t want to eat a salad, I want to eat a sandwich. A burger — or a chicken sandwich at the very least — that has no fat. I can’t have ANY FAT.’

“Another customer in line, maybe trying to be helpful, said, ‘No fat at all? That sounds pretty strict.’

“The guy did not look happy. His nostrils flared and his face started to turn red. ‘You would want to be strict too if all that fat was going to YOUR heart!’

“At this point, I realized it was cholesterol he was talking about, even though he kept saying fat, but since he was practically steaming out of the ears and I just wanted my hangover burger, I didn’t speak up.

“‘This place,’ the guy said, now addressing the whole crowd of customers waiting to order our own little bundles of fat, cholesterol, and self-loathing on a sesame seed bun, ‘is just getting WORSE. AND. WORSE. It’s unbelievable! They’re trying to kill me! There’s fat in EVERYTHING!’

“‘Well,’ the same helpful customer said, ‘it’s McDonald’s. Maybe you should try somewhere else?’

“‘I guess I will,’ the guy said, and he picked up the nutritional facts sheet. He took it with him and stormed out, yelling the whole way out: ‘I can’t believe this! How hard is it to just get a FAT-FREE BURGER that’s not going to kill me?'” — Caroline McDonough

The Hardee’s angels

“I worked for a couple years in a Hardee’s while in high school. I pretty quickly got to the point of working the busiest times.

“When I came home from college one time, I went to a football game and ran into a buddy that I had worked with, so we decided to go back to the Hardee’s for a drink and to see if anyone we knew was still there. It was all strangers, but we got some drinks and sat down to catch up.

“While we were talking, a couple school buses pulled into the lot. Buses are always crazy and it was 11 or so at night, so the place was not remotely prepared for that kind of mob. We watched them panic for a few minutes as people poured in.

“We’d both been ‘senior’ cooks who were used to working the busiest times, so I looked over at him and said, ‘Let’s give them a hand.’ We went in the back, grabbed hats, and washed up. He took the side line and I took over the grill. We just dove in and started slinging food, but it was immediately clear we knew what we were doing. No one there had a clue who we were or where we came from, but we were saving their butts, so no one even asked. Even the manager, who was helping the front line, just looked at us funny and tried to keep up. Everyone was just scrambling to get food out. As soon as it started to slow down, we both dashed out the door without ever introducing ourselves or giving any explanation whatsoever.

“Somewhere, there are a few people who might recall a strange story about these two mystery cooks who showed up out of nowhere and then vanished into the night.” — Paul Sorensen

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