The Fast-Food Water Cup

Generally speaking, I do not consider asking for a glass of water to be an outlandish request.

For starters, it’s not like water is scarce. It is actually the most abundant resource on the planet. And it’s not like drinking water is abnormal, since consuming several glasses a day is necessary for human survival.

However, the fast-food industry feels differently. And they have collectively decided that ordering water in one of their establishments will include being publicly maligned, stigmatized and hassled whenever possible. Consequently, while I myself usually do not order water at fast food places, I do enjoy watching other people order water.

Let’s be honest here, nobody orders water on the basis of taste. In fact, even though water has no taste whatsoever, it still somehow manages to taste horrible when mixed with fast food. I don’t know why, but it does. Everyone knows this. So as I see it, people choosing to order water at a Burger King generally have one of these afflictions:

1. Overt Cheapness.
2. Misplaced Health Consciousness.

Now, I can understand why the fast-food industry doesn’t want to cater to either of these demographics. As for the first group, it takes a flamboyantly cheap individual to prolong the wait in line for everyone else by deviating from the Value Meal menu and individually ordering all the components of the Value Meal, except for the soda, just to save forty cents.

Naturally, the cashiers are prepared for this trick and always have a head shake or eye roll ready. This seems to be the universal reaction to ordering water at a fast food place. I firmly believe that this is actually part of the employee training.

As for the second group, there are actually people that believe that they are making a healthy decision by opting for water over a soft drink. Yes, I will admit, water is healthier than Coke. Hell, drinking paint thinner is healthier than Coke. My point is that a patron abandons any pretense of a healthy lifestyle the instant they walked through the door of a McDonald’s or Burger King. Ordering water or asking for an extra piece of lettuce on a triple Whopper won’t change that.

They’re not fooling anyone. Simply put, ordering water with a fast food meal does not make you health-conscious. It makes you health-oblivious. It’s like smoking a pack of cigarettes outside, so that you can get some fresh air while you inhale cancer.

Having to begrudgingly serve water to these types of customers ultimately inspired the fast-food industry to innovate. Since they were unable to taint or poison the water itself, they focused their efforts on the cup it was served in. They wanted to somehow make a cup that was small, inconvenient, and even subtly insulting to their customers. Soon, they invented a product borne of their collective hatred of water drinkers: the fast-food water cup.

The first step in the process involved training the cashiers. Whenever water is ordered, the cashier should slowly hand the water cup over, smirk at you in condescension, and fold his arms. This is done to draw unwanted attention to the patron in front of the other customers. Honestly, I think certain cashiers live for this moment. Let’s face it, being an employee at a fast food restaurant is generally unfulfilling, until a water order provides an opportunity of comeuppance. Since they generally don’t have real employee benefits, like health care, this is the only perk they get.

Here is a typical example of the sarcastic customer service a water drinker will receive:

Cashier: “Ok, here is your change sir. And here is your FREE water cup. Would you also like some ketchup packets or a coffee stirrer? Those items are also FREE!

As I mentioned earlier, this is actually part of the employee training, as it seems to pervade every restaurant I’ve ever been in. It’s a tossup whether the cashier has been instructed on how to make change or operate the register, but they unfailingly have been taught how to persecute water drinkers.

Second, as further proof that fast-food places hate serving water just look at the cup they give you. In most cases, you can see the cup dispenser by the register: small, medium, large and extra large cups are waiting. This is just a tease. When water is ordered, notice that they don’t just hand you the cup used for a small soft drink. They actually go to the trouble to stock a special water cup. And as you might expect, it’s smaller than their small cup for soft drinks. It’s even smaller than their child-sized cups.

This provides a second opportunity to humiliate the consumer. Forcing a grown man to be seen with a tiny water cup is pretty emasculating. Seriously, try picking up a woman while holding a ridiculously small cup of water. I guarantee you won’t get far.

On top of that, none of the lids will fit the water cup. So not only must the consumer hassle around getting refills after every third sip, they must also do so with the risk of crotch spills from the lack of lid. And during these trips to the crowded beverage station every two minutes, there will be plenty of awkward encounters with other patrons trying to get refills for the soft drinks they actually paid money for. Ideally, a few frustrated sighs from the people behind the water drinker should help reiterate the fact that they are a second-class citizen at Burger King.

Also, it should be noted that the fast-food water cup is always completely generic and made from plain Styrofoam. They don’t even bother to print their logo on it like their other cups. It’s like the fast food companies don’t want to be associated, in any way, with water. Apparently, water is bad for their image. And the last thing they want is for their brand to be tied to the deadbeats and health-obnoxious people that order it.

Finally, if you do want water with your meal, they won’t even go to the trouble of charging you for it. Sure, even though it’s water, there are costs involved. The cup, for instance. Actually, that’s pretty much it. They could charge you for the cup. But they don’t. And they do it to insure themslelves the right to publicly humiliate the consumers that try to get free water from them.

Keep this in mind next time you dine on fast-food. I don’t know, it seems like you’d be better off just paying the 40 cents.

Johnny Paparazzi’s New Celebrity Sighting Philosophy

In a packed room, leaning against the wall, standing next to David Letterman, dressed head to toe in New York City black, hands in pocket, lip-curled, doo-whip in full effect, the new Johnny Paparazzi doesn’t even flinch. In fact, he plays it like he doesn’t even recognize Letterman. And instead he tries to look as chill as possible so that when all the looky-loos start rubbernecking for a glance of the late night king of comedy, they see him too. Letterman appreciates this more than Johnny Paparazzi knows. He shows it by ignoring him right back. Imitation is the best form of flattery DL. Thanks for the reciprocity.

And when the new Johnny Paparazzi was out on a date and had to take the bull by the horns to make sure he and his date got to their seats at the theater before the show started and the crowd of fur-wearing painted blue hairs and puttering old tuxedos were shuffling in place like clueless zombies in the lobby, he reached back and grabbed her hand and just did it. Was it coincidence, then, when he approached this short, batty-looking, dyed-hair man moving at less than glacial speed and said “Excuse me, sir” as he bumped him and rushed past and the old man responded with such humility, honesty and kindness (“Why, of course, let me get out of the way.”) that he had to turn and look back? The old Johnny Paparazzi would have stopped to take a photo when it turned out he had just bowled over the Jerry Stiller of Seinfeld fame! The new one had to suck it up real quick and quash his excitement and keep moving, only to turn back to his date and say, “Did you see who that was? Jerry Stiller.” And he never brought it up again. (OK, that is a lie, but this was Jerry Stiller and he ended up sitting near us too. You still get the point.)

But the new Johnny Paparazzi wasn’t born overnight. He was born of indifference, really. He evolved through a disconcerting string of non-cool, b-list celebrity sightings.

The old Johnny Paparazzi tried to get jacked up when he stumbled upon an intimate outdoor performance by Josh Groban, but he couldn’t even muster up a cell-phone pic worth saving. (It meant deleting a pinball high score picture.) Lesson learned: When you are surrounded by a swarm of swooning, suburban soccer moms, celebrity, in and of itself, is not that cool.

Same goes for when Julia Stiles was walking down the opposite side of the street from him. As much as JP loves Miss Stiles, she looked absolutely like hundreds of the beautiful women he sees every day, so why get worked up, he thought. She just happens to have a job that puts her face in front of millions. It’s not as far-fetched as it once seemed. Lesson learned: If I ever run into Hilary Swank at a bar, the new Johnny Paparazzi will pull out all the stops. She is just a woman. And I am a man.

Jerome Bettis. Jerry Lee Lewis. Ana Gasteyer. Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas. You get the picture.

The line of celebrity is getting thinner and thinner. With reality TV and the internet creating a whole new string of amateur celebrities as well, Johnny Paparazzi is evolving and operating under a new philosophy. Or an old philosophy if you are familiar with the movie “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”

Be excellent to each other.

Or at least don’t be a jerk and get in someone’s face to take a photo.

My Online Dating Profile: Second Draft

About Me:

Pour me a glass of gin
I’m already two whiskeys in
When the lights go dim
I’ll tell you the secret
I’ve kept since I was ten

I have a perpetual cough
That means a cough that just won’t stop
No cure at the shop
And to top it all off
I guarantee I won’t call the doc

As curable as this may seem
The last thing on my mind is me
But here is the twist
That you shouldn’t dismiss
None of this means a damn thing

For you, I’ll bring to the table
The absolute best health care available
And insist on its use
No matter the excuse
Even when the symptoms are questionable

And I’ll stay up with you all night
If you begin to cry from the fright
That out of sight
An invisible brain tumor
Is growing left and right

I’ll remind you to get that “thing” looked at
And follow up when you get back
So let’s make a pact
I’ll be yours
If you’ll be my emergency contact