Mother Teresa and Albert Schweitzer may have been great humanitarians, but as good guys go, they have nothing on my friend Rick, who has two charitable missions in life: training service dogs for disabled veterans and saving mankind from soggy French fries.
In a world of fast food drive-throughs, the middling masses allow limp spuds to pass as edible fare, but Rick recognizes the demise of Western civilization when he tastes it. Soggy fries mark his line in the sand.
“I refuse to be a human garbage disposal for anyone,” Rick says, vowing to fight the “Vast Fresh Fry Conspiracy” with his last breath—which he may take at a drive-through, where someone is most likely to kill him.
Potatoes have long played a pivotal role in culinary history, even before they started swimming in boiling oil. Back in 749 B.C., or so, the Incas were already cultivating future fries and mutilating close friends when the potato gods got grumpy. There’s nothing like a fresh fried volcano virgin to cheer up a cranky supreme being.
Now, every time Rick ventures into a drive-through, he summons those deities for a miracle: Un-heat lamped, extra crispy, fresh-from-the-fryer fries.
“Welcome. May I take your order?” the squawky voice in the box inquires.
“I want a cheeseburger and large fries. But …” Rick says, waving his finger at the speaker, “The fries must be fresh. They must exit the bubbling oil and come directly to my lips. If they are not pristine, I will know. I am a fry man.”
Rick’s finger is still wagging at the box, but the voice doesn’t see it.
“OK, so you want fries with that. Pull up to the first window,” the box says.
As the cashier takes his cash, Rick smiles brightly and continues his plea, lest a soggy fry inflict itself on his palate. “Please give me the freshest, hottest, crispiest fries you have. I can spot a dud spud a mile away. I’ll gladly snorkel into that fryer and fetch them myself if you’d like.”
The girl at the window with the freeze-dried smile had at least 10 minutes of training on appeasing peculiar customers but can’t recall corporate policy on snorkeling.
“I’ll tell them,” she says, without moving her lips.
By the time we pull up to the delivery window, a dozen cars have lined up behind us. Rick’s next victim hands him his burger, accompanied by a bag of mushy fries, doomed to flunk inspection.
He shifts the car into park and returns the bag to the clueless employee who has not been privy to one syllable of the fry speech.
“Excuse me, Miss. These fries are soggy. Please give me some right out of the cooker,” Rick says, cutting off the engine. “I’ll wait right here.”
No amount of pleading can budge him away from that window. Horns honk while famished, fist-waving families rush toward our car. They don’t seem to realize he’s fighting for their rights. Leaving without fresh fries would only bring the world closer to doom.
“Maybe you should have offered something to the potato gods,” I quip to Rick, who is eyeballing me strangely when he pops an intensely personal question.
“Look, there’s only so much I’ll do for charity. Besides, we’re nowhere near a volcano and I have two kids,” I huff. “Sacrifice something else.”
Next time, we’ll stop for pizza. Let’s hope the crust is hot and crispy.
Jan Igoe lives in Horry County, where she collects humanitarians and fast foodies. Share your pet peeves with her atHumorMe@SCLiving.coop.