You need to hear about this Carl’s Jr.
For the love of all that is holy, please don’t go to this Carl’s Jr.
I don’t eat fast food a lot. I used to enjoy it often. Hell, I used to work at a fast food place (Burger King, thank you very much). It’s not that I don’t like fast food, of course I do. It’s just that I always feel sluggish and hideous after a meal. Something about the combination of soda, french fries and grilled cow weighs down my stomach and my soul.
I’ve been working in downtown Portland lately. A beautiful part of town, I’ve rather enjoyed my time stationed there. However, lunch can be tricky. You see, unlike some (smart people and my girlfriend) I don’t pack a lunch. Nope, I let the fates decide what I’ll consume when my hour break rolls around. Usually I just grab a bagel and a newspaper but sometimes I itch for something greasy and over-priced. Sometimes I yearn for fast food.
There’s a Carl’s Jr. located across from the mall I’m at. My co-worker told me about it. Well, not so much told me but warned me. “It’s…it’s something,” he said, rolling his eyes. He didn’t seem like a huge fan but I was really in the mood for french fries so I ventured over.
Sweet merciful Christ, you guys. I mean, seriously. I only have words so I can’t justly represent what I saw. In short, it reminded me of some dirty Paul Verhoeven vision. I must say the food was fine and clean but the store itself…my god the store.
I was greeted by a mob of overweight, peculiarly hairy individuals who were pushing to the counter. To my left were a group of tables, all occupied by a variety of terrifying individuals. One guy was talking to himself, an old woman was putting on pasty, blood-red lipstick. A group of shaky meth heads convened at another table, their few teeth crunching on chunks of ice.
To my right, an elderly woman was shaking an empty cup, persumably for change. I might not be remembering this clearly but I’m pretty sure she looked exactly like this:
I approached the counter. The woman who served me seemed polite enough.
“Can I help you?”
“Yeah…um…can I have a, a small french — “
Behind me, someone tried the bathroom door, which was understandably locked. “Motherfucker!” he said.
“It’s jammed from the inside,” my served bellowed. “Someone’s coming out to fix it.” Then, back to me: “I’m sorry, hon, what did you want?”
“Small, small fry.”
The minute and half waiting for my parcel of food was, in a word, intense. I’ve never been to war but I assume the soldiers waiting to parachute into enemy territory feel a similar type of fear. I stood with my back against the wall and watched others pass me by.
“Yo man, you got a quarter?” said a bearded gentleman wet from head to toe. Keep in mind that it wasn’t raining outside.
“No, sorry,” I said as I gripped my iPhone and felt like an entitled prick.
Please hurry up, please hurry up, please hurry up, I thought. Were the fries even good enough to endure more time in this scene from TRAINING DAY? Were they worth my life and mental well-being?
The bickering between couples got louder, the man talking to himself became more irate, more people tried the busted bathroom door. All the while bug-eyed, jittery patrons with heads like Charlie Brown characters stared at me and wondered where I got that watch.
Finally, my number was called. I grabbed my sack of fries, made for the door then stopped to look back. I knew I’d remember this day, like a rookie cop remembers his first arrest or a doctor remembres his first OD victim.
Walking out into the fresh air, I decided I should stick with bagels.
Was it worth it? Here’s what I’ve learned about fast food: it’s never worth it.