Saturday, August 30, 2003

A CHEESEBURGER, AT McDONALD's? What was I thinking?

McDonald's doesn't have cheeseburgers, I was told early this morning when I took a detour on the way home from work to the 24-hour outlet in the Crystal City section of Arlington County, Virginia. Um, OK, which part are you out of?" I said to the speaker in the drive-through lane. Answering such a puzzler was beyond the English-language capabilities of that employee, so he brought in a manager, who pointed me to the "late-night value menu" or whatever the hell it was that I should have seen in the first place.

I used to take pride in my familiarity with the fast-food chains' identities. Twenty-some years ago I scoffed at Steve Martin for talking about getting a "malt" at McDonald's ("A shake," I yelled at the phonograph). I scoff at the idiots in line in front of me. (Onion rings? That's Burger King, as Eminem correctly points out.

But I'm losing my touch, obviously. First there was the hamburger incident, where I made the mistake of asking for that obscure menu item at one of those limited-menu airport outlets in Minneapolis or Pittsburgh or wherever, and now this. You'd think "hamburger" or "cheeseburger" would have a certain resonance at McDonald's. But I had to settle for a No. 6 -- the Big N' Tasty combo. It was fine. Mainly I wanted the fries.

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