The most amazing part of my trip to Jack in the Box is that I didn’t walk into the restaurant intending to order a steak teriyaki bowl.
After digging around beneath the seats of my car and rummaging through my pockets — like any good quarterback would — I was determined to order a sirloin swiss and grilled onion burger. I thought this was a provocative choice, and I was immensely pleased with my selection. It was an unexpected choice, given my unusual gastrointestinal history. (I won’t tell you precisely what ails me, because I don’t want to spoil the surprise when I write about my upcoming evening at the Olive Garden.)
But when I got inside, I realized that I really wanted a teriyaki bowl. I assumed (correctly, it turns out) that lots of other people had been drawn to the steamed bed of rice, layered with carrots and broccoli, with sauce and freshly grilled meat. These were, I admit, my favorite items on the Jack in the Box menu, and in all honesty I never seriously believed there would be any left for me. It was late in the evening, and I’d been disappointed before. Any good quarterback knows what I’m talking about.
Last time I had The Jack, for example, I was tenth in line to order, and by the time my number came up the really fantastic dishes were gone — the teriyaki bowls, the sourdough steak melts, and the chipotle chicken ciabattas, all of it. So I threw everyone a curve and ordered a kids’ meal — a grilled cheese, actually — and then immediately called Wolf Blitzer. We talked about it for nearly an hour, and he explained to me that I shouldn’t have given up so soon. When he was in my shoes, he explained, he would often push back — in the fashion of a good quarterback — and repeat his initial order, even though he’d just been told there were no fish sandwiches or sirloin cheeseburgers to be had.
So when it was my turn, I remembered Wolf’s advice and called an audible, like any good quarterback would. Instead of ordering the sirloin swiss, I asked for the teriyaki bowl. The kid behind the counter brushed me off quickly, but I pounced with a sharp follow up.
“Give me the fucking teriyaki bowl,” I barked. I could tell from the kid’s body language that he was perturbed. He looked up from the register, gritted his teeth, and explained that they’d run out an hour before and wouldn’t have any more available until the next day. Then he stabbed me in the face several times with a bread knife.
Anderson Cooper wandered in a few minutes later as I was nursing my wounds. He asked me if I needed a ride to the hospital, but I told him I’d be fine and that really, I had no regrets. I’d taken the sort of chance that a Payton Manning or Tony Romo would have, and I found out what was really on the Jack in the Box menu that night. Turns out they didn’t have the teriyaki bowls after all.
What was really comical was the flood of reactions from other people in the restaurant. Some people told me I’d had it coming, while others thanked me for asking the tough questions. The the face-stabbing was really a great Rorschach — everyone saw what they wanted to see.
What do you think? I have no hard feelings toward the cashier, and I assume he feels the same, but I can’t worry about that. I was doing my job, and he was doing his.