I tend to be a creature of habit, and nowhere is that more evident than in my lunch routine. I gave up decades ago on trying to pack a lunch to work because the plain truth is that a) I’m lazy, b) that would require me to cook and/or grocery shop, and c) dammit, I just like going out for lunch and yes I know how much money I’m wasting.
But because I don’t want to have to think about where to go each day, I tend to frequent the same three to four restaurants each week. One in particular is right across from my office, so I eat there at least once, maybe twice a week.
Today, after grabbing a table and heading over to fill up my soda, I noticed the manager walking toward me in a deliberate fashion. I quickly shifted my cup from Coke to Diet Coke because I didn’t need him up in my business.
“I wanted to come talk to you because…”
And this is where about twenty things ran through my head at once.
- Because I saw you mixing Coke and Diet Coke and we don’t allow that here…
– Because someone just ran off with your purse and I thought you should know…
– Because I’ve been trying to build up the courage to ask you out…
But what he said was, “…because we’re kicking off a promotion to name some of our menu items after customers who come here often. And I know you’re somewhat of a regular here, so I wanted to see if you would be interested in participating. My name is Bill, by the way.”
Strained smile, eyes looking around, I said, “Jenny.”
“So for example, on the menu, we might have an item called ‘The Jenny’ and that would be whatever your favorite meal is here. It’s a way to recognize some of our best customers.”
Even tighter smile, eyes darting from side to side, I said, “Uh… so you want to put my name on your menu…”
“Just your first name.”
Mouth pulled back, baring teeth, eyebrows raised, eyes squinting, I said, “Uh… can I get back to you on that?”
“Oh sure, but I need to submit all the candidates by Monday. I’m here every day, and I know you’ll probably be in again, so just let me know! Thanks!”
Shoulders slightly releasing, teeth unclenching, I said, “Yeah, uh, thanks for considering me…”
When I went back to the office and told my co-workers what had just happened, they were all shocked and disappointed that I didn’t jump at the opportunity. This was my one chance at fame, they said. Now I’ll be telling people years from now about how I almost had a cool sandwich named after me.
But that’s just it. I don’t get a cool sandwich at this place. I don’t mix it up and create something no one ever thought of eating. Every week I get the exact same thing: chicken, rice and salad. And that’s exactly the way it’s listed on the menu – chicken, rice and salad. I don’t customize it, no additions or substitutions. No extra this or light on that.
I tried to explain this to my co-workers, but they didn’t get it. They couldn’t possibly get it because they don’t have the keen gift of foresight that I was born with. Because the idea of being in line behind some stranger next week when he orders “The Jenny” is absolutely horrifying to me. I can see it all playing out:
So what comes with The Jenny?
It’s chicken, rice and salad.
Chicken, rice and salad? So what’s the difference between that and the chicken platter?
Then why is it called The Jenny?
Dunno. Some dumb marketing scheme, I guess.
Wow. The Jenny sucks.
And then it would just escalate from there.
Don’t get The Jenny, it’s the worst.
The Jenny gave me food poisoning. Now every time someone mentions The Jenny, I vomit.
I hate The Jenny.
The Jenny totally isn’t worth the money.
That’s all they give you with The Jenny?
I tried The Jenny once. Never again.
What’s so great about The Jenny? They should just call it The Loser.
It did cross my mind to agree to be a part of the promotion, but to invent a whole new persona. Remarkably, for as often as I go there, they never remember what I order, so I could create some fabulous menu item that people would be proud to order. How do they know? Maybe Jenny is a vegetarian and substitutes eggplant for chicken in her sandwich. Who doesn’t love baba ghanoush? Or maybe Jenny is really exotic and eats lamb skewers with falafel and extra spicy sauce.
But then, what if I did such a good job at creating the ultimate lunch item that they chose it to be featured on the menu, and when I went back there, they kept trying to make me eat the fake The Jenny when all I really wanted was the old The Jenny?
“Hey, Jenny! So I guess it’ll be The Jenny for you today?”
“Mmmm… no, this time I think I’ll try the chicken, rice and salad.”
“Oh, so you mean you want The Kevin?”