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2007 06 19
A Removable Feast
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Read about it in yesterday’s Globe. Wendy’s is on the chopping block. Everyone says it isn’t my fault. But it is.

All started that first time I ran into Wendy’s. Many years ago. What used to be North York. Soon as I saw the salad bar, the “All You Can Eat!” signs and the cheap, cheap price. Don’t recall how much, exactly. Many years ago. Just totally cheap.

“Well,” I said to myself, “I can eat a lot.”
“Yeah,” I replied. “Like when I haven’t eaten for a couple days.”

That’s how it started. Between Wendy’s totally cheap all you can eat salad bar and me. Eating a lot. Eating all I could. Like the signs said. And I never pulled my chair right up to the salad bar. That’s a lie. Why be rude?

Pretty soon, though, time came Wendy’s all you can eat salad bar wasn’t so cheap any more. Maybe not my fault. Could be there were some others taking advantage of Wendy’s. Fasting all day then feasting at Wendy’s. Like I was. Maybe that part wasn’t all my fault.

Maybe not. But the next part sure was. Entirely my fault.

About when the all you can eat deal got too costly, Wendy’s introduced the side-salad. Teeny little plastic dish. Only one single trip to the salad bar. Even cheaper than the all you can eat deal had originally been it still wasn’t worth it. Unless one handled it like I did.

Innocent at first. Hungry and heartbroken, having myself a side-salad for old times’ sake. With my tray, tiny little plastic dish on it, by the salad bar. Trying to decide between all that delicious nourishment – which few morsels to choose. Bit of this. Some of that. Several of that. Croutons like small boulders. Flood with blue-cheese dressing. The perfect bacon-bit storm.

Anyway. When I finally looked down at my dish it wasn’t there. Not visible, anyhow. Need digging deep and far in the salad mound on my tray even to glimpse it. Best get to it.

Wasn’t quick nor easy. No hope clearing my dish. Best I could do was work part-way through the mound on my tray. This wasn’t all I could eat no more. It was way more than anyone could eat. And so, eventually, moving slow, I made my way back to the counter. Not to the salad-bar for another dishfill. Neither permitted nor possible – eating aught else.

Made my way to the counter and got a lid for that little plastic dish they’d given me. Then, using dish and lid like a suitcase, I managed packing the remains of my side-salad. Exactly like a suitcase. Had to put my weight on that lid.

Hadn’t managed clearing my side-salad dish. So what, though? I’d cleared my tray pretty good. And there always was tomorrow. I’d clear that dish tomorrow. Like the cheap little suitcase it was.

Went on like that a while. Taking advantage of Wendy’s more than anyone could eat side-salad deal. Never realizing how I was compromising Wendy’s. What were they to do? Raise the price on their single trip side-salad over their all you can eat? Couldn’t. Gave up, eventually. No other economic choice. Did away with their salad bar entirely.

No problem. Not for me. Went to a different Wendy’s. Until that one, too, did away with their salad bar. And I went on. To the next Wendy’s. And the next. Went on like that until there were no more salad bars to be found at any Toronto Wendy’s. Until there were hardly any more Wendy’s restaurants to be found in Toronto at all. Which is when I started feeling bad. Guilty.

What was Wendy’s with no salad bar? Damaged, that’s what. Crippled, even. Everyone said it wasn’t my fault. Said I was crazy just thinking so. Like, who did I think I was – Don Quixote or something? Single-handedly routing Wendy’s, all on my lonesome?

Maybe – just conceivably – they were right. Had it been only me, all by my lonesome. But it hadn’t. Not in the final chapter hour eleven.

Not that one particular mid-winter day, years later. I was bicycle couriering downtown, getting paid next to nothing. Frostbite setting in, meaning to stay. And there was this Wendy’s right there, not far south of Yonge and Bloor. Perhaps the last Wendy’s in town. Only went in to warm up some. Didn’t expect it would have a salad bar. Been years since any Toronto Wendy’s had salad bars. But this one did. Best I’d seen. Better’n the old days. This salad bar was appointed.

Only went in to warm up some. But once I saw that righteous salad bar, hunger pangs instantly replaced my frostbite. Still. I did not descend on it like locusts. Held myself back. Held back almost a full second. And then leapt forth, releasing myself like a shot. What could it hurt? Just once more – for old time’s sake.

So there I was. Side-salad dish buried lush and deep, lusting and locusting at my tray. When someone tapped my shoulder. Interrupting my feeding in mid-frenzy. And as I turned in hot red fury, he asked, “What's that you're eating?”

“My dinner,” I growled. Probably glaring as any animal defending its kill.

“No, no,” he said. Stumbling back, raising his arms defensively over his throat. “No, I mean, what is that on the menu?”

“Oh.” Chew. Swallow. “The side salad.”

“No, it isn’t.”

“Sure it is. If you properly use the tray for the excess. And when you can’t eat no more, ask 'em at the counter for a lid to your dish. Pack it all up and eat another day.”

“Man,” he said, “you’re a genius.”

“No,” I replied. “What I am is hungry. Leave me eat.”

Final chapter. Hour eleven. There were three homeless having my kind of side salad by when I left that day. One week later it was everyone doing it. Couldn’t have joined in had I wanted to. No clouds of locusts could more thoroughly have swarmed to defoliate that salad bar. Couple months later, that Wendy’s was no more.

Everyone says it wasn’t my fault. But they’re wrong. And I’ll never forgive myself for what I did to Wendy’s.

[Closed Wendy's restaurant image by Artanis Knarf and used via Creative Commons.]
[email this story] Posted by Peter Fruchter on 06/19 at 03:47 PM

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