Aaron R. Davis
It had been a long, grueling day at work. Salting the acid mines, as Al always liked to put it on particularly trying days. After all of the stress, after the long commute, after another day closer to the grave, breaking his back, Al only wanted to sit down, watch television with his beloved wife and just feel his ass grow.
Viv, however, had other plans. She wanted dinner.
“Let’s just order a pizza,” Al suggested. “This would be a perfect night to just order pizza and watch TV. We haven’t done that in a long time. I’ll just call a place and we can stay home.”
Viv remembered something she had seen on television earlier that day during a break in daily routine. She worked out of the house, spending most of her day in her cramped home office, mentally fatigued by needy clients, and equally relished her time spent not working, alone with her husband. She wasn’t eager to cook tonight, either.
“Let’s get a Little Caesar’s Hot ‘N’ Ready Pizza,” she said. “You just go and pick it up and it’s already ready.”
“Viv, that sounds like a lot of hassle. I just got home; I don’t want to go back out. I want to change my pants and sit back.”
“It won’t take that long. We’ll just shoot up to Little Caesar’s and grab a pizza. Come on, Al.”
Al sighed deeply. “Okay, if that’s what you want, we’ll do that. It does sound convenient …”
The nearest Little Caesar’s was in a strip mall on the main thoroughfare, about 25 minutes away. Friday evening traffic weighed heavily on Al, but he tried not to let it show. He got so little time to spend at home, and he knew Saturday would bring a mental list of things he did not want to let slide — you had to take care of the lawn, take care of the house, take care of the car …
He reflected, not for the first time, that life was a constant series of tasks meant to stave off destitution, but there seemed to never be enough time to simply enjoy his home, enjoy being with his wife, enjoy a damn weekend. For over forty hours a week, every effort was put towards work so that he could afford the home he never had any free time to spend in. On the weekend, it was making improvements to increase the value and longevity of that same home. Only a few stray hours every week were his, and he did not cherish spending them frustrated by traffic.
It took longer than 25 minutes to get there.
When Al stepped inside, he was immediately annoyed at the line of people in front of him. He reasoned with himself that Friday night was pizza night for a lot of people and distracted himself from his growing anger by staring at the gigantic wall decal of pizza that’s always in every Little Caesar’s. Several minutes later, he was at the front of the line.
“I’d like one of your pepperoni Hot ‘N’ Ready Pizzas.”
The disconcertingly dirty kid manning the register ran his hair through his scraggly, clearly-unwashed hair and smiled sheepishly. Al was irrationally annoyed by the sheer number of the kid’s cloth bracelets. “Sorry, sir, but we’ve just sold the last one. We have more coming out in just a few moments. Why don’t I just ring you up and you can have a seat?”
“You want me to pay for something you don’t even have?” Al asked incredulously. “I thought the pizza was supposed to be ready. Hot and ready. Isn’t that why it’s called Hot ‘N’ Ready?”
“I’m sorry,” the register kid said again. “It’s been heavy volume tonight, lots of people want pepperoni. If you pay now, it just keeps the line moving. First pepperoni that comes out is yours; you can just walk up and take it. I’m really sorry for the inconvenience, sir.”
Al grumbled, but he took out some cash. The kid seemed confused by it, but said nothing. Al couldn’t help rolling his eyes, and was offended that he actually felt something akin to embarrassment at paying for a cheap pizza with cash, rather than going through a plastic transaction, which seemed to be the norm these days.
Al sighed deeply as he sat in a chair and watched the pizzas on the conveyer oven. He felt sure that this system was more convenient for the franchise owners — Hot ‘N’ Ready gave them a great reason for these kids to always be working and never just standing around — than for the customers. He had ample time to think on this as he waited.
Finally, the pizza came out. Al took it without saying thanks, watching the minutes of his evening tick by into night. By the time he got home, the pizza was cold, but he was so hungry that he dealt with it and just ate. In the world of cheap, fast food pizzas, Little Caesar’s was squarely in the middle. In the world of cheap, fast food pizzas, “squarely in the middle” was the best quality you could hope for.
“Did that seem more convenient?” Viv asked as they were eating.
“Well, my dear,” he reflected, “compared to spending a few minutes on the phone and waiting for the pizza to arrive … no. It would have been much easier for me to make a phone call and then put no further effort into it. I could have just sat here watching Shark Tank and waited for my dinner to arrive with no effort. Are Little Caesar’s really advertising this as the convenient alternative to a phone call? They do know you can order online even at local places, right? And that local places would have fresher ingredients and make their own dough?”
Viv shrugged. “I guess Little Caesar’s feels like they’re getting left behind in a world where smart phone users can get that Domino’s app where you can order by voice.”
Al rolled his eyes. He chuckled softly and sighed, letting the whole night dissipate into something humorous rather than something irritating. “Remember when Crazy Bread used to taste really good?” he asked idly.
Viv smiled. “That was a long time ago.”
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org