Chris Johnson

My latest restaurant issues aren’t super-sized

Like many other columnists, I'm sure I've written before about the highs (fat and cholesterol) and lows of eating out, particularly at fast-food restaurants. And like many other columnists, I'm getting old and forgetful and not really sure what I've said.

So, I'm not going to delve into the common issues at fast-food joints, such as the unhealthy choices, the limited sides, the often rude person at the counter and the unintelligible drive-thru questions such as "Woodulikefrieswiddat?" I'm not going there because I may have already been there years ago, and having been plagiarized before, I'd hate to be plagiarized again, especially by myself, who might get sued by me for stealing my brilliant work.

I can't afford to sue me, so I'd better break my latest restaurant issues down to the level of thinks that are more irksome than overwhelming.

My latest issues came up at a sandwich shop. That narrows it down, huh? In a town where every other restaurant is a sandwich shop, perhaps not. Especially in a town where every time a new sandwich chain comes to town, everyone wets their pants like it's something besides meat, cheese, mustard and veggies between two slices of bread. No matter who makes it, it's JUST a sandwich.

Of course, my wife is one of those people who gets all jiggy with it over sandwich shops, and every now and then I have to give in and go to a sandwich place in hopes that someday she'll again go with me to Troy's Snack Shack for four double-chili-cheeseburgers without rolling her eyes as if it's unhealthy or something. So I pretended to be OK with stomaching another sandwich.

She got her food before me and left me to pay. The man at the cash register, who I think was the manager (the man, not the cash register -- though the cash register probably had more sense, or cents), then snatched my money out of my hand. If I'd been alone, I'd have asked to see my bill again for a second and then walked out. But, then again, if I had been alone, I wouldn't have been at a sandwich shop.

The next three irksome things, though, aren't unique to sandwich shops. They're prevalent at most fast-food places these day.

First, there are no more salt and pepper shakers on the table. It's bad enough they took my ketchup bottle away years ago, but now I have to tear open these tiny pieces of paper to get salt and pepper. I'm guessing that salt is really, really cheap because somehow they do manage to pack about 12 pounds of salt into one of these packets. However, each packet of black pepper contains about three flakes, which means I have to tear through packets for a day and a half to get what I'd normally put on my food with two shakes of a pepper shaker.

Then, when I go to throw away my tray, which has 13,542 torn-apart black pepper packets, the hole at the top of the trash can has gotten smaller once again. The holes atop the trash cans in many chains these days are already smaller than most of the plates and packages they give you, but this one was about as big as the opening of a thimble. I just throw my stuff on the top and let it lie across this too-small opening, but my wife thinks that's rude and forces it down. I refuse to touch the trash because I think if you want the trash to actually fall into the can, then you ought to have an opening big enough for it. Pretty soon, there won't even be a hole at the top. You'll just stack your trash on a board atop the can.

Lastly, there's the trick door. There are often two doors at these places, and for some reason, they always leave one locked. I'm not sure exactly how they know, but the one they leave locked is always the one I choose. Then I run all into it like a bird who thought a window was open and get my beak all smashed up. Is it that hard to open BOTH doors? Or could they at least put a sign up that reads, "Not really a door. Just looks like it."

And if there's any place where I don't need to spend extra time because of a trick door, it's a sandwich shop. Meat, bread, mustard I get it.

Chris Johnson is an independent correspondent. He can be reached at