At the end of the day on Friday, Ray called me up and said he was in the mood for greasy chicken for dinner, and that he wanted to stop at KFC on the way home. Since I don’t eat chicken, he wanted to know which of the various carb-tastic sides I wanted him to bring me. I personally was in the mood for some greasy fish, so he decided to swing by home and take me to the combination KFC/Long John Silver’s down the road from our house. (He’s so romantic, isn’t he?)

When we got to the restaurant (and I use that term loosely, of course), and we were surprised to see the place was packed, with at least eight people waiting for their food. Since there was nobody in the cashier line, however, we decided to order. After about five minutes, a skinny, vacant-eyed teenager sporting a name tag saying “Hello my name is Ibn” (real name or typo? Who knows?) showed up at the cash register, stared at me while I ordered an L1 combo and an eight-piece crispy bucket (all chicken, specified Ray), then slowly poked a few buttons on his screen and absent-mindedly handed the receipt to me, at which point we joined the throngs by the pick-up counter.

After a few minutes, I looked at the receipt to double-check our number and where we were in line, when I noticed that while Ibn the Cashier Wonder had entered Ray’s order in, my L1 combo was nowhere on the ticket. I made my way back to the now abandoned cash register (Ibn was now wandering aimlessly through the kitchen with a pair of tongs in his hand) to correct the mistake, when a woman over at the pick-up counter says loudly, “Excuse me, we’ve been waiting for our food for a half hour. Can you tell me what the hold-up is?”

A half hour? I looked again at the workers in that kitchen, where the mean age was probably 16.5. Ibn was still wandering around with his tongs like a lost child, there was a guy on the chicken detail who didn’t seem to be really paying attention to the orders coming in. There was another guy way at the back pushing a broom around, but he didn’t really seem to be accomplishing the whole cleaning part of the job. There was a girl running the fry station, but when the alarm kept going off, she simply shut it off without taking anything out of the fryer. The girl at the drive-through window looked like she was actually doing her job, as was the manager (who was probably all of 22 years old).

Ibn clearly saw me waiting at the cash register, and he studiously avoided me. I gave up and figured I didn’t want to confuse them any more than they were already confused, and resigned myself to just eating something else when we got home.

After a few minutes, Half Hour Complaining Woman and her son got their food, and the rest of the crowd around the pick-up counter started to get antsy. The kids in the kitchen started moving a little faster, but their movements were still incredibly inefficient, so nothing was still getting done.

While we waited, two guys came in, waited at the cash register for about ten minutes without anyone acknowledging them, and finally left. Another gentleman showed up and put his order in, but he had obviously been there before, because he brought a book to read while he waited.

Ray remarked that he’d never had any problems with this place, but now that it changed from just a KFC to a KFC/Long John Silver’s, they now had two menus to deal with, and that must just be too much for them to handle.

Finally, the manager gave up trying to follow the orders on the screen and just started asking people what they had ordered so that she could fill them. Ibn chose this point to get helpful and asked Ray what he had ordered. “Eight piece,” Ray shouted over the din. Ibn blinked and turned away. I tried to get Ray to go up to the counter and show the manager his ticket, but Ray wouldn’t budge.

Another eternity later, the manager yelled, “Did somebody order a 12 piece crispy?”
Ray raised his hand and said, “Well, eight piece, but yeah.” The manager, clearly frazzled at this point, slapped a top on the bucket and handed the whole thing to him. We got out of there in a hurry.

I took another look at our receipt and realized that we, too, had been there for a half hour. That’s not fast food; that’s slow food.

Ray felt really bad that I never got to have my greasy fish, so he took me to Taco Bell (okay, there’s no greasy fish there, but it’s still junk food, and that’s kind of what we were both craving). We still had to wait a little bit for our food (10 minutes instead of 30 minutes), but the kitchen did seem much more organized. Unfortunately, my food was pretty inedible…I mean, more so than regular fast food…but at least we got it in less time.

When we got home to eat our food, Ray took a look inside the bucket of chicken and realized there were only 7 pieces of chicken in his 8-piece order. We chalked it up to the level of education these kids had been getting. Willingboro Township (where the KFC is) has the worst public schools in the state of NJ…so bad, apparently, that the students can’t even count pieces of chicken, much less function well in a minimum wage job that a monkey could do. Thanks a lot, New Jersey.

Slow Fast Food
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