I’d heard of such horror stories and assumed they were mostly fictional or concocted as the bases for lawsuits, and then I was actually served a bowl of soup that had a finger in it.
I’m not going to name the well-known chain restaurant where I was dining, but I am going to tell you how its staff reacted when I complained. I mean, once I’d determined that there really was a fucking finger in my bowl of soup, and once I’d fished it out with a fork and a spoon, and splattered it on the table so that Joseph, my dining companion, could see it, and once the people at the surrounding tables were staring and remarking rather loudly, and in one case I think beginning to vomit, well, it wasn’t hard to get the waiter’s attention.
He came rushing over when I waived. “There’s a finger in my soup,” I said.
“There’s one on your table, too,” he pointed out.
“That’s the one,” I said.
“And it’s not your finger?”
“No, it’s not my fucking finger. Let me talk to your manager.”
He smiled. He actually smiled and pointed to a little tag on his uniform that read “Manager.”
Joseph spoke up: “How did the finger get in his soup?”
“The cooks must have put it there,” said the manager.
“And are you going to do anything about it?” I yelled.
“Well,” he replied, calmly, but a bit as if I were the one who’d done something wrong, “if the cooks put it there, they had a reason. I support the cooks, don’t you?”
“Support the cooks?” I gasped. “I’ll tell you what I will do is I’ll take down your name and each of their names, and the names of each of the witnesses in this room, and you’ll be hearing from me.”
From the waiter’s reaction to that statement, I at first imagined I was beginning to get through to him. He looked shocked. But he turned from side to side and addressed the whole room. “He’s against the cooks!” he said with great outrage. “He doesn’t support the cooks!”
And I swear to god the people in this place seemed to be with him. The rather menacing reaction of several people led Joseph to grab my arm and pull me out of my seat and toward the door.
Thirty seconds later we were sitting in Joseph’s cheap used car, which he was trying in vain to start, turning the key, pumping the gas, and cursing.
“Where did you get this piece of junk?” I asked.
“I bought it,” he said, as he punched the dashboard and tried again. “I bought it yesterday at Victory Vehicles.”
“I wonder who’s declaring victory,” I remarked.
“What’s that supposed to mean? Ugh! Damn this thing!”
“Did you give them more than $10?” I asked.
Joseph gave me a look eerily similar to the look the waiter had just given me in the restaurant. “Are you doubting the salesmen?” he asked.
“Doubting them?” I said. “I’m not fucking doubting them. I’m doubting you. They ripped you off, and . . . “
“Don’t you SUPPORT the salesmen?” Joseph screamed at me. He seemed possessed.
I opened my door and got out of the car. It wasn’t going anywhere anyway. People were inching their way cautiously out of the restaurant, but they weren’t looking at me. They were looking past me.
I turned and saw the flashing lights of countless police cars, plus all kinds of vans, trucks, ambulances, and other emergency vehicles. They appeared to be surrounding the restaurant and its parking lot and to be erecting almost permanent looking barriers. In fact there was an effort underway to construct a wall around the area.
I looked back, and Joseph had gotten out of the car as well and was staring, horror-struck at a pair of people in something resembling astronaut suits walking swiftly and directly toward us.
They halted a few feet away, and one of them spoke, her voice amplified by something in her space suit. “This area is quarantined,” she said. “Some or all of you have been infected by a curable but highly contagious and highly destructive virus. We’ll need to determine the state of the infection and administer a remedy. Please speak with one of our emergency personnel.”
Tables were being set up in neat rows through the parking lot, with pairs of chairs at each table, and a person in an astronaut suit in one of each pair of chairs.
“Where have you been during the last 48 hours?” asked a quite polite and friendly gentleman across a metal table from me, as we both sat in folding chairs in the parking lot of a restaurant that I will still leave unnamed. I was not feeling as friendly as he.
“Why?” I demanded, rather aggressively.
“Hmm.” He studied me. “Have you been near any military bases?”
“I mean, not that I know of.”
“What about a television? Have you been near a television?”
“Hmm.” He thought for a while, and then asked, “Have you noticed anyone demanding that you support people?”
That question just about knocked my chair over backwards. When I recovered, I told him everything I’ve just told you.
“Come with me,” he said, getting up.
A half-hour later, my interviewer had persuaded his colleagues that I was not infected, and had set me up with a chair and some actually edible food, in a position to watch what he called the administering of remedies.
One of the astronaut-suited workers was seated at a table across from a young woman wearing an American flag dress. The astronaut was asking questions:
“If someone’s dog bit you, would you be upset?”
“And what if I questioned your loyalty and willingness to support the dog trainers?”
The woman’s reaction was so swift and violent that I suspect it even surprised her questioner: “How dare you?” she hissed. “I support the dog trainers and would never question a dog killing and devouring me. Maybe you don’t support the dog trainers! Eh? How could you suggest such a thing to me?”
The questioner moved on. “And what if someone proposed that the government of your nation destroy a poor nation, kill a million people, create millions of refugees, poison the natural environment, waste several trillion dollars, leave behind a violent hell of traumatized resentment, and take away a lot of your rights and liberties in the name of prosecuting this horrendous war that will endanger you by making your nation hated?”
The woman seemed unsure what to say.
“Would you favor that policy?”
She snorted in indignation. “Of course, not! Why would anyone . . . “
“Don’t you support the troops?”
“How dare you . . . ” And she was off on a rant about her love for the troops and her absolute support for anything they might be ordered to do.
“The troops want you to.”
“Give it to me.”
The woman took the large bottle of greenish liquid and downed it in about 10 seconds.
Her questioner tried some of the same questions again, making notes all the time.
“Would you support slaughtering hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children, to enrich a few corporations and give some politicians a thrill of power?”
“Of course, not.”
“Do you favor ending current wars?”
“Yes, of course.”
“But don’t you support the troops?”
She paused and stared, and then blurted out: “Support the. . . . what? What does that even mean? If I oppose a policy I oppose people enacting that policy. That says nothing about whether I like those people or not, most of whom I’ve never met of course. What the hell?”
Moments later, the questioner was leading the woman in the American flag dress over to join me in the viewing section. “Wait,” she said, addressing the space-suited emergency worker, “why am I wearing this dress?”
“He’ll explain,” the worker said, gesturing toward me.