Sunday, January 28, 2018

all hail caesar

One evening this week, Mrs. Pincus and I went to pick up a pizza for dinner, something we do quite often. It may come as a surprise to you, but we regularly go to a Little Caesars location not far from our house. Unlike most people, we don't really have a single location pizza place that we swear by. We are not connoisseurs or "pizza snobs." We happen to like cheap, crappy, chain-store pizza. We just do.

My wife pulled into the parking lot of the strip center where the Little Caesars occupies the end storefront. I hopped out of the car, like I had done countless times before, and walked up to the front door and entered. The place rarely, if ever, has a welcoming vibe. Through the wire racks of stacked pizza boxes at the rear of the narrow service counter area, I could see several workers — all decked out in branded Little Caesars regalia (hats, shirts, aprons) — busily preparing pizzas at a large work table. Behind them, another fellow was monitoring the business-end of the large oven, extracting finished pizzas by gripping their pans with a pliers-like device and deftly shaking them into a waiting, pre-assembled box. They all appeared to be working in a predetermined rhythm, like the proverbial "well-oiled machine."

However, the young lady at the front counter, the "face" of the "Little Caesar's experience" for this particular location, did not exactly fit in with the rest of the apparent work ethic practiced by those in the nerve center of the establishment.

When I entered the store, to my right, was a man — in a Little Caesars hat and apron — stocking single-serving bottles of soda in a tall refrigerated display case. A few customers (maybe two, actually) were scattered about the open area, obviously waiting for their individual order to be served. Behind the counter, seated on a low object (perhaps a small carton?), was a young lady — I would guess still in her teens — with her back to the wall adjoining the business next store, paying extremely close attention to her cellphone. As I approached the counter, she slowly rose — though not exactly tearing her attention away from whatever was dancing across the small screen in her hand. She was wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with the named of a local high school. No where on her person did the name or logo of Little Caesars appear. Nowhere. She finally turned her attention to me and asked, "Mmmnnnmmnnmmm."

At least, I think it was a question. Only because the inflection of her utterance went up in tone, slightly, at the end. I honestly has no idea what she said, but I can assume it was along the lines of "Can I take your order?" I asked for a pizza and an order of bread sticks and passed over my credit card to her her limp, waiting hand. She swiped it through the slot on the credit card reader, removed the receipt, handed me back my card and said, "Mmmnnnmm." Then, she promptly returned to her original perch, concentrating, once again on her electronic device and blotting the customers out.

A fellow from the back of the store placed a stack of pizza boxes on the wire rack from behind. The young lady rose slowly, grabbed the boxes and announced "Mmmnnnmm" in the general direction of a woman with short dreadlocks in a dark blue coat who was waiting, patiently, with her arms folded across her chest. The woman accepted the boxes and no more words were exchanged by either party. The young lady repeated this same procedure with the other customer who was waiting for an order to be filled.

Offer not valid where invalid.
After about eight minutes (the "Hot & Ready" promotion as presented in a series of Little Caesars commercials and in-store signage seems to be invalid at this location or in this realm), the young lady muttered her signature, unintelligible grunt at me and offered me a pizza box with a bag of bread sticks resting atop of it. I took it from her hands, thanked her and wished her a good evening. I really did. I headed towards the door, which was held open for me by a new, incoming customer — who would, no doubt, be subjected to the "Little Caesars welcome" that is standard operating procedure at this location.

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