WORLD’S WORST BURGER KING
DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
“Gimme a dollar, I’m hungry,” demanded the obese, unkempt vagrant who accosted me as I exited Walgreen's on Collins Avenue and Lincoln Road, the epicenter of South Miami Beach tourism near the grand Loews Hotel – I was amused that a clerk therein had complained about the “stupid americanos” who had lived in Miami for years but could not speak Spanish. I stepped around the vagrant, pronouncing a firm and polite “no”, and went on my way.
“You selfish bastard! May you go to hell!” he yelled and hurled a soda can after me. It spontaneously occurred to me that such contumelious characters should be beaten to a pulp, and then I regretted the thought and felt sorry for what the human race had done to that poor man. Nevertheless, I gave him nothing but a thought, selfish man that I am.
I entered the Burger King across the street and stood in line for quite awhile. Finally it was my turn. With my cramped budget in mind, I asked how much a milk shake cost. The cashier did not so much as look at me – she grimaced and pointed at the menu overhead. I ordered a small chocolate shake and a bowl of chili. She rang up a higher price than I had expected, so I politely asked why, explaining that I wanted the smallest shake, and not the so-called small shake she had rung up. She bawled me out for having asked for a "small" shake instead of the "value" shake. I promised to say several Hail Marys; my sense of humor was obviously lost on her: she sneered and shook her head, never looking directly at me.
Duly humbled by the contemptuous fast-food service, and wishing for a Wendy’s on the beach, I sat down to eat my food. While doing my best to suck the brown, chalky substance up the straw, an emaciated teenage prostitute, sixteen years of age at the most; approached my table with narrow but swiveling hips.
“Want a date, mister?” she asked.
"No, but thanks for asking," I said.
“Twenty bucks will get you a blow job, fifty will get you everything.”
“That’s nice, but no thanks.” She went on to the three guys sitting behind me, with whom she eventually left.
What a shame, I mused. Her parents are probably looking for her, but maybe not. Anyway, if I had called the police, she would be long gone before they showed up, if they showed up at all. It was evident from the neighborhood that the cops were not concerned about that sort of thing, which I have heard them blame on “Social Services.” They really don’t like to get out of their cars for the small stuff, except to get coffee.
At least the teenaged hooker is offering something for the money, I thought, instead of wanting something for nothing, like the panhandlers and the cops. Why should I condemn her business? People are renting out their souls and bodies every day, I reflected. And South Beach is all about buying and selling sex, booze, drugs, tattoos, hip hop, and condominiums.
The chili was god-awful – barely warm and extremely salty. The shake was lousy, but that was to be expected. In fine, I had wasted my money. The food is not that bad in some Burger Kings, depending on their location. The operation is called “Homeless Burger” in Manhattan and Honolulu because of its lax attitude towards vagrants and panhandlers. The best Burger King in my opinion is in Lawrance, Kansas. I decided to give the manager a heads up on the salty chili as I left.
“May I speak to the manager?” I asked a fellow behind the counter.
“He’s busy. What do you want?”
“Would you tell him the chili is very salty, too salty, and that…”
“It’s not salty.” he snapped.
“I said it’s not salty.”
“But it is very salty. Would you please taste it?”
“I don’t have to taste it. It’s not salty. What do you want?”
“Hey, I don’t want anything. I just want to be helpful, and let the manager know that the chili is too salty. Would you give this chili back to him and tell him what I said?”
I handed the bowl of chili to the food server, and he promptly threw it in the trash. One of the cooks in the back called up to the young man, asking him what the problem was.
“He wants to see the manager.”
“Ha, ha!” laughed the cook, and two other employees gleefully repeated, “He wants to see the manager!” Whereupon they lapsed into a Spanish conversation amply interspersed with such terms as americanos, gringos, cabrons, anglos, and pendejos.
Geez, I thought, if they don’t like us, why don’t they go back to where they or their parents came from? At which point a big man, evidently the manager, judging from his attire, came out of the back.
“He wants to see the manager,” someone said, pointing me out to him.
“Hmmph!” he grunted, walked towards me, pulled up abruptly, folded his arms, taking a stare-down stance. “What do you want?” he glowered at me. I was obviously the enemy, a customer.
“I want you to know that the chili is very salty, so that you can change it.”
“It’s not salty. We don’t put salt in it.”
Well, somebody puts salt in it because it is much too salty. You would know that if you tasted it.”
”I said it is not salty,” he reiterated, placing the emphasis on ‘not.’
“Then I must say you are a liar,” I responded angrily. “The customer is right, the chili is too salty, and you, the manager, are a liar,” I said to clarify the situation. Finally, “The chili is not hot, either.”
“I told you, sir, our chili is not salty,” he persisted. “We do not put salt in the chili.”
“And I told you that you are a liar for saying so. Maybe you don’t personally over-salt it, but somebody does, and you are responsible.” I said as I walked toward the exit. “Remember this, the customer is right, and this will come back to haunt you, manager of the worst Burger King in the world!” I shouted as I left. The employees were laughing out loud, the word of the evening being “loco.” I wondered why they did not offer to replace the chili with something else.
The last I heard, Burger King no longer serves chili. Maybe there was too much salt in it, or too many thumbs.
Miami Beach 2004