“Thank you for coming to Wendy’s.”

Monday, September 10, 2007

How many times have we been told to wash our hands, by everyone from your and my mother to the Surgeon General?  Anyone with a minimum awareness of routine public health issues knows to avoid touching escalator handrails and other public items, shaking hands with someone with an obvious cold, and then putting our hands to our face or mouth.  Pass me the hand sanitizer, please.  I understand, although I’ve always thought touching all this stuff and breathing everyone else’s air helped keep my body’s immune system in tune, so I’m not all that careful.  (“Aaaachoo!”  Just kidding.)

I’m particularly appreciative of fast food restaurants whose employees wear hats to keep their hair out of my food, although they seem more fashionable than effective.  (Where have all the hairnets gone?)  Latex gloves are especially important for the staff who prepare your food.  Gloves are not perfect, of course, particularly if the “the kid” is wiping his nose between the burgers he’s assembling, but they’re better than nothing.  I hope.

So why am I writing this?  Because the fast food industry has to go one step further, in a hurry.  Because I’m tired of having someone hand me a cup for my self-service drink with his bare hands around the rim.  At least I can use a straw, which I do, every time, comfortable in my belief that germs can’t swim or hold their breath undersoda.  Even more disconcerting, we’ve got to do something about the way some restaurants conserve on napkins by having the cashier put them on your tray or in your bag, the same cashier whose been handling everyone’s money for his entire shift, and doing who knows what between customers.

A few days ago, I was flying back to BWI, through Nashville, from Houston’s Hobby International Airport.  It was one of those crack of dawn flights.  Desperately hungry, I got in line at Wendy’s in the food court, one of the few places open that early in the morning.  I figured an order of French toast sticks, with a box of orange juice, was the healthiest thing on the menu.  Who knows, but that’s not the point.  Moments later, the cashier, a young woman probably in her teens, no doubt dreaming of doing something else for the rest of her life, hurriedly dumped the little box containing my sticks in a bag, all of which fell out, followed by a potato patty which fell out of its pouch, and then picked up two napkins with her bare hand, crumbled them, and stuffed them in the bag on top of the open food.  While there are many things wrong with this customer service, chief among them was the feeling and the fact that every time I wiped by face, I might as well have been doing it with her hand.  Fast food or first class restaurant, think about it the next time the waiter hands you a napkin to replace the one you dropped on the floor.  The Wendy’s girl seemed pleasant enough, but do I really want to be wiping my mouth with some else’s fingers?

I’d like to speak to the Surgeon General, please – provided we don’t have to shake hands.

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