It was about 6:30 on a rather nondescript Tuesday evening when I arrived at the pizza place. After getting off work an hour earlier I had stopped along the way home for some grocery shopping, and at this point didn’t feel particularly inclined to cook. This is, of course, a pretty typical situation; Being single and living alone means that I rarely find a hot dinner waiting on the table for me when I get home from work, and in the unlikely event that this does happen I’d be more likely to call the cops than to note my good fortune. In the meantime, I was on my own for dinner as usual, and since the pizza place was basically next door to the grocery store, I figured it would be as quick as anything else.
When I walked in the door, I was the only customer there, Nonetheless, all the employees seemed to be back in the kitchen attending to various duties, so there was nobody at the counter. I watched from in front of the cash register for a minute or two as whatever pressing matter that was going on at the pizza oven was attended to. As I did so, I happened to notice that one of the employees had a shirt on that proclaimed him to be a “Pizza Genius”. This seems like a rather bold proclamation, especially in a place like this. This particular place (name withheld, but probably not too hard to guess) doesn’t exactly have a reputation as the type of place where one would go when looking for true excellence in pizza. If you’re looking for cheap pizza and\or you’re looking for fast pizza, this is the place for you. But if you’re looking for good pizza… Well, you probably want the pizzeria ten bucks up the road. Nonetheless, whatever was going on the kitchen was either more important or more enthralling than the presence of a hungry customer waiting at the counter, and my presence continued to go unnoticed.
For several more minutes I continued to observe the goings-on in the kitchen and generally tried to look interested in the purchase of a pizza at some point in the semi-immediate future, but the Pizza Genius and his cohorts continued to be enthralled by whatever happened to be going on in the kitchen, and I still couldn’t determine what exactly they were doing. Perhaps they were running some sort of experiment to push the limits of pizza making and lead us into a bold new future of Mozzarella-fueled innovation. Perhaps there was some sort of dire pizza crisis underway that mere mortals such as myself could not comprehend, and they were working feverishly on the solution to save us from the threat of a pizzaless existence. Maybe the Genius’ pizza-making abilities had been honed to such precision that the mere act of making a large pepperoni with mushrooms and olives required split-second timing, and they couldn’t take their eyes off of it for a second lest something goes horribly wrong.., Well actually none of that seemed very likely given the fact that this was a random take-out pizza place in a nondescript suburban strip mall and not some top-secret pizza lab in a secured bunker. It was far more likely they were just catching up on the supply of pepperoni before the next wave of the dinner rush came in.
And yet, for all my speculation, my presence had yet to register with anyone behind the counter in spite of several minutes of my standing there, It was about this time that I got sick of standing at the counter, and decided to go take a seat in the waiting area until someone happened to notice I was there. Once I was seated, several more minutes of assorted pizza geniusness happened in the kitchen, apparently oblivious to my presence. Finally, whatever critical Olive Application Window (or whatever it was that was going on) was approaching had apparently safely passed, and the Pizza Genius finally wandered back toward the counter. Unfortunately, before I could react to this, the door opened and a lady came in and walked up to the counter. I guess it was my fault that I had lost my place in line since I had sat down, but since most pizza purchasing transactions here tend to be rather quick, I just got in line behind her rather than press the issue. Of course, anyone well versed in Murphy’s Law and its ilk can probably guess what happened next.
At this particular pizza place, the entire menu consists of about ten items, none of which should be particularly complicated to figure out. In spite of this simplicity, this lady seemed to be determined to plumb its depths and unlock its hidden mysteries, whatever those might happen to be. What for most people would be a simple transaction that would usually get them in and out with their pizza in less than a minute rapidly turned into a lengthy discussion of the intricacies of the menu that would probably be suitable for a scholarly dissertation if anyone could be bothered to write any of it down. As the lady carefully considered her family’s pizza consumption needs and weighed them against the choices being offered, the Pizza Genius patiently explained things that could probably have been figured out just as easily by looking at the menu board. I suppose this would have been quite the sight to behold if not for the fact that I was behind all this in line and just trying to get one of the pizzas that was probably already sitting in the big warming box right behind the counter. Somewhere during this whole process, a mother with three children entered the store and took her place behind me as her kids alternately complained of being hungry and pestered her for some quarters to play the little pinball-like bouncy ball device in the corner.
Eventually, after several more minutes of careful consideration of the choices and more deliberation than some people put into the purchase of a new car, something resembling a pizza order emerged out of the whole process. Given how long this whole process took, it wouldn’t have surprised me if she then tried to pay with a check. Fortunately, the payment process was only half as painful as I had expected it to be, and the transaction was finally completed. I had previously planned on ordering the 3-meat pizza which usually takes a bit longer than the generic cheese and pepperoni types usually kept on hand, but by this time I had already spent far more time waiting for nothing than I had really planned on and was half-expecting to get hit up for quarters by some random six-year-old if I waited there much longer, so I just defaulted to Pepperoni, paid for my order, and went on my way. For all I knew, the guy behind the counter was, in fact, a pizza genius. Unfortunately, this doesn’t do a whole lot of good when the person in front of you in the line happens to be a pizza idiot.