I visited D.C. for a meeting recently. Not my first time, as I’ve had meetings there in the past. But each time I go, I like to find time to walk out to the National Mall, just like ten-thousands of other visitors every day. For them, the thrill is likely to visit or at least take a photo of one of the glorious marble buildings, like the Capitol or the National Gallery or any of the Smithsonian buildings. For me however, the thrill is sensing my feet crunch the small pebbles of gravel that pave the walking paths alongside the cherry blossom trees between those buildings. There’s a certain satisfying crunch I hear and feel on this famous ground walking before the great pillars and gables and domes under which the great laws of our great society were written. Of course, I use this hallowed ground, in what has become a tradition for me, not to concern myself with the great laws but rather to stroll to and from the circus-like concession stands where those memorable steamed hot dogs on steamed buns are sold. It was particularly challenging to keep the tradition on this recent trip, as it was 40 degrees outside with a 10 mph north wind. But all that did was make the steaminess more visible and appetizing.
On this recent trip, as I anxiously stood in the hot dog queue to place an order, I heard one of the ten-thousands say, having recently taken the first bite of his hot dog, “Man, that hits the spot! There should be a law against something so good.”
“Well,” I secretly told that visitor who declared his spot hit, “this is certainly the place where laws are made! You run to the Capitol and lobby for your new law. I’m gonna stay here and enjoy a steamy hot dog.” And as my less smart-alecky feet crunched toward one of the park benches, I realized that instead of mustard I got some déjà vu with that hot dog. Seems like I had heard that phrase, “There should be a law” some place before. As I sat on the bench, which was startlingly cold, I was startled to realize the startling number of voices I’d heard the phrase in. Lots of people use that phrase when they’re indignant about something (and less often if they’re dignant). I can even remember sitting on the front porch of my grandpa’s house on a much warmer seat in the 70s when—heaven forbid—a Republican political candidate drove his loudspeaker truck down LA 1 broadcasting his platform and bad-mouthing the democratic incumbent. (Back then, all the incumbents were Democrats.) I can clearly remember Papère angrily complaining through the screen porch about the loudspeaker noise interrupting his peaceful, bayouside afternoon. He most definitely said that phrase, and loudly, but in French: And although I’m pretty sure he added a bunch of extra French words beginning with the letter “m,” I remember the phrase ending “une loi”—“a law.” Papère wanted a new law just like my fellow hot dog eater in D.C.
After the park bench warmed up, maybe on my second or third steamy bite, I began to think of all the frustrating things in life that should be legislated—maybe not great, ground-breaking Federal laws necessarily but maybe some little crunchy pebble-sized laws. And immediately, like a muddy tuber shot from a potato gun, it hit me: The absolutely, categorical, most frustrating unlegislated thing in life has got to be this: Spilled French fries in a fast food bag. The indignant carelessness with which fast food servers deposit filled French fry holders in a take-out bag must be stopped. Don’t you hate to reach into the bag for that first fry or a tot only to feel that they’re spilled or served sideways or upside down? How many hours of our lives have we wasted digging into take-out bags to refill fries holders? Even worse, when multiple orders in one bag are all spilled and you have to dig them out, how do you refill multiple holders equally to retain the trust of your fast-food dining partners?
Here’s my idea of legislation: “Under penalty of law, no fast-food establishment shall serve drive-up customers French fries, hash browns, crowns, tater tots, curls, waffle-cuts, steak-cuts, juliennes, or any other fried potato product in a bag unless said fries are fixed in said bag to stand upright relative to the vertical dimension of the bag in a separate, spill-proof pouch, box, cup, or other holder likewise standing upright relative to the vertical dimension of the said bag again said.” I will not eat fast-food fries again until this becomes law. If you own stock in one of the chains, I apologize in advance for the loss in value I will cause your shares.
If you’ve also got peeves for which you think there should be a law—and I know that you do—share them with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe see more laws proposed in a future issue of PoV. Together, we can make American fast food great again. POV