By Kevin Wilson
TUCUMCARI — Have you ever wanted to speak out, but stopped yourself because you knew reality couldn’t quite stand up to what you imagine saying?
Yeah, I do that a lot.
I was eating at a restaurant, on recommendation from a friend, and felt rather slighted. Since this column goes into newspapers distributed throughout New Mexico and on a Web site that can theoretically reach anybody in the world, I won’t give you the who, the where or the food ordered. We’ll just call the place McDonald’s.
I had taken my table and my waitress asked for my drink order. When she came back for my order, I told her what I wanted, but requested she leave off one of the side dishes. (Note: This is the paragraph telling you I was, in fact, not at a McDonald’s.)
My McDonald’s mean came out, without the side dish I had refused, and it was fantastic. I didn’t hesitate to leave a nice tip for the waitress, but I admit I was a little upset when I got my check. It seemed that I was given a surcharge for refusing the side dish.
I could understand being charged if I had made some ridiculous substitution request — “Hmm, let me have a taco shell filled with cottage cheese instead of those mashed potatoes” certainly would elicit a charge — but I couldn’t understand being charged more money for ordering less food.
I was going to explain the difference between “substitution” and “deletion” to the cashier, but I declined for two reasons. First, there were five customers behind me and I thought it rude to make them wait. Second, I knew the conversation that would ensue had no chance of topping the conversation I had already created in my mind.
As I’ve said to many I know, I loved the show “Seinfeld” and its dialogue about nothing. The incident at “McDonald’s” reminded me of the “Alternate Side” episode when Jerry Seinfeld was at a car rental facility and was informed that a mid-size car was not available, even though he had a confirmed reservation for one.
Jerry: I don’t understand, I made a reservation. Do you have my reservation?
Agent: Yes, we do. Unfortunately we ran out of cars.
Jerry: But the reservation keeps the car here. That’s why you have the reservation.
Agent: I know why we have reservations.
Jerry: I don’t think you do. If you did, I’d have a car. See, you know how to take the reservation. You just don’t know how to “hold” the reservation and that’s really the most important part of the reservation, the holding. Anybody can just take them.
I thought of this, and my mind created this similar scene that never really happened:
Kevin: What’s with this charge?
Cashier: That’s a substitution charge. You didn’t want the side dish.
Kevin: I don’t understand. You’re charging me for a substitution that never happened. That’s a deletion, not a substitution. That’s why you call it a substitution charge.
Cashier: I know the difference between deleting and substituting.
Kevin: I don’t think you do. If you did, I’d have paid regular price. You know how to make the charge, but you haven’t identified any “substitution” made, and that’s really an important component of the substitution charge, the substitution itself. Anybody can charge extra.
It wouldn’t have been a pretty conversation, but I would have had fun. Too bad that could only happen if I end up writing a sitcom someday. Hopefully I come up with a better series name than “Wilson” before that time.
Kevin Wilson writes for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. He can be reached at 461-1952 or by e-mail: