Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Stamping Factor

"Stamped" into oblivion.

I arrived at the Hut of Pizza, cheese craving reaching unearthly magnitude. And, yes, I realize this was probably already my second or third error—the first being the decision to call Pizza Hut and place an order. But sometimes the Cheese Demon must be satisfied. I walked inside and the very young girl behind the counter handed me the Personal Pan Pizza I had ordered by phone, and did what no other pizza place has ever done for me—she opened the box there on the counter for my inspection and said,

“There. How’s that look?”.

 The irony is that it was one of the worst looking pizzas I had seen in a long while. I said, without hesitation, “It looks terrible.”

She looked at the charred disk and said weakly, “Yeah, I guess that one edge there has a little burnt cheese”

A little burnt cheese.

Only a chemist, with an array of tools, would have recognized it as 'cheese'. This young lady was dedicated, determined.

“Do you have 7 minutes,” she said?

“Well,” I said, “I don’t, really. But I’m hungry, so I guess I’ll have to wait.”

“OK. I’ll try to adjust things and see if I can make it come out better.”

She should have stopped there. But no. She tried to explain the complexity of the situation:

“That happens a lot with the personal pan pizzas. It’s the . . .the uh. . .um. . .you know,  The Stamping Factor.”
She said this while gesturing to the pizza, and shaking her head, looking at me as if this was a universally understood concept.  [Ah, yes, the Stamping Factor. Of course. Physics 101, I believe. ]

Now, I could have been nasty and said what I was thinking, but my annoyance turned into the kind of internal laughter that was so hard to suppress, my shoulders were shaking.
What I was thinking, and what I wanted to say was:

“The Stamping. . . . . Factor? . . .Can you . . . .explain?”

I can only guess that she was trying to convince me that the fact that Pizza Hut’s pizzas are all the same because they are stamped out in some factory turned them into this inedible discus that now sat before me, mute, blackened beyond all reason.

She would say, “Yes. It’s the stamping out of these identical shapes.”

I would say, “That’s peculiar. I’ve had many a Pizza Hut pizza over the years—not proud of that, but—and  the vast majority of them have been somewhat edible. Not burned at all. I think the problem here might be the ‘Cooked-Too-Long Factor’ or perhaps the ‘Oven Too Hot Factor’. You know, Occam’s Razor and all.”

Karma at the forefront of my mind, I said nothing. Just nodded in amazement at the swiftness with which she yanked such an elegant theory from some impressively productive orifice. Thank God employees must wash hands.

I sat by the window, looking out at traffic, trying hard not to burst out in guffaws. Tears were streaming down my cheeks. I’m sure if the girl had returned, she would have thought I was so deeply disappointed, so overcome with hunger, that I had broken down. No telling what sentiment she would have yanked out then.

Not long after, she returned with a slightly less repulsive specimen for my dining pleasure, and even brought out the original pizza for comparison, opening both lids, smiling broadly, and making a somewhat ‘Vannah White’ sweeping gesture through the air above them. In the battle of good and evil, she had won.

"Love me. Just love me," was etched upon her face.

But it does not end there. No. That was not enough for her. Perhaps sensing my earlier incredulity, into The Chosen Orifice she delved again, fishing around for something more plausible. 

“You know,” she said with a deft mixture of certainty and conjecture, “I think what happened was this one [the charred wreckage] got stuck on the conveyor belt behind the others.” [known in professional pizzeria lingo as the Sci-fi Bullshit Factor]

The Others.

Plural. Never mind that the store was a ghost town at this hour, 3PM. Mine was the only pizza in sight. Perhaps, though, there was a rush of 5 or 6 patrons just before I arrived—in fact, they saw me coming and fled.
Perhaps there is a sensor that makes the conveyor inexplicably stop when one doomed pizza gets “stuck behind The Others” which are apparently defying technology and gravity to move much more slowly than the conveyor belt upon which they began their journey.


Perhaps there are even more things than I imagined in this world, this life, the depths of which I may never visit, even in my dreams. Perhaps a few of life’s infinite colors will never reach my palette, for my own failure to understand the intricacies of this world.
Perhaps I, too, am a victim of some cosmic “Stamping Factor”.

What other explanation could there be?

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