Friday, March 25, 2005

Letters to Wendy's

Browsing in a now-defunct bookstore, I came across a curious little book of prose poems called Letters to Wendy's, by Joe Wenderoth. Its conceit is that an obsessive loner — maybe harmless, maybe not — takes seriously the cheery instruction on the Wendy's restaurant customer comment card...



He goes to Wendy's nearly every day over the course of 13 months and writes a reply to the Heidi-like cartoon hostess. The only limitation to his ruminations, it soon becomes clear, will be the dimensions of the card.

March 2, 1997

Barely able to move today, some sort of virus. Almost decided not to come in. Could only stomach a Coke. Still, glad I came. Glad I limped sweating into the loud line. I have come to appreciate, from afar, the force that stands volume, bright. The booth as good as a bed, at first —until I think of a bed. Satisfaction, for the sick, comes so fast and hard it doesn't register.

As weird as the book got, there were no fingertips found in the chili.

By the time I sat down to write this, Daily Kos and others had already leaped on the news item that a finger joint had materialized in a mouthful of chili at a Wendy's in San Jose — a story at once comic, revolting, sad and criminal, depending on whether you're reading, eating, slicing beef or not reporting OSHA violations. (The finger apparently arrived in the chili precooked from a Wendy's supplier.)

Packing houses and food processing plants employ a high proportion of recent (and possibly illegal) immigrants. Since none of Wendy's suppliers appear to have reported such an incident, as required by law, we're left to consider two possibilities: The employer covered up the accident or perhaps more likely, the worker, fearing she'd be discovered as an illegal by the feds, wrapped up her hand and went home quietly.

One hundred years ago, Upton Sinclair's novel, The Jungle, exposed the abuse of immigrants and blacks in the meat packing industry, and a shocked public pushed for reform. Today, even our respectable newspapers are making jokes about finger food.

And that makes me want to puke.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Given all the urban legends about Kentucky Fried Rats and the mouse in the Coke bottle, I'll remain skeptical until I know that neither the "victim" nor anyone of his acquaintance works at a hospital or mortuary or goes to a medical school. This screams "set-up for a million-dollar lawsuit" to me.

7:30 AM  

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