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No time to cook, wife out running around the lake: off to Wendy’s. I hadn’t thought of Wendy’s in a while, but read a story in the WSJ yesterday about how fewer people are thinking about Wendy’s, and sales are down. Why? The other burger-distribution-centers have been advertising more, possibly using beams that affect the electrical patterns of the brain on the deepest, or “meat” level, and so they’re getting the traffic. Well, until they build a Chik-Fil-A or an In-and-Out or some other beloved fast-food chain made up of hyphenated nouns and conjunctions, it’s Wendy’s for us.

Wendy’s has apparently taken the same path BK took a few years ago: ironic, standoffish, jokey "hip" ads that attempt to instill enthusiasm by mocking enthusiasm. They’re very successful; from now on, whenever I find myself falling through floor after floor in a apartment building, I’ll associate the experience with a chicken sandwich. (“Now tastier,” the wall menu said; quite an admission, that.)

As for the actual experience: the guys managing the counter did not exactly have a comforting mastery of the ordering machines; they pushed the buttons with hesitance and regret, as though this would be the one that blew up the world.  Nevertheless, the order seemed to communicated properly: a child’s hamburger with ketchup, milk, yogurt; a double with ketchup and onions. For here. We were give the items in bags, of course. Perhaps I had somehow implied a T, and he thought I said “For There,” which would explain the bags. Well, nevermind.

We sat down and opened the bags. No Yogurt: fries. Back to the counter, where the crew chief – a woman shaped like a barrel with a death-glare that could shave stubble off Samson’s chin at fifty paces – took the fries and excoriated the staff. The staff, having been pre-excoriated for our convenience, took it all with slumped shoulders and smoldering displeasure. Back to the table. Gnat discovered that her hamburger had mayo. Back to the counter. A bun without mayo was produced and exchanged. Back to the table. I opened my burger to find no onions, but a series of limp brine-soaked things that could be considered pickles if one had only heard pickles described, in the night, by means of a code tapped out on the wall of an adjoining jail cell. Never mind.

Well, let’s see the toy! They’d promised Wii toys.

This is a bat. This is a bat from some National Geographic promotion that probably ended during the Clinton term. You wonder why your sales are off, Wendy? It’s because you have National Geographic cloth bat toys, that’s why. The bat’s wings have wires, which allows you fix them in various positions, but the novelty wears off like the shine on cheap shoes, and Gnat says I can throw it away. I hear a “Toy Story” song swell, as the toy laments its unloveability – if this was a Pixar movie, we’d love this bat. We’d be rooting for the bat. We’d hate the people who threw away the bat. It only wanted to be a toy! So I jam it in my pocket with the idea that I’ll take a picture of it later.

Ugly stupid thing. It’s made in China, so it’s probably full of lead-painted arsenic that sloughs off the hanta virus when handled.

Then we went to Target to see if they had a Wii. I was 99% sure they didn’t, but the prospect of a Wii was sufficient to make Gnat accompany me to Target without complaint. No Wii. Just a big bare hole where the Wii would go. I don’t think they ever made any. Nor will they. It’s all about building buzz for Wii 2. (Now with enhanced availability!) We got bales of paper in various form, a few Pokemon cards (I have made it clear I will not play the card game, because I do not understand the first thing about it. Seriously: Scrofulux is a psychic Pokemon Diamond and Pearl Dragon Master Platinum Level 90 Pokemon. Powers: can release horrible odors, give other Pokemons psoriasis. When played, the Scrofulux cannot wake a sleeping Pokemon but can turn a groggy Pokemon into a sub-level Anti-Pokemon Water Pokemon whose powers have a negative –20 effect on all subsequent cards played by the person on your left if their least powerful Pokemon card was purchased when you begged for 20 minutes on the way to the store in a high, singsongy whine, UNLESS the card has a shiny foil picture, in which case all play ceases while everyone looks at the picture because it’s cool and then you forget the game and swap doubles.) Then I got some stuff for the Element – those shiny cloths that make the plastic look like new – and some new soda I’d never heard of before:

PEPSI MAX. I suspected it had more caffeine, and I was right: almost twice the usual amount. They sold it in other countries first, perhaps ones with a less litigious culture. Jordan got it three months before the US. Lebanon got it in April. Tough to think of some Hezbollah honcho sipping this, and thinking: ah, I laugh at the Americans, for this thing I know, and they do not.

So that was my evening. Except for the researching Wendy’s commercials. I notice a little button that said “For NYC Customers,” and I thought it might be a promise of rat-free restaurants, given the flap over the KFC joint. Nay:

Special notice to inquiries originating from New York City:

We regret that Wendy's cannot provide product calorie information to residents or customers in New York City.

Why? Because they’re trying to hide something?

The New York City Department of Health passed a regulation requiring restaurants that already provide calorie information to post product calories on their menu boards -- using the same type size as the product listing.

I sense the fiendish hand of Darth Nanny here. For heaven’s sake: the same type size? I’d love to see that concept extended to every – single – other – business in New York, and watch the entire island empty out. Idiots. Idiots! What do they think we are? Idiots? But behold, friends, the law of unintended consequences:

We fully support the intent of this regulation; however, since most of our food is made-to-order, there isn't enough room on our existing menu boards to comply with the regulation. We have for years provided complete nutritional information on posters inside the restaurant and on our website. To continue to provide caloric information to residents and customers of our New York City restaurants on our website and on our nutritional posters would subject us to this regulation. As a result, we will no longer provide caloric information to residents and customers of our New York City restaurants.

We regret this inconvenience.

Mwahahahhahahahhah. Mwahahahhahaha! Wendy’s. My love. All is forgiven.

I mentioned the Johnny Dollar series I’d enjoyed this weekend – here’s all five 15 minute episodes. I don’t know why I enjoyed this one so much, but it’s a pip. If not inclined, there's new Money from Boratistan. (Now go to buzz! Tomorrow's already underway.)