Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Pizza Inn Moron of the Year, 2005

I encounter lots of stupid people in my line of work. And for some reason, I draw more of them than my coworkers -- my manager became so enamored of my stories of telephone idiocy that he occasionally listens to my phone calls, just case I happen to get a "good one."

So I thought I'd take this time to single out one special person, one very unique Induhvidual who rose above all the others during 2005. A person of such brain-busting stupidity that I'm amazed she managed to call us in the first place.

Before we get there, it might help you get a little perspective if you understand who didn't get selected. The guy who called us to ask for our phone number. The guy who gives us the address of the house next door every time he orders, because he "can't remember" his own address. (Think about that for a second.) The numerous people who think I work for Pizza Hut, even after I show up at their door with a Pizza Inn shirt, hat, name tag, pizza bag, and glowing white sign on the roof of my car. The ones who act shocked and dismayed that we charge sales tax. The guy who asked if olives come on the meat lover's pizza. The guy who asked that we not put any mushrooms on his meat lover's pizza. The woman who double-checked that we weren't going to put pepperoni on her vegetarian pizza. The people who ask if the driver can stop on his way to their house and buy them a newspaper/milk/cigarettes/beer. The guy who announced to my manager he was going to "fuck up" everyone who worked there because I couldn't find his difficult-to-find address. And we're not counting the girl who talked about the Harry Potter films with me, marveling that the people who made it had to "read those books, like, probably more than once." We're also not counting my least favorite of the three managers, because my collected list of grievances against him will be used by my defense attorney at my trial, after I kill the stupid motherfucker and set his body on fire. So.

All of those people -- and countless more that I can't even remember -- are nothing to this woman. This woman...yikes. She earns her prize not simply because she did something stupid. Her stupidity is special because of how incovenient it was...and how completely baffling it was. I mean, really, I wouldn't believe this if it didn't happen to me.

It was a Sunday, back in the spring. We're dead on Sundays, so when an old lady called and placed an order, we were all very happy. She ordered a single large pepperoni pizza. Nothing fancy. My manager made it and put it in the oven. When it came out, I cut it, put it in a box, and took the pizza to her house. She accepted it, paid for it, and I went back.

And thus the adventure began.

I wasn't back more than a few minutes when the phone rang again. I recognized the old lady's phone number on the caller ID, and dread filled me -- something was wrong, and I hate it when something is wrong.

I answered the phone, and she told me that her pizza was wrong. This isn't out of the realm of possibility, and I'd already forgotten what she'd ordered to begin with, so I asked how it was incorrect.

"I asked for pepperoni," she said. "But this is sausage."

I paused. This seemed a tad unlikely. Now, making a mistake between, say, beef and sausage, okay. Those two look almost identical -- hell, I've been working there for years and I can't tell them apart. But pepperoni and sausage? Two entirely different-looking toppings. It's hard to believe that my manager would make that mistake.

So I asked her to double-check. "Are you sure it's sausage?"

She assured me that it was definitely sausage. "And we don't like sausage," she added.

Shit. I put her on hold and went looking for my manager. I was trying to remember cutting the pizza and putting it in the box -- surely, I would have noticed the wrong toppings, right? But my manager and I were talking about something else entirely while I was doing that, so it's possible I could have missed it. And now that I thought about it, we were having the same conversation while he made the pizza. So maybe he made an absent-minded mistake, and I was too distracted to notice. Extraordinarily unlikely, perhaps, but not impossible.

I found him and told him what the old lady said. He didn't believe it. "No way," he told me. "I made that pizza right. Is she sure?" I said she was, and he expressed the same doubts I had. "How could I fuck that up?" he asked. I couldn't answer.

My manager stormed over to the phone and began talking to the old lady himself. "Ma'am, are you absolutely sure that it's sausage? 'Cause I made it myself, and I'm pretty sure I did it right." She maintained her position.

He told her he'd make another one and have me take it out to her. "But," he said, "he's going to have to get the bad pizza back from you." He hung up and told me that he wanted proof he'd fucked up.

So he made another pizza -- definitely pepperoni this time. I put it in a box, and as I was headed out the door, he stopped me. "Before you give her that pizza, look at the old one. If it's sausage, give her the new one and come back. If it's pepperoni, tell her to call me." I agreed.

I drove to her house and knocked on the door. She opened it, old pizza in hand. I told her I needed to see it, and she happily opened the lid for me. "See?" she said, holding the pizza up to the light.

I saw pepperoni.

"Um, ma'am," I said, desperately trying not to think of much of my time and gas she'd just wasted, "that's pepperoni."

"No, it isn't," she said, shaking her rather square-shaped head. "It's sausage. We order all the time." Rule of Pizza #23: Anytime a customer says "We order all the time," they're lying. A customer who orders all the time doesn't feel the need to tell you they order all the time. But customers who never order from you think that by telling this lie they can get special treatment: "Oh, well, since you order all the time..." It never works with me. Plus, if she ordered all the time, she'd certainly be able to recognize pepperoni, by far the most popular pizza topping, when she saw it.

Having a great deal more pizza expertise than she, I stood fast. "No, ma'am, that's definitely pepperoni." And by way of comparison, I offered to show her the freash pizza we'd made (wasted).

And now we reach the point in the narrative where the old lady cinches her crown. Up until now, everything could have been a simple misunderstanding. Sure, you know what pepperoni looks like, but who's to say everyone in the world does? A mistake like that would not have been enough to warrant mockery, let alone the coveted Moron of the Year award.

I opened the lid. I held the new pizza next to the old one. They looked exactly the same. I said, "See? They look exactly the same."

She looked from to the other, drew a crackling-paper breath, and argued with me.

"No, they don't," she said, giving another head shake. "They're not the same."

I looked from one pizza to the other. Then from her to the pizzas. "Um...yes, ma'am. They are. Exactly. The same."

She once again disagreed. I felt we'd slipped into some bizarre alternate reality. I actually spent several seconds examining the two pies, just to be sure I wasn't the crazy one. Nope, the same. I reaffirmed that they were, in fact, both pepperoni pizzas.

And she continued to argue. When it was clear I wasn't going to win, I asked if I could use her phone to call my manager. She handed it to me, still denying the similarity of the two pizzas.

I called my manager and told him what had happened. "Um, we gave her a pepperoni pizza, but she doesn't believe me."

"Show her the new one," he said, still safely inside the world of the sane.

"I did," I said. "She still doesn't believe me."


"That's what I said."

Eventually, I handed her the phone. And my manager also tried to convince her of the truth, but she much preferred her own reality.

I stood on her porch for ten minutes while they spoke. He convinced her of nothing. She still insisted the original pizza was wrong. She accepted that, yes, the second pizza was pepperoni. But the first one -- despite looking exactly the damn same -- was sausage. It had to be, "because it's so greasy."

The fuck?

My manager grew tired of arguing with her. He told me to come back. I left her with the "sausage" pizza, which she said she wasn't going to eat. She told me she'd never call us again. I managed to avoid thanking her.

I went back. My manager and I didn't even talk about it. We couldn't believe it.

I'm still baffled. This woman took up an hour of our time, over something so dumb. This was a special brand of stupid.

That's our Moron of the Year.

She's lived up to her promise: she hasn't called us since.


"I asked for a pizza, but this is clearly a hamburger...."


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