Long story short -- the past few days have been easy, but they stretch on forever.At times like this in an office job environment a lot people take advantage of the free time to rediscover some of the things that they always say they're going to do, but never had the time for when the crunch was on. For most this means actually answering emails for a change, cleaning out their desks or defragmenting their computer systems -- but for a guy like me it translates into something special
Like actually taking a lunch.I'll be honest, normally I just work right through it. Every now and then between project crap I'll slow down a bit to punch out a blog entry or surf the web for a few minutes, but it's not like I'm really off the clock -- because if the phone rings or something comes up I'm more likely to just get back in the pit and knock it out rather than put it off until later.
With this particular gig I've found what I value most isn't so much the breaks during the day as much as it is finangling things so I might get a better chance to leave early. But now that things have slowed down so much there's a lot less to actually do, suddenly the idea of making the most of the breaks I get seems like the best way to make it through the day.
The odd thing about it though is that now that I'm actually taking the time for lunch, I'm finding out that despite the fact that there are a lot of little places to go nearby to the office, I still catch myself wondering where I want to go every day. Occasionally this has turned into driving around during the full lunch break kinda hoping that something would kinda jump out at me or whatever -- only to end up grabbing a bowl of soup at the company cafe a few minutes before my break is up.
..But not today.Have you ever gotten one of those cravings for something where no matter what else is going on during your day, and no matter how inconvenient it might be to acquire that object, you simply must have it?
When a jones gets like that, suddenly your lunch break seems insufferably short. Coworkers seem more demanding of your time, even traffic feels slower. It's almost like everyone else can tell that you've got something good on your mind and out of their own petty jealousies they'll do whatever they can to keep you from getting it.
But you wants the precious. Always you are looking for it. And the precious is wanting to go back to you -- so the first chance you get you jump into the car, pump up the stereo, and jam on the accelerator until you get to the place, find the perfect parking spot, stand in line behind the others, and place your order for the greatest single thing in the universe:
It's a magical substance, the kind that draws people from all over the place to get it. Fortunately once you reach the food court it's easy to find, because everybody makes it.Mall Teriyaki Chicken.
Usually it's known as Chicken Teriyaki. Sometimes it's called Bourbon Chicken. In darker corners you might have to refer to it as Chicken Oriental, Cajun Chicken and Rice, or Chicken New Orleans. Sometimes if the food court is really busy you'll be forced to quest to the caverns of Sbarro's deep (usually located behind the place that makes those weird gyro-wrap sandwiches you've never seen anyone eat) -- where you'll need to tell the girl in the funny hat that you'd like an order of Bistro Chicken instead.All you have to know is what to ask for.
But no matter what they make you call it, the results are always the same -- a feast fit for emporers and kings, available to you in what seem like 50-pound servings for less than five bucks (if you don't order the combo meal).
Now before we get too deep here, it's important that we understand what we're talking about. Because despite it's many different names, it's actually possible that some of you haven't yet had the chance to sample in this particular ambrosia of the gods.
This is probably because you've actually tried to order it in a real restaurant -- which is wrong.Oh sure, you can go to a Japanese restaurant and order Chicken Teriyaki. You can go to a Cajun place and ask for Bourbon Chicken. They'll be right there on the menu, clear as day. But don't come crying to me when the waiter comes out of the kitchen and gives you something you didn't want. Because when you get right down to it, Mall Oriental Chicken isn't oriental. It isn't Cajun, it doesn't have bourbon in it, they don't make it in sidewalk bistros, and it isn't not an old world recipe.
Mall oriental chicken is the adult equivalent of school cafeteria food. You know the kind I'm talking about -- that one thing that the lunch ladies killed at despite the fourth-rate ingredients and quality control measures they used. Whether it was turkey and gravy, chicken sandwiches, kinda-pizza looking thing with the sorta square pepperoni stuff on top, there was one thing they made at school lunch that you'd eat even after you'd grown up enough to know better. The kind of thing that you'd stand in line for even if you were at a grade level where your school would allow you to leave campus for lunch.To be completely honest, I'm not even 100% sure that it's actually chicken.
Mall oriental chicken is kinda like the grown-up equivalent of that. Because it's not good for you. It doesn't pep you up, it's not filled with vitamins. More and more it's made in heaping portions that are designed to anticipate long lines of construction workers and off-duty cops who have ordered it day after day after day to the point where the girl behind the register doesn't even ask what they want anymore -- they just hand them the extra large Styrofoam cup filled with sweet tea so they can have something to drink while they wait. Then the specially trained Bourbon Chicken technicians behind the sneeze guard perform the mystical dance of clanking spatulas, gravy ladles, and ketchup bottles filled with peanut oil -- all resulting in a steaming pile of sauce and ..possibly lettuce that you'll eat without hesitation.
Actually my favorite part of the whole process is the waiting period while they make up your order -- because it gives you a chance to see that the mall oriental chicken place actually appears have a full menu of other somewhat-authentically named oriental dishes that you might consider ordering, but never actually will. It's sort of like how Waffle House claims to make things that aren't waffles and hash browns (even though no one ever orders them) -- kind of like an act of courtesty designed to make you feel like you're in an actual restarant instead of the human equivalent of a gas station.
I suppose I can see where restaurant managers feel somewhat obliged to create complete menus full of different options for varying taste -- but as a general rule of thumb if you're eating at a place called the International House of Pancakes -- it only makes sense that their Lobster Thermidore might not be quite as good as it sounds.
In fact, now that I think about it -- the best local place to get the mall oriental chicken is called Sarku (although I've also seen it called Sakkio, Sudoku, and Su-Su-Sussudio) -- words I always assumed to be gibberish, the kind of name that sounds just Japanese enough to indicate to the casual food court patron that it serves Asian-ish food, but schlocky enough so you don't expect too much from what you order.
I wonder what the name would translate to if I actually looked it up:Sucker, perhaps?