Tag Archives: office culture

Checkers

J emails me on Monday with this:

F— you Checkers. F— you and everything you stand for. OK, honestly I’m not sure what Checker’s restaurant stands for. I don’t see many signs that say “Eat Checkers and Free Tibet,” or “Eat Checkers–It’s What Nelson Mandela Does,” so admittedly there’s no moral equivalent to eating at Checkers. Maybe that’s why I went there.

Checkers is one of those places I keep meaning to go to. Unlike Sonic, which has brilliant advertising but no locations anywhere near me when I’m hungry, Checkers is conveniently located about a mile from both my jobs, so, theoretically, I could eat dinner there every night on the way home.

But having a Checkers so close by is a lot like living in a town with a major tourist attraction or knowing a hot girl who is terminally single. You could always see the Liberty Bell, or go out with her, so while you keep meaning to you never really do and then one day they either board up the museum due to budget cuts or she gets married and suddenly you’re left with the friggin pancakes and no syrup–don’t try to find the analogy, pervert, it’s not there.

So tonight, I went to Checkers.

Checkers has this unique system where there is no place to sit down. It’s just a drive-in. I guess some consultant in New York City told them, “You want to get an edge on all the other restaurant chains? The most profitable part of any fast food business is the drive-thru. If you want to make serious bank, have JUST A DRIVE-THRU!!!.”

“That’s brilliant,” said all the suits around the table.

“So what should we name this place?”

“Hey how about Checkers?”

It wasn’t a great idea, but the guy who brought it up had been dating the hot, terminally single girl from accounting thus taking her out of the pool and everyone hated him for it. They figured the boss would smoke him out for the weinie he was, but he didn’t.

No one knew why, but they suspect it was because the boss was already calculating what he could buy with the $7.10 an hour he could save by not having to hire someone to mop the floors of a restaurant so he said, “Sure, what the hell, Checkers it is.”

What the hell indeed.

So tonight, I went to Checkers.

Doesn't the neon glow just make want to go in, sit down, and grab a burger? Well, you can't.

The first thing that should have tipped me off is their menu variety. Checkers has a lot of stuff on their menu. An overwhelming amount of stuff in fact.

Here’s a rule of fast food. Fast food is for burgers, and maybe chicken sandwiches. I know a lot of them serve fish sandwiches, but the less said about that the better, especially with the Lenten season almost upon us. Out of respect for my Catholic brethren who necessitated the Filet-O-Fish in the first place, I’ll defer.

Checkers sells buffalo wings, both boned and boneless variety, and they sell them in five different flavors. I love boneless wings. I love the fact that someone came up with the idea of boneless wings, because what they are really saying is, “Look pal, we know you’re too lazy to throw the bones away or put in the extra effort to get the meat off the bone, so we’ll go ahead and make some illegal immigrant in Lake Titicaca do it for you and, just to keep the joke between us, we’ll still let you call it a wing? OK pal?” Lazy bastards.

Needless to say I ordered the boneless buffalo wings. I got them in garlic parmeasan flavor, which I shouldn’t have done, but I did. I’m not proud of it, but I did.

Here’s the thing. I’m just putting this out there as an unpaid consultant. If I am going to make a restaurant where people can’t sit down, I’m only going to sell things that you can eat in your car. So I got the box of boneless wings out and the sauce starting dripping out of the box and onto my jacket.

WTF?

Oh well, I thought. I’ll wait until I get to work. If the sauce is dripping out of the box, they must really lather it on, this must be good.

I think you probably know where this story goes. The wing sauce, that managed to drip all over my coat, did not manage to coat a single boness wing. And they were dry.

Moreover, I had been talked into upsizing to “large,” so the whole experience cost me $9.39. What did I get for “large?” No extra boneless wings. Maybe I’ve been conditioned by the tub of fries you get at most fast food places, but the french fries hardly seemed abundant either. What I got was a giant soda that made me want to pee so bad by vision started to blur.

So what have we learned today?

Don’t eat at Checkers.

Go see the Liberty Bell.

And for the love of God man, just ask her out, she’s not going to wait for you forever.

Now who wants pie?

Reading Terminal Market, The Gallery, and Specialization

On 1/18/11 at 2:29 p.m. J writes:
It’s not like I really want to stick my finger in the eyes of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, but eating at the Reading Terminal Market is an exercise in disappointment.

I want to like it. I mean it is, after all, the READING TERMINAL MARKET!!! A holy place of eating in a city famous for being fat because, well, we know how to eat and, for the most part, how to cook.

But I’ve eaten at the Reading Terminal Market four times now, and each time I’ve said, “That’s it, I’m never going back!” and yet I keep going back like a dog to his own vomit or a battered spouse because, well, I keep thinking this will be the time. But it never is.

Today I had lunch at the Cajun place, the name of which I cannot recall. I love Cajun food. Of all the places I have visited in my business travels, the place I have loved the most is New Orleans. Even the Food Court at the mall by the Convention Center in New Orleans is an exercise in deliciousness. When Katrina hit, and I did my requisite feeling bad for the people trapped in flooded houses and hating President Bush for his non-response, my first real cognitive thought was, “I wonder what happened to Mulate’s. They had awesome Po Boys.” Call me insensitive, but I really didn’t know anyone from the Ninth Ward; I did know Mulate’s sandwiches.

Where was I? Oh yes, Philadelphia.

Reading Terminal Market can be overwhelming in its choices, but a couple of days ago I walked by the Cajun place and they offered me a free sample of their chicken and sausage gumbo. The cup was a typical sample size, but somehow the lovely young lady filling my sample cup managed to get both a piece of chicken and a piece of sausage in it, and it was delicious. I decided right then and there that I would head back someday and get lunch.

Too many options, IJS.

Today in Philadelphia it’s cold and miserable. I had packed a bologna sandwich with some fruit, chips and cookies, but the weather really called for hot soup, and my preference is hot spicy soup, and gumbo fits that bill. So I set out on a quest for the one true lunch. I took no companions because I didn’t want them cramping my style. I have no real evidence of this but I suspect that people who have first dates at Reading Terminal Market don’t make it to second dates.

“So where do you want to eat, dear?”

“Oh I don’t know, where do you want to eat?”

“How about here.”

“Do you want to eat there?”

“I don’t know, do you?”

“How about here?”

“Do you like that food?”

“Do you?”

And assuming the guy hasn’t gone all Kensington Strangler on his date by this point, the couple likely winds up eating at Chili’s which, whatever its demerits, is at least predictable.

Where was I? Oh yeah, the gumbo.

So I order the chicken and sausage gumbo, and here’s the part they don’t tell you when they sample—IT’S SERVED OVER RICE!!!!!! The sample was not served over rice; the sample came in a small free cup. Basically, the gumbo at the Cajun place is an exercise in selling rice for $7 because by the time the little twit filled my bowl with heaping spoonfuls of rice there wasn’t much room for the gumbo, and despite my best efforts the rice managed to absorb most of the gumbo sauce so I was left eating a flavorless bowl of rice with a couple of pieces of sausage.

And the whole exercise came to $9.40 because I wanted something to drink (next time I’m bringing my own bottled water) and Philadelphia sales tax is 8 percent.

From now on, I’m sticking to the free samples.
_______________________________________________________
I remind him what he ripped off from me and his love of the free sample guy in The Gallery:
“So I set out on a quest for the one true lunch. I took no companions because I didn’t want them cramping my style.”

You’re welcome.

“From now on, I’m sticking to the free samples.”

…and retarded people.
________________________________________________
J retorts:

Hey man, if we’re going to share a brain I’m going to use your material sometimes.

My little retarded friend was at Chic Fil A today, but he was back wiping the counter, which is a degrading waste of his time because he’s actually really good at passing out free chicken, not that it’s hard, but you know, when someone does something right you want to acknowledge it in a world where all we do is criticize people, so what I’m saying is, HERE’S TO YOU RETARDED YOUNG MAN AT CHIC FIL A! THANK YOU FOR YOUR EXCELLENCE!!

You know what else I learned about free samples today in the Gallery?

First, the samples at Charley’s Cheese steaks are way better than the actual sandwiches you pay for. Even controlling for the fact that the samples are free, they never get the sandwiches right. But if you hit the free sample lady at just the right time it’s the perfect taste.

Second, if you’re getting sick of Bourbon Chicken, walk by one of the stands and wait for them to ask if you want a free sample. You can ask for whatever you want. Today I asked to sample their General Tso’s chicken knowing full well what it tastes like. I suppose when you have an interaction with the person behind the counter, as opposed to a sad, silent type standing in the crossway with a piece of chicken on a toothpick, you might feel more of a sense to buy lunch there. I didn’t. I took my sample and walked away, but a person with social graces might.
_____________________________________________________
I remind him:

I’m pretty sure you already did several posts about free samples in the Gallery…specifically Charley’s Cheese and how their samples are more delicious than their actual product.

Some might call it a repeat…more genius staff assistants would say you’ve gone into syndication.

And, as a generalist, I too applaud the retarded young man at Chic Fil-he has become a master of a specific craft and he needs to be recognized. He has succeeded in specificity in a way I have not…bravo!
_________________________________________________________
J:
Or perhaps that I’m resting on my laurels. The Gallery is a gift that keeps on giving when it comes to material. Today I noticed four uniformed and well armed security agents leaning on a post talking to each other, interested in nothing so much as their own engaging conversation. You could have held someone up at gun point and they might not have noticed. Made me feel a lot safer.

When you find yourself being a bit jealous of a man who’s main job function is passing out chicken on a toothpick you perhaps need to reevaluate your choices. I’m just saying.
________________________________________________________________
Me:
Remember that article Nancy sent us about that strangling that happened at 11 a.m. last week in the Gallery? Yeah-made me feel great about unknowingly spending my lunch break there at Five Below on the same day.

Reevaluate my choices I am. Maybe instead of working in an office, I could work in an ice cream shop. I’d really love scooping ice cream all day and handing out cones to people. I mean, you get to give people ICE CREAM all day.

Hey-maybe I’ll see if Ben & Jerry’s is hiring…
__________________________________________________________
J, for the last time:
Yeah I remember. I walk through the Gallery regularly. I know exactly where it happened and exactly where he was found. I see people screaming at each other there all the time.

I was at the library this afternoon over my lunch break. I saw that some janitorial services was hiring. Third shift, cleaning office buildings. For a moment, I considered it. I loved being a janitor. I actually considered applying to my campus department after graduating. I found the work satisfying, I liked the people (and not just the other students, the full time folks who have made custodial services at a small Christian liberal arts college their career) but then my friend Jeannine’s mom said I was nuts and she was right, so I took the path I’m currently on. But there are moments when I’m being figuratively shit on that I think to myself, it would be better to just literally clean up people’s shit because at least then I wouldn’t be fooling anyone about what my job is or my station in life.

Ben & Jerry’s is awesome. They have a policy that the top executives cannot make more than seven times what the people on the lowest rung make. In practice, this means they have a hard time finding executive talent, but it probably also means you can make quite a lot selling ice cream and no one yells at the ice cream man.

Possible Felony: Eating an Old Lady’s Cookie Mail

I write to my entire department on Jan. 26, 2011 at 12:21 p.m.

So I’m a terrible person.

I received a package in the mail at my apartment and it was addressed to the person who used to live there.

I had good intentions. I brought the package to work to give to the USPS people so they could forward it on to where it needed to go. But then a bunch of time went by and I decided to forget it.

The package has been on my desk for about two weeks and in my purging spree, I decided I would open it and see if it was important. If it was, I would make sure that Rosalie Delgado received her package.

So I opened it and it’s a bunch of stale holiday cookies. But there’s some biscotti in there and some truffles that are pretty good.

It’s all in the food cube if you’re so inclined.
_____________________________________________
R replies all:

Thanks for sharing… I think.  Though stale cookies are still better than no cookies (right, J?)
________________________________________________
The other N.P. plugs her Girl Scout Cookies:

Well, if you want FRESH cookies . . .
________________________________________________
I tease:

Well isn’t someone just a Nancy Pants…
__________________________________________________
Then, J unleashes this:

This whole thing sounds crumby to me. I mean the cascade of illegality committed by one Ms. P. rises to the level of a federal crime—why don’t you just put a penny on the rail road tracks or burn a dollar bill while you’re at it you hoodlum?

As for poor Ms. Rosalie, I mean, who knows what this woman’s story is. Alone on Christmas, waiting for a pathetic box of cookies to arrive from her children, who send her sweets every three months to stay in the old lady’s will. But the cookies didn’t come this Christmas, so Rosalie probably went to her lawyer the next day and wrote them all out. The kids, who had been living the life of the prodigal son in anticipation of a trust fund transfer on the day the estate tax expires now must go out and get jobs in this economy and they can only HOPE to be as successful as the fine young man who passed out free chicken at the Gallery mall, but what is more likely is they will decide that the answer is a life of crime and debauchery.

Yeah, the whole thing sounds crumby. It’s not going to keep me from going over and getting a cookie though. I’m not that concerned.

There weren't NEARLY as fresh as these babies.

__________________________________________________
I reply:

Wow. Just Wow.
_____________________________________________________
J retorts:

You, my dear, are a family wrecking federal felon.
_____________________________________________________

Maybe. But at least someone got to eat them before the last cookie crumbled.

Yankee Candles: the bane of the holiday season.

As injustices go, it doesn’t quite rank up there with starvation in Ethiopia, child prostitution in Thailand, Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment for resisting apartheid in South Africa, or the Holocaust, but I for one am sick of going to my office refrigerator and finding ice cube trays with one lonely ice cube. Come on people, what am I supposed to do with this? Couldn’t you have put that ice cube in your cup and refilled the tray? Who does that?

Spare me the lecture about how this just shows that Americans in general, and me in particular, have truly run out of things to worry about. Yes, we probably have. But that hasn’t stopped us from worrying and complaining.

Perhaps it’s the holidays. I think they make everyone depressed.

Those of us lucky enough to have families dread the thought of having to spend time with them, while lonely people wish anyone would be there to open presents with on Christmas Eve. True story–I once read a post on craigslist.com from a woman called, “Spend Christmas Eve with me.” She was alone, she didn’t want to be and she would welcome anyone to her house who wanted to spend Christmas Eve decorating her tree and listening to Christmas Carols. She ended the post by saying that men who were looking for something sexual should look elsewhere. My guess is she either spent the night with a lot of lonely women and their cats or is dead in a ditch somewhere; there really isn’t much in between on this one.

Those of us lucky enough to have money wind up spending it on a lot of meaningless garbage and running up debt, while those who do not have money have to answer some poor little kids question about why Santa couldn’t make it to his house. Nothing depresses me more than the thought of a kid with nothing to open Christmas morning, and I blame Yankee Candle for the whole mess. Seriously, Yankee Candle has become the new paperweight. Ever thought about how meaningless a paperweight is as a gift? Do you know of many offices that have a lot of windstorms that require us to have a special item to keep our papers from blowing away? My office doesn’t even have a window, and even if it did I’m not opening it in January. I might open it in April, but by then I would have forgotten about your damn paperweight.

Yankee Candles though are a travesty on the American economy. In my house we buy them in bulk and give them to people we feel obligated to give gifts to but don’t care enough about to actually think about what they would truly want. My guess is I’m not the only one who does this, and because we give them out before Christmas I also suspect that many of them get re-gifted at office parties and large family gatherings where people do not notice.

Oi vey.

Office Christmas parties are now in full swing depriving the American economy of much needed productivity. Seriously, if you are out of work and looking for a job you may as well stop until after new year’s because the decision makers are all on vacation and HR is busy planning the office party. Beyond the office party there are a lot of departmental parties and a lot of unnecessary gift swapping.

Whoever thought office gift swapping was a good idea ought to be taken out in the street and pelted with Yankee Candles. Most of these are “Yankee Swap” (Damn Yankees ruined everything, let’s hope the South rises again—Lee surrendered I didn’t!—Where was I? Oh yeah, office gift giving) where people have between $10 and $15 to come up with a gift that everyone might like. All these gifts go in a pile and people pick from the pile. Then the next person has the option of stealing your gift or picking from the pile.

I did this for three years at one of my old jobs. Every year I did the same thing. I would go to the local convenience store, buy a gift card for the exact amount of the Yankee Swap and put it in the pile. When my turn came, I would pick it and act surprised. Curiously, no one ever wanted my convenience store gift card and I would just fill up my gas tank and buy a Slim Jim on the way home. All things considered, a very Merry Christmas.

Gift Cards are great though because while they used to require thought they really don’t anymore. Used to be you had to at least be aware of where the person likes to shop, but now you can buy gift cards at your bank. And this is different than cash, how? Maybe it’s better if I don’t ask.

It will all be over soon, and then we’ll be in to gift returning season because, honestly, even if you are a conscientious person trying to do right by everyone on your gift list you are going to screw it up somewhere and that Yankee Candle is going right back to the store.

The tradition of returns is as old as Christmas itself. When Jesus was born away in a manger some well meaning kings, or wise men depending on your translation, brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to a screaming child (I don’t buy the “little lord Jesus no crying he make” line for a minute—I’ve raised two babies). After Mary graciously accepted these gifts, she likely ran out to the first century equivalent of Wal Mart and promptly exchanged them for some Yankee Candles.

Now who wants pie?

On the road…YET AGAIN

J writes last night (12/7/10) at 7:05 p.m.

The irony of airplane travel is that it is an amazing feat of technical genius, but most of those who fly agree it sucks.

Less than 100 years ago, if you wanted to go from Philadelphia to California you might get there before you died of old age. Kind of gives a whole new perspective to going to visit grandma.

“Alright kids, let’s rustle it up and go visit grandma.”

“But, Dad, she’s 15.”

“Yeah, but I’m pretty sure she’ll be a grandmother by the time we get there.”

Now, with the time zones, you can leave Philadelphia at 8:00 a.m. and be in San Diego before lunch, yet all of us will universally agree that the experience sucks.

We all cheered when that guy from Jet Blue jumped out the emergency chute because while we may disagree on tax policy, welfare reform, abortion, school prayer, whatever, we all felt a certain kinship with a man who had just had it with the whole flying experience.

I fly about 15 times a year and I have for years. Yet until today, I had never flown Southwest. I was always a little skeptical. I mean, all other things being equal, when you pay less for something the quality is less. I may save money by shopping at Wal Mart, but I am under no illusions that I’m getting high quality anything by shopping there.

But Southwest was my option, and so, as they say, “DING” I was now free to move about the country.

Southwest was so pleasant it was almost surreal. When I checked it at 4:45 in the morning the ticket clerks were smiling and it didn’t end there.

Much has been made of Southwest’s cattle call no assigned seat system, and I was expecting the worst. But it was surprisingly orderly, and the Southwest employees actually made it fun, if only because their pleasant demeanors seemed that much more against the surly dispositions of the TSA workers who were waiting to feel me up.

Actually the cattle call where you stand by a pole made about as much sense as the systems on other airlines. I never understood why everyone stands in line for the privilege of sitting in an assigned seat for an extra 20 minutes. But we do. And we complain about it.

The airline was equally pleasant. The flight attendants (who were named, I am not making this up, Vicki and Vic) offered to hold my coffee while I sat down, they held the door open when I went to the bathroom (OK, that one was a little creepy) and Vicky engaged me in conversation that didn’t seem forced and even offered to snuggle with me when I complained I was cold (OK, that one creeped me out too, but I almost took her up on it because I was disappointed that none of the TSA agents wanted to grope me).

So Southwest has actually found a way to do things differently.

Congratulations.

Now who wants pie?

Tis the season for…

J writes via email:

It occurs to me that with Thanksgiving next week, we have now officially entered the holiday season. Retailers, desperate to squeeze the last dollar out of a beleaguered consumer, started their sales a lot earlier this year which makes me wonder, are there any chumps who pay full price for anything anymore? Probably we all are because retailers aren’t chumps either and they likely mark everything up so they can mark everything down in time for us to fill each other’s lives with a lot of cheap imports so we can alleviate the guilt that comes from ignoring each other all year.

Christmas is a uniquely obtrusive holiday because it leaves everyone depressed. First there are the truly less fortunate who can barely make ends meet throughout the year and certainly don’t have the resources to fill the area under the tree with a lot of wrapped up crap, or even much less afford a tree. My heart breaks when I think of kids who don’t get anything for Christmas, especially when I consider that most everyone I know will exacerbate the trade imbalance with China as we fill our kids lives with a lot of cheap plastic crap that will either be broken inside of two hours, forgotten inside of three weeks and out in a garage sale inside of four months as the weather gets warm and we go a wassailing through people’s driveways in search of things that they couldn’t even care enough about to get all the way down the driveway to the trash can.

Seriously, ever notice there is only a one letter difference between garage sale and garbage sale? It’s as if someone one day was trying to take out their trash, threw their back out or something and then said, “well maybe I’ll just start putting price tags on things and see what happens.” Thus the underground economy of the garage sale was born, but that’s a topic for another post.

The thing about the holidays is they require a lot of forced socialization. First there are our families—and did you hear the surgeon general wants us to spend Thanksgiving Dinner talking about our family medical histories so we can better understand our genetic risks? True story. I can just see it now.

“Uncle Ed, no one wants to hear what color your shit was yesterday! We’re trying to eat.”

“Hey, I’m just following the surgeon general’s recommendation.”

“Have another glass of gravy and blow it out your ass.”

“Speaking of…”

As if families were not bad enough, there is a lot of forced socialization with our co-workers as we go to departmental Christmas parties, office-wide Christmas parties, industry-convention sponsored Christmas parties, important client Christmas events, and the one at the boss’s house that only a few people are invited to. These are the worst social chores. If you are lucky enough to have gainful employment in this era, you likely spend most of your waking hours there and the last thing you need is to spend even more of it at a holiday party I don’t care how much you like everybody.

Can we all give each other the best Christmas present ever and acknowledge that just because we work together it does not mean that we have to be friends? This does not mean that we don’t like each other, but if you are lonely it’s not my fault and you should not make me feel like it’s my obligation to give you a social life just because we share a cube wall. If you want to be part of a community go join a church. It’s not hard to find one that doesn’t expect all that much from you, especially this time of year. Yes, I’m talking to you Christmas and Easter folks.

But the Christmas Party is the worst social chore.

Employers want to celebrate the end of a good year.

Except…

Unless you work in bankruptcy foreclosures this year pretty much sucked for you. You didn’t get a raise, your sales barely held on and you likely lost your job. If you didn’t lose your job you lived in constant fear of losing it, and you were asked to do more with less as everyone tried to save money. So it seems like the easiest way to save even more money is to not have a catered affair with a lot of alcohol, the bill for which could easily have paid the salary of the staff assistant that was let go to save money.

That level of holiday cheer never happens...in offices.

The holidays are a reason to celebrate.

Except…

No one can agree on if it’s ok to say Merry Christmas because we’re all walking on eggshells trying to be polite to everyone. So I’m just going to say it. Starting on November 26, when I say goodbye to you, I’m going to say Merry Christmas. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, fine, but don’t get all huffy and remind me of your right to ignore a holiday that 99.9 percent of the country celebrates without incident. When you decided to celebrate one of the other holidays you knew you were going to be in a minority, so own it.

That said, I don’t think anyone should be forced to celebrate at a holiday party. Last year at my office there were Christmas carols, and there was talk of a Christmas play. It’s pretty diverse here in terms of faith and I could not think of any way this would not be offensive to someone and fortunately eventually the powers that be saw clear to eliminate the play. The songs stayed, but I compensated by singing “walking round in women’s underwear” as loud as I could.

The Christmas party gives people a reason to socialize with co-workers we wouldn’t normally see…

Except…

I have heard of no stories where this turns out well. Yes, I suppose you could finally meet that cute girl from accounting, but here’s the thing, if you haven’t hooked up by now, she’s probably married or attached, and if she’s not she’s really lonely and you do not want to have to deal with the dysfunction of a lonely person around the holidays.

Plus, if you work in a big office, you won’t see each other again and you’ll likely engage in a drunk hook up that everyone in the office will remember even if they don’t talk about and you’ll become the subject of a whisper campaign that will last until at least the following Christmas party where you’ll get the chance to do it all again.

For some reason, the Christmas parties will go on though and I’ll go to them because I’m obligated to. Because no one wants to be the Grinch.

But I won’t have fun, and neither will you. Maybe we should all just say so.

Now who wants pie?

On the road…again.

On 11/10/10 at 11:05 a.m. J writes:

So I’ve been on the road again a good bit this week, but not really on the road, which means that I get my food stipend and can eat in places that I normally wouldn’t, because, well, I’m cheap. So food trucks serve a special niche for me because of their low cost goodness.

And before everyone starts to get all upity on me, you should know that some very highly placed journalists and industry PR people have enjoyed food trucks as well, so smoke on your pipe and put that in, or whatever.

This week though I was taking some out-of-town friends and colleagues out for a Philadelphia cheesesteak. They said they wanted the authentic experience, which, of course, as we all know, means Pat’s, Geno’s or Jim’s. We eliminated Pat’s and Geno’s because it was 30 degrees and while I do have fond memories of eating a cheesesteak from Pat’s at 3:00 a.m. when it was 12 degrees out, with my friends and I all saying various versions of, “YOU GOTTA WANT IT!!!” I think I might have been drunk at the time. So my memory might be cloudy.

Anyway, we went to Jim’s. Jim’s is the cheesesteak place on 4th and South. It has pictures of famous people and it sells T-shirts and hats. I’m not ready to call this an iron-clad rule yet, but if you are selling hats and reminding people that famous people once ate there, presumably before veganism and vegetarianism became morally superior, you really aren’t thinking about your food anymore.

We got to Jim’s at around 6:00 p.m. on a Sunday night and the line was out the door. There were people from Germany, Montreal and what I assume were other foreign countries because the line moved in an orderly non-disruptive fashion, so it’s unlikely they were all from Philadelphia.

My companions and I kept in good humor as we waited in line at the cheesesteak stand. By the time we got to the grill, I had in mind what I wanted to order. Whiz with extra whiz. My female companion behind me said she wanted the same thing, and the other dude ordered the same thing without onions.

We managed to find tables upstairs surprisingly easily given the crowd in the lobby, but while I enjoyed the company, the food was a total disappointment. I had paid $.70 for extra whiz, and I was left wondering what a normal whiz steak would have looked like. Part of the charm of a Philadelphia cheesesteak is when the whiz drips out onto the wrapper and you can sop it up with what’s left of your roll like a biscuit. But on this cheesesteak I couldn’t even taste the whiz.

In fact, all I could really taste were the onions, which were piled on top, rather than grilled into the meat like they are supposed to be and not quite cooked right. The bread was cold.

I paid $10.50 for the experience; money wasted.

On Tuesday night I wound up working late again and walked through the Gallery Mall. There’s a steak place there called Charley’s Fried Steaks, which gives out excellent samples on days when you are lucky. But here’s the thing- the actual cheesesteaks you pay for are not nearly as good as the sample.

I ordered the chicken club, which was supposed to come with cheese, bacon, tomatoes and lettuce. They grilled it, and didn’t put any bacon on it, which was my first disappointment.

Then they sent it down the assembly line to a surly little man who stood in front of the fixings bar. He stared at me. Not, with a “what would you like, sir?” smile but with a “what do you want?” look that didn’t have a question with it. I was going to say just put on what it’s supposed to have on it, but since they had already screwed up the bacon, I didn’t have much hope that they’d get the rest of the sandwich right so I proceeded to make my own creation.

And it didn’t work out. The combination of swiss cheese (yes, swiss cheese), ranch (I choked) and hot peppers (again, another mistake) made the whole sandwich a disappointment.

Equally disappointing were the cheese fries, which I had paid a premium for and which, well, wound up being far too soggy.

I paid $11.67 for the experience. Money wasted.

From now on, I’m just sticking with the food trucks.

Now who wants pie?