The Ketchup Post

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These last few years, I’ve started worrying about McDonald’s.  Back in the day, they used to let you take all the napkins and ketchup packets you could want, which obviously was a sign that their business was booming.  Their current policy of rationing out two ketchup packets, though, seems to signify something else.  Could it be that times are tough for the golden arches; that the meals are, in fact, not as happy as we’ve been led to believe?

I can see the headline now: “4 Million McDonald’s Restaurants to Close Due to Years of Ketchup Mismanagement.”

Sarcasm aside, I don’t mind being handed a couple crappy ketchup packets, seeing that I don’t really like ketchup much.  However, this condiment packet stinginess has spread to Taco Bell, and if I can’t smother my burrito in mild Taco Bell sauce, I’ll be even more disappointed than I was when they stopped using the hilarious talking dog in the commercials.  I don’t understand why more places don’t follow Wendy’s lead, with their brilliant ketchup-dispenser-and-tiny-paper-cups method.  It seems cost efficient, plus I get an inexplicable satisfaction from filling the little cup up to the rim with ketchup.  It’s almost the same thrill I had as a kid when I’d make food out of Play-Doh.  That was probably the apex of my culinary skills; I can’t do much in the kitchen, but when I was four I made a mean Play-Doh hot dog.

Really, I could see this whole ketchup thing coming years ago.  My grandfather used to stuff his pockets with McDonald’s ketchup packets when I was growing up.  That’s my image of going out to eat with him – me looking down in embarrassment as he stuffed huge handfuls of ketchup packets into his Buffalo Bills parka.  He was ridiculously out of control.  You’d open the guy’s refrigerator and McDonald’s ketchup packets would literally come tumbling out of it.  Thinking back, it seemed like ketchup used to get stuck in the neck of the bottle way more than it does now.  I can picture my grandmother banging on the neck of a ketchup bottle with a knife.  No wonder Grandpa kept stealing ketchup packets – it was for his own safety.

He probably feared one day the ketchup wouldn’t come out she would turn the knife on him out of frustration.

But I remember thinking even back then that McDonald’s was being too nice with the ketchup.  I thought that if I ran a McDonald’s, I would only give packets to the drive thru people.  For the people eating in the restaurant, I would have one bottle of ketchup chained to the wall.  And it would be a really short chain too.  Just turning the bottle upside down to pour the ketchup would stretch the chain to its full length, for the sole reason of telling people, psychologically, that this bottle wasn’t going nowhere.

Either that, I thought, or I would rig the ketchup bottle with one of those exploding blue dye packets.  You know, like what they use for robberies.  If anyone took the ketchup bottle, I’d just laugh and think, “Steal my ketchup?  Okay.  Ink to your face, sucker!”

People would see the person out on the street a week later and be like, “Shit!  What happened?  Did you rob a bank?”

“No, man…I took a bottle of ketchup from fuckin’ McDonald’s…”

Of course I used to picture my grandfather all blue like a smurf.  That thief.  Another thing he would do, he would go to Sears and walk to the section where they sold Buffalo Bills sweaters (because that’s all anybody in my family, including myself, wore from 1970-2000).  Then he would, essentially, steal one.  He would rationalize it, though, in his crazy brain, by leaving one of his old sweaters in its place.  I wish he got caught doing that, because I would’ve loved to hear him explain himself to the police:

“Yes, I took it…but wait!  Wait just a second, Mr. Officer!  If you look on the shelf, you will notice that I left a very fine – slightly used – vintage 1976 Buffalo Bills sweater.  Sears can re-sell it…they only have to wash it first…I had an accident with a ketchup packet last Tuesday…”

Can you imagine trying to do that in any situation and thinking that leaving your old junk behind would be a fair exchange?  I can picture myself getting busted walking out of Best Buy with a Wii:  “Oh, did I pay for the Wii?  Um, no, no I didn’t…but if you go check the shelf, you will notice that I left in its place a Sega Genesis…that’s right…And I even left some games…there’s Sonic the Hedgehog…Altered Beast…Madden ’93…and MK…that would be Mortal Kombat my friend…I can go now, right?”

Ridiculous.  But I digress.  These times they are a changin’, and it saddens me.  What would it feel like to grow up in a world that’s so tightfisted, it only allows two ketchup packets?  Sure, it seems slight, but this new generation might never know the feeling of confidence one has when walking to the table with two crunchy tacos and nine sauce packets to dose them in.  That was a feeling of freedom.  Much like the first time I went to Wendy’s and was told I didn’t have to bring the tray to the garbage myself.  I could just leave it on the table.  Hearing that, it was like anything in the world was possible.

You don’t serve 8 billion people with 16 billion ketchup packets.  So open your heart McDonald’s, and let the kids have lots of ketchup.  After all, it’s the only vegetable they’re eating.

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