“Excuse me, waiter…”
“I’ve got a lot of French fries here. I wonder if you could bring me a little extra ketchup?”
It was one of those moments you don’t see coming and when it does come you don’t quite believe it’s there. No? I’m sure that none of us, in our collective century or two of living in this culture has ever heard that question responded to with that answer. We had dropped 30 bucks on a bar tab, and were having five full blown entree’s at the table, more drinks, who knows … there could be dessert, and compered to the 50 or 60 satin-clad prom goers who filled up a goodly number of seats in Saint Cloud’s Granite City restaurant, we were likely to leave palpable tips.
But poor Greg was not going to get an extra ounce of ketchup.
“Sorry sir,” the boy who was our waiter continued. “Our manager is a bit of a stickler. You know, we throw away about 80 dollars worth of uneaten ketchup a night …”
‘Hold on a second,’ we all thought to ourselves (this was a table full of professional skeptics having just come from a meeting of skeptics planning to spread skepticism across the world, so we were in gear to say the least … I mean seriously, there was a freakin’ Skepchick among us… ) A good price for Ketchup is about three bucks for a 24 ounce bottle, wholesale, or 15 cents an ounce. This is a large restaurant, so say they 110 seats and cycle through five people at dinner time max, that’s 550 plates. If half the orders have french fries, that’s 225 little stainless steel cups of ketchup, with an ounce in each one. That comes out to 34 bucks worth of ketchup. Everybody would have to ask for three or four servings of ketchup and then not use two of them for this to be true.
We were skeptical.
It did occur to us that we were on that TV show, “What Would You Do?” or maybe “Candid Camera.” We wondered what Greg was going to do with the ketchup he had. those of us who did not have any ketchup, even though we didn’t need it, started eyeing his little stainless steel cup. We wondered if we had missed something on the news …. word of the Ketchup Crisis … because we were very busy with other things.
A while later the boy-waiter came back. He sheepishly held out a little stainless steel cup of ketchup. “I want to say I’m sorry, I should not have told you that you could not have any more ketchup. Here’s some more ketchup.” And he put the little stainless steel cup down in the middle of the table where we all eyed it enviously, a sort of Stockholm Syndrome settling in, but instead of Stockholm it was some place where there wasn’t much Ketchup. The waiter turned and left.
By this time Greg had eaten almost all of his French fries, and he had conserved the ketchup he had, hoarded it almost, so that the amount of ketchup and the amount of French fries would end at almost exactly the same time. But now he had this extra little cup of ketchup that was way more than he needed, what with only a few more scraps of waffle-cut French fries, and he wasn’t that hungry after all.
So a while later the waiter came by to offer dessert, and when we said no (worried that there might be a prohibition on chocolate sauce or something) he brought the checks, and we settled up our accounts while the little stainless steel cup of ketchup sat there in the middle of the table.
Mocking. Mocking us.
And we all looked at Greg and wondered if he could have done a better job at timing this thing with the French fries, but no one said anything about it out loud.