We live in times when asked what one’s dining preference; that my friends are no longer a simple question. We are overwhelmed by the conditions which I refer to as OPC – Options, Preferences and Choices. Unfortunately it’s confined to dining, it’s every aspect of life from insurance to banking, from religion to…well. You name it.
Last week as I traveled for business I decided to stop and grab something to eat. As I sat down at my table, it seemed as I was asked to share a table with family of condiments. Ketchup, soy sauce, 3 types of hot sauce, an assortment of coffee creamers, a variety of sweeteners, steak sauce, sriracha, pepper, but oddly no salt shaker – I guess they ran out of room on the table.
I wondered to myself when this condiment invasion took place. The waitress who took my order was friendly, yet sounded like a an automated voice process, “how do you want that cooked; soup, salad or cold slaw; fries, onion rings or tater tots; what type of cheese; onions raw or fried; bun or roll; and do you wish to add bacon”you guessed it, I was ordering a cheeseburger.
Wow, what happen to the good old days, you know, back when America was great.The good old days when someone ordered decaf coffee was considered sophisticated. I do get a kick watching older customers ordering at a fast food place or coffee at Starbucks. So often, I hear frustration in their voices with commentary like “I just want to order a plain hamburger” or “do you serve regular coffee?”
Recently I overheard a couple debate where to buy a sandwich – yes, a sandwich. Thanks to OPC this question has the potential to be an explosive one. As I drove home I passed a Subway, Jersey Mike’s, Firehouse, Togo’s, Quizno’s, Submarina and two other local sandwich shops, all in only a two-mile ride home – no wonder sandwich selection as now, such a divisive topic for couples to contemplate. In my research I came across an amazing discovery, Americans eat over 300 Million Sandwiches – a Day! Now multiply that by a week, a month, a year – those are staggering numbers. And thanks to OPC there’s no such thing as a basic sandwich.
I remembered as a kid in grade school, the possibilities of what type of sandwich would be in my lunch bag was so limited: bologna (the kind that you’d still need to remove the red wrapping around the edge – you member?) tuna, pressed ham (whatever that was, but that’s what it was called) or peanut butter and jelly – and that was about it. Hey, those where the 60’s when packaged lunch meat was not common. If you wanted to buy cold cuts or cheese you’d be required to order and have them sliced by your neighborhood butcher. I recall being intimidated to request that the butcher slice the meat thinner.
Of course growing up, if our family considered Asian fare it was basic Chinese (sweet and sour, chow mein, etc.) now it’s Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai and on, and on. “No, no, I just want regular Oriental food” (I actually heard someone use this expression, I wonder if this person refers to a taco as Latin American food?). “Okay, Chinese cuisine so will that be Cantonese, Mandarin, Szechuan or Hunan.” I’m surprised we haven’t witnessed a crisis of 911 calls from those suffering from OPC!
Last week two events took place, here in the USA elections and Veteran’s Day. Following the theme of this article of living in an OPC world, perhaps the dismal statistics of Americans exercising their right to vote correlates to limited choices in this process. Over 40% of those eligible did not vote – talk about disengagement! I suppose when some talk about veterans defending our rights, that includes the option to vote or not to vote.
Yes, it’s a crazy diverse world. I get a kick when I see a kitchen of Hispanic staff preparing Asian cuisine or watching my Asian/Hispanic-American grandchildren eating Pho, McDonald’s or chips and salsa. That’s the beautiful thing of living in these days and times, our children are exposed to a wide diverse culture and changing society. As far as the slogan “Let’s Make America Great Again;” as the official spokesperson for Managing OPC I’d rather embrace the uniqueness of today’s diversity with “We are the World.”