Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Of Shakes and Semantics

"What size drink would you like?", is one of those questions to which there is no right answer.  I've long thought that I could easily do with one uniform cup size.  Consider the two situations.  In the first scenario you are staying inside to eat, in which case rare is the establishment that doesn't offer free refills.  After all, you don't expect to be asked what size drink you would like when you go to a "sit-down" establishment (as opposed to "fast food").  In the second scenario you are eating (and drinking) on the run.  In which case, again, who cares how big the cup is.  It's sure to be big enough to contain enough fluid to wash down the food you'll be eating, and regardless of how big the cup is, you're sure to drink until it's empty, and the variation between 16 and 32 oz is a mere 16 measly ounces.  Not enough to be concerned with, especially considering that most of what you'll get is ice anyway.  If you don't stop to psych yourself out, if you don't spend time thinking about it, then the cup size will be absolutely meaningless to you.

But that's just it.  We are forced to think about it.  Why ARE there three (or sometimes four) sizes to choose from.  Am I supposed to worry about value?  I'm paying about a 200% markup for soda regardless.  What does it MEAN to me and to others around me if I choose one size over the other.  How thirsty AM I?  Well, I'm thirsty til I'm not... so...

Effectively, when you're driving, the cup is a distraction.  Additionally, no matter how much drink you have, you will be thirsty again.  So you always have simultaneously too much and too little to drink.  

And the kicker, for me at least, is that when the drive-through speaker blares back at you asking what size drink you would like, the options are meaningless.  What size is "small"?  How does "medium" differ from "small", aside from the obvious.  What's the next size after "medium".  In fact, what even is the WORD for the next size after "medium"?  There's no standardization, not even lexically, much less in terms of actual quantifiability.

People like options.  But cup size is a difference that doesn't make one.  It's variety theatre instead of variety in actuality, and I'd actually rather not be asked what size I'd like.   

I've developed a trick to expedite having to deal with the meaningless decision of deciding on cup size.  It's a trick that leverages the built in ambiguity of semantics. 

"What size drink would you like?'

"I'll have regular."

This almost always works.  What's "regular" you might ask?  Well, occasionally the establishment might actually have a "regular" size, but even if they don't, WHO CARES!?  The employee likely has an idea what "regular" is, and that's perfectly acceptable to me.

But today, at Sonic, the drive through operator, after I told her I wanted "regular" came back with, "We have small, medium, large and route 44 sizes, sir."  Really?  Are THOSE the sizes you have?  Well that's fascinating!  I'll take "regular" please.  But no.  My bluff had been called, and I was forced to make an actual choice.  I went with "medium".

Then, we we get to the window, Tabitha's drink comes through the window first, and it's completely devoid of ice.  When next the window opened, out flung my beverage, and in mid sentence I was cut off with the slamming window as she went to force the next customer to choose a cup size. 

We waited.  When the window opened up we asked for a cup of ice.  The window closed, again.  In the mean time, we noticed I had not been allotted a straw.  The window opened again and out flew another cup.  With an urgency in our request we managed to keep the window from slamming again, barely, before closing without our request being registered.  The look we received... the contempt in the eye-roll... the aggravation with us, the oh-so-troubling customers.  Well, I didn't like it.  Not. At. All. 

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