September 26, 2009

تحب البطاطا مع ذلك؟ ( or ) Would you like fries with that?

This evening I had posted an order with McDonalds on the internet, expecting it to arrive at my door in 30 minutes. Cairo, for all its frustrations, is actually equipped with an incredibly sophisticated website called Otlob.com, which allows one to order food from just about anywhere within the city and have it arrive within an hour for a one or two dollar delivery charge. While it is surprising that such technology is commonly used here, it is also not surprising considering just how much this country LOVES fast food. In fact, if someone were to ask "what is Egyptian food like?" the response would not be a description of lamb with hummus, but perhaps an overview of the menu at Hardees or Pizza Hut. If you don't believe me, here is a picture I shot from inside a pizza hut... immediately next to thepyramids.

A quick look at Google, and Mcdonalds will pop up everywhere (see below).

Strangely, this map doesn't even have half of the McDonalds locations. Add to this Hardees, Pizza Hut, Chilis, Applebees, and KFC, the whole thing would be littered with red dots. By the way, good luck finding a decent restaurant specializing in Middle Eastern Cuisine. I will admit however that Mallory and I once wrote an Email to Taco Bell, requesting that they begin to install a franchise within Pizza Hut locations in Cairo, as the nearest Taco Bell is in Dubai. We also suggested locations.

Anyway,  I place an order with McDonalds, and expect nothing more until the phone rings 5 minutes later. Please be sure to use your best Egyptian accent while reading from this point on.

Otlob: Mr. Mitchell, this is Otlob, there is a problem wid you order.

Me: Yes?

Otlob: What item would you like the "extra chocolate sauce" added to?

Me: The M&M McFlurry (the options include the 1/4 pounder, fries, coke, salad, and strawberry sundae... and no, this was not all for me).

Otlob: Very good Sir. Thank you very much. Bye bye sir. This was all fine, and if anything, I appreciated the commitment of the agency to not make the tragic error of adding chocolate sauce to the wrong dessert. But then the phone rang again...

Otlob: Hello Mr. Mitchell Sir, there is a problem with the chocolate sauce request, McDonalds said they cannot add it to the item you requested because that item does not have chocolate sauce.

Me: Well of course they can. That is why I requested "extra" sauce and am paying "extra" money, because the request is made in addition to the item.

Otlob: Yes sir, I understand, and I tell this to McDonalds, but they say it cannot be done.


This same conversation goes on and on and on, for about 3 rotations. At this point I just start laughing, and I really can't determine if the guy on the phone is laughing either. Maybe he wasn't, but it was so funny and absurd to me, I couldn't imagine him being really serious. So I said...

Me: Okay. Actually, add the chocolate to the sandwich.

Otlob: (Confused) Um, the sandwhich, no chicken, wait, um...

Me: Yes, add the chocolate sauce to the sandwich.

Otlob: You want me to add it to the sandwich sir?

Me: (chuckle) No, I don't want it on the sandwich, I want it on the ice cream. Just tell them to put it on the ice cream, it will be fine.

Otlob: Oh, you are kidding? You make joke? Oh, on the ice cream, not on the sandwich. I can do that sir. Thank you for the joke sir. Have a nice day.

Thirty minutes later an exhausted McDonalds employee was at my door (top floor of the building, no elevator, and all Egyptians smoke half-a-pack per day). I paid the man, opened up the bags and discovered with a grin, a virgin McFlurry, and a strawberry sundae with chocolate sauce.

Could have been worse, but in the end, Egypt won again.  Current Score: Mitch 7, Egypt 3,562