Lint-Trap 1/25/01: Pizza from Hell


Pizza from Hell


Something happened to me today that caused me to flashback to one of the most difficult and humiliating experiences of my life.

For me, at least, humiliation can be measured by how long it takes me to be able to laugh about it. This was a good five years or so humiliation.

It all started with a pizza. It was a cold and rainy day on the East Coast almost thirty years ago. My wife and I decided to have a pizza for dinner, and called in the order to a local Italian pizzaria that did a fine job. I set off in the car with my son, who was about a year and a half old, to pick up the pizza.

It was a Saturday night, and the joint was jumpin'. There were no parking places in the lot, and the rain was still coming down, but I found a parking spot right across the street from the restaurant, unstrapped my son from his car seat, and we walked across the street to get the pizza.

(In those days, car seats actually looked more like booster chairs than the car seats of day, which look like they would protect a kid from being ejected from a jet plane at 60,000 feet).

It was indeed Saturday night, and the street we had to cross was wet and slippery, the main 4-lane highway going through the small town where the restaurant was. And my son was one of those kids who learned to walk one day and two weeks later was running everywhere. He required at least one hand in a firm grip when we were in public. He was also at that beautiful age where everything that happens is amazing and wonderful and he was all eyes and ears taking everything in.

No problem picking up the Pizza--there were many people standing around waiting for tables and waiting to pick up orders. But I got the large pizza and we left the restaurant.

At this point, I really wanted to have three hands--one for my son, and two for the pizza (not to mention the keys to the car). Lacking that, I made do with my hip, holding the pizza box against my hip horizonally, supported by one hand, while the other hand held my son's hand. We waited for a break in the traffic and started across the street.

When we were about the middle of the street, my son stumbled, unbalancing me. I kept him upright, but to my horror the pizza box started to fold in two and slip down my hip. I made a frantic grab for it, still holding my son with the other hand, and was able to bat it into the air twice and ended by clasping it to my chest.

I distinctly remember the millisecond of triumph I felt for having juggled the box and caught it, before the end of the box opened, and the pizza slid right down the front of me and onto the street. Of course, I had managed to get the sauce side next to me, so I was coated with hot sauce, with the occasional pepperoni and black olive. The pizza was lying on the double yellow line in the middle of the road, sauce side down. To add to the effect, it had landed in a small puddle.

At this point, rationality departed. I bent down, grabbed the soggy pizza along with a few leaves and pebbles, stuffed it into what was left of the box, and turned around and marched back into the restaurant. I must have looked a sight, covered with sauce, and with a somewhat confused by very interested little boy looking on, as I burst through the front door, slammed the soggy box + pizza on the counter, and bellowed "I wish you people had better quality pizza boxes!". And then, with what dignity I could muster (not much), I fled.

I remember the wost part of the whole thing was driving home, hungry and humiliated, with the smell of that wonderful pizza driving me crazy as it rose from my shirt, pants, and jacket.

As I drove home, I got madder and madder and more and more miserable. By the time I got home, still with young son looking on in fascination, I stomped through the back door, making my second dramatic sauce covered entrance in 15 minutes. My wife probably didn't need the few sentences I got out between gritted teeth to understand what the problem was. Bless her, she did not laugh. She took charge. She ordered me into the shower, called up and ordered another pizza, and within a half hour, made a far more successful trip to the restaurant than I had, returning with a whole pizza, safe and sound.

I suspected that she and the people at the restaurant had had a good laugh at my expense. She told me the restaurant had given us the pizza for free, but I didn't believe her. It was years before I could talk about the experience without wincing and blushing. My son, as you might expect, has no conscious memory of the experience. But I've noticed that he carries pizza boxes very carefully...

Thank you for reading.

Copyright © 2001 Pete Stevens. All rights reserved.