I was first drawn to this pizza place by a sign in the window, generously touting "$5 Pizza! No Wait!" Good deal, right? And the pie turns out to be pretty good in the basic tomato-sauce/cheese/maybe-pepperoni way that surprisingly few places get right outside of New York.
After an arduous week of mental toil at home, I'd totter over, $5 in hand, tired, punchy and more than ready to devour a mess of carbs n' gluten while catching up on my TV shows. Friday night, small town America!
And each week, this series of exchanges would more-or-less take place:
I'd ask the guy behind the counter -- maybe a lanky young fella with dreadlocks and a flour-dusted visor or maybe some else -- if he had any $5 pizzas ready, as per the signage.
Invariably, the guy would look puzzled by the question, as if no one had ever asked before.
I could tell it wasn't contempt for the patron's cheapness that caused him to not immediately answer; Rather it felt as though he seriously did not know.
He was genuinely as much in the dark about this as I was, and so now the both of us, together, would discover if there were any $5 pies.
He'd turn around and open the warming oven behind him, peak into one of the two or three pizza boxes residing within and then triumphantly proclaim that one was indeed ready!
This went on Every. Single. Week.
But that was only the first part of this exchange. He then would ring up the pizza, which would come to $5.25 with tax. And just as invariably, I would have completely forgotten to bring the extra quarter,and push back into my wallet the symbolic fiver, which I had usually squirreled away for at least a day or two in anticipation for my glorious pizza night, and paid with credit card or a $20 instead.
One time when I asked after $5 pizza, the counter guy peered into the warming oven to find three boxes ready. He looked into one box. Then another. Finally, the third. Satisfied his inquisition, he turned and asked how many I want.
One. One pizza. The same number of pizzas I get every week. This would go on for awhile too.
IIIOnce I ordered a $5 pizza and decided to splurge and purchase a plastic bags they were selling of home-made chocolate chip cookies for $2. The order came to $8.36.
How did he get to this amount? No idea! Virginia state tax is 5.3 percent. The orders should have been $7.37. I don't care about paying the extra -- the cookies alone were worth more than $3. I'm just curious as to how the counter guy had arrived at that particular total, a calculation I can now not reassemble, and was too hungry to care about at the time.
On the rare occasion that a pizza is not ready, I'd sit there in one of the two plastic chairs provided for those foolish enough to actually wait for their orders in this day and age. There I'd observe other peculiar exchanges between the customer and the cashier, often a curious melange of cross-purpose.
Once, a great deal of commotion flared up behind the counter, as one of the employees was frantically trying to figure out how to get the phone number of a customer who had just left behind his credit card.
It was of utmost importance of that time that they, somehow, get ahold of this customer. I turned to a guy sitting next to me, who also looked on mystified.
"Wouldn't the person just come back when he discovers he left his card here?"
"That's what you'd think," he responded.
Once, in the middle of the day, I burst in to the front door of the establishment, fresh from seeing a sign outside advertising for banner shakers. The job consisted of standing on a nearby street corner, vigorously waving a sign advertising the $5 pizza. The position seemed to be occupied by a stream of high school kids.
That very day, I was entertaining the notion of what it would be like to take the position myself ("Exit Strategy!"). So In jest, I asked the man behind the counter if the job was still open. Maybe I was too low-key though. He said he'd get the manager, not in the least questioning the presumption that an aging rotund bald guy could even handle the task (FYI: I could. Totes).
On another occasion, a patron walked in to pick up a large pizza with a single topping, which the cashier rang up for $14.65. The patron paused, then asked "Wait, don't you have a deal for a two-topping large pizza for $10. It's advertised right there on the window. So I'm paying $4 for one less topping?"
The cashier appeared perplexed, furrowing his brow. It did not appear as if he, or the establishment, was purposefully trying to cheat the customer. More like no one there had actually thought through the full implications of the advertised deal. And after some more deep reflection, the cashier agreed to charge the patron for the cheaper pizza.