Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Pizza That Got Away

We ordered pizza from Papa Johns last night. We ordered it online, actually, which may be a pretty normal thing to do in much of the world, but it's not so common in Smalltown, Indiana. In fact, Papa Johns is the only pizza place in the area with the option of ordering online. Pizza Hut's website allows online ordering in some areas, but not ours.

We don't normally order from
Papa Johns. For some inexplicable reason, Papa Johns puts peppers in the box with every pizza they deliver. I don't care much for peppers, and since the entire pizza -- box and all -- absorb the flavor of the peppers, I don't care much for Papa Johns pizza. But we ordered online from them once quite some time ago because of the convenience of ordering online, and my Wife remembered their pizza as being better than she had expected, so we thought we would give it another try.

We popped online and made our selection. With nothing smaller than a $50 bill -- which is also not normal for us -- we were a little concerned about the driver having change. Wife scoured the web, and there was no mention of the driver carrying limited change, but also no way to include a message with our order asking for change for a $50, so we took our chances and ordered.

Now you might not expect to get much change from a $50 when ordering pizza for your family, but with only my Wife and I and a 22-month-old son, it doesn't take a lot of pizza to make a meal.

We sat back and waited the obligatory thirty minutes or so before a strange car pulled into our driveway. "The pizza's here," I called to my Wife as I headed for the door so she could prepare our drinks, etc.

A friendly enough young guy came bounding up the steps as I walked out to the porch, carrying three small sized pizza boxes in his hand. "That'll be $20.12," he said, stopping abruptly as he saw me holding out a fifty dollar bill.

"I hope you have change for a fifty," I said. "It's the smallest bill I have."

"I don't think I do," he answered, staring at me like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck.

"It's the smallest thing I have," I repeated, expecting that he might check his wad of cash to see how much change he had. It seems to me that every time I don't need change, the pizza driver has a wad of bills in his pocket bigger than the gross domestic product of most third-world countries. "If you don't have change, I guess you'll have to take the pizzas back," I said.

"I guess I'll have to take them back then," he said, turning to proceed down the steps and back to his car. I stood there
dumbfounded, and more than just a little upset.

My Wife, of course, was shocked and upset at the news when she heard it. "We'll just call and order
Pizza Hut," I said. "You like it better, anyway."

That's exactly what we did, and this time I was able to tell the person taking my order that I would need the driver to have change for a fifty dollar bill. "Not a problem," she assured me.

Again, the obligatory thirty minutes ticked slowly by before another strange car turned into the driveway. "That'll be $25.31," the driver said as I met him on the porch in a strange deja vu. Just why is
Pizza Hut the most expensive chain pizza in the country, anyway?

"They said you'd have change for a fifty when I called," I said as I held out the same bill the
Papa Johns driver had refused.

"I don't think I do," this driver said, echoing his rival.

"When I called, I told them I would need you to have change for a fifty. If you don't I guess I'll call them and see what they want you to do." I wasn't letting two pizzas get away from me in one night.

The driver counted out seventeen dollars and said, "I don't have it, but I can run to the gas station and break the fifty and bring your change right back." Now we were getting somewhere. This man did not want to go back with the same pizzas he left with.

"Okay," I said, and exchanged money for pizza. "Just bring me back a twenty."

A few moments later, he was back at the door, much faster than he could possibly have made it to any gas station. "I had a twenty in the car," he said.

The deal was done. We got our pizza,
Pizza Hut got our business, the driver got a pretty nice tip, and the Papa Johns employees probably all enjoyed free pizza last night. I guess everyone was a winner.

But I don't think I'll be ordering pizza online from
Papa Johns again any time soon. And I'll try to keep a few smaller bills around the house for the next time. Somehow, I don't think keeping smaller bills will be such a hard thing to do.


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