A middle-aged man pulls into a strip mall parking lot. With family in tow, he sidles up to the door of his local CiCi's Pizza Buffet. A sign is taped to the door. It reads, "Closed Permanently".
"WHAT THE?!?!?!?" exclaims the man. His day is ruined. Crestfallen, he and his young family pile back into their minivan to leave for some other place offering food-stuffs, but all know it just won't be the same.
That is a scene that played out on the stage called life this past fall on the western edge of the Twin Cities on a bright, sunny afternoon. My friends and I witnessed the whole thing, and laughed because we are bad people.
When we saw the sign on the door on our way to Fat Nat's, we thought nothing of it. Honestly, CiCi's Pizza is like Popeye's Chicken to me. I see commercials for it all the time but have never seen one of their restaurants, so a small part of me always thought the commercials was some sort of elaborate practical joke. When I've seen the commercials for CiCi's, I've never been bummed out that we don't have one. As a general rule, buffet-style pizza is mediocre, so a restaurant full of it doesn't get me too excited.
Then that poor guy walked up. It is impossible to convey in writing how disappointed he was. Usually the words "what" and "the" are nondescript unless paired with other, descriptive nouns, verbs and/or adjectives. However, this guy's outburst painted a heartbreaking picture.
I've never met this man. Maybe he was just really hungry and knew his kids were going to be a nightmare if they had to drive somewhere else. To me though, it sounded like a guy who was already on the edge. Maybe life hadn't gone as planned to that point. Maybe he had a crater-sized hole in his being that could only be filled by pizza slathered in macaroni and cheese. Maybe he was hanging on by a thread.
I can only hope there was another CiCi's in the area. Again, until that point I was incredulous that they existed at all, so I honestly have no idea. If not, I hope he and his family found fast food peace on that fateful afternoon.
Much like Schindler's List and Indiana Jones, drama such as this just can't be made up.