Saturday, August 3, 2013

French Frience

It was 108 degrees outside and the air smelled like freshly paved asphalt the day we went to Logan’s Roadhouse. I had a coupon and I hadn’t had sliders in ages. We’d just seen Pacific Rim at the IMAX on the other side of town, where we don’t drive often and have occasionally been lost, but the Logan’s was just up the street from the theater and the coupon was too good to pass up.

It was mid-afternoon, sometime between lunch and the dinner rush. We were the only diners in our section and were still discussing the movie as we waited for our meals to arrive.

“The bit with the ship,” Matt said. “They drag the ship through the streets of Hong Kong and then use it to bludgeon the monster over the head. It would have broke in half while they were dragging it. Also, didn’t they have a sword anyway? Why bother with the ship?”

Our friend Dave had seen the movie already and texted me saying he liked it okay. He said there was one thing about it that really bothered him but he wasn’t going to tell me what it was. He wanted me to text him my thoughts afterward, so Matt and I spent most of the movie tallying up potential candidates for Dave’s “one thing”. Our lists were long and impressively detailed; we hadn’t even discussed the film’s scientific errors yet. “That could be it,” I said.

But the conversation died away when the waiter brought our food. I poured a generous blob of ketchup on an appetizer plate and set forth on my fries as a twangy country tune played on the jukebox. Aside from enthusiastic mastication, it was the only sound at our table for several minutes.

Then, I changed the subject. “I’m proud to announce,” I said, stuffing my face, “that after years of experimentation, the results are finally in.”

“Really?” said Matt.

I nodded, slurping my root beer. “The numbers conclusively show that I like thick French fries better than thin ones.”

Matt absorbed this momentous announcement as he chewed a bite of bacon cheeseburger. “You mean like the wedge kind?” he asked.

“Yes, those.”

“I see,” he said, nodding to show that, yes, he did see. “How do waffle fries fit into these results?”

I shook my head. “I studied them too. It’s thick fries.” Smiling, I swung my legs back and forth in our too-tall booth, my feet barely grazing the peanut shells that covered the floor. “I plan to publish my results in all the journals.”

“All of them, you say?”

“Well, only the prestigious ones.”

“Wow,” he said, unenthusiastically. He did study one of his own fries intently before popping it into his mouth, doubtless conducting an experiment along the lines of my own research with its irrefutable and repeatable results.

“You should be excited!” I said, biting into a slider as I conducted further experiments on the parallel study of best ways to eat a burger.

He chewed another fry carefully, swallowing before he said, “I expected more.”

I gasped. “This is the conclusion of a thirty year study! It’s a proud and glorious day for science!”

“You made it sound like it was going to be a big thing and it’s just fries!” he said, pointing a fry at me accusingly.

I laughed. “Don’t worry! The jury’s still out on the experiment to find the perfect muffin recipe. You have that great work to look forward to.”

He cocked an eyebrow at me. “We found that already,” he said. He must have seen the confusion on my face because he went on, “Remember? The cranberry orange muffin from Starbucks, with the glaze on top?”

I remembered it fondly, now that he mentioned it. “Oh, that! No, that won’t do. It scored well on the deliciousness rating, but the numbers for ‘ease of replication at home’ were poor.” I reached across the table to pat his hand. “Science is all about the numbers.”

“I don’t care about replication,” he said. “I’m willing to outsource my deliciousness.”

I started to say, “But scientific integrity-”

“Is overrated,” he finished for me.

On the tabletop, to the left of my plate, my phone buzzed. “It’s Dave,” I told Matt when I checked the screen. “He’s ready to talk about the movie.”

“Right!” Matt said. “About that…”

At which point, we – both very serious science types, with years of research experience and plans to publish in all the prestigious journals – discussed the scientific errors in Pacific Rim at great length until the waiter brought our check. And I used my coupon, because that’s just good science.

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