My lab has one of those fancy-schmancy Keurig machines, and it is gold in the mornings. Probably wastes a lot of natural resources, which I do occasionally think about, but the coffee quality is solid, and it only takes one minute to make!
When we acquired said glorious elixir-of-life distributor, my boss purchased the initial boxes of K-cups so everyone could try it out. Only a couple of my labmates drink coffee, but since we live in Michigan, everyone needs hot something to drink in the winter. So he bought dark and light coffee, hot chocolate, earl grey tea, and “Donut House Decaf.” Let’s review: no one in our lab drinks decaf. The lab has had meetings at coffee shops. We hang out all the time, and see each other every morning (when coffee is generally consumed in my experience, unless you’re a grad student). There are only six of us! And none of us has ever expressed even the tiniest desire for decaf.
This is what I shall henceforth refer to as “accommodating the invisible.” The invisible is an imaginary guest with needs that someone would feel guilty not providing for. In this instance, it is the nonexistent decaf drinker.
I’ll give another example: the “vegetarian” customer American restaurants claim to be catering to. Note: I am NOT saying that vegetarians don’t exist; on the contrary, I know dozens of vegetarians (and even a few vegans), and all of them have their reasons. This trend, for lack of a better word, has become more prominent in recent years as the food industry’s obvious lack of standards for safety and animal care has become apparent. Meat’s gotten more expensive, and it’s also been a health choice for a lot of people. Vegetarians have a wide variety of options available to them that provide a nutritious and delicious diet.
Restaurants seem to be eager to jump on this train, but they are accommodating a type of vegetarian that I have never witnessed in the wild. They are offering options boldly labeled VEGETARIAN, often accompanied by a little carrot-shaped icon, which no one in their right mind would want to eat. Do you know any vegetarians who enter a restaurant desperately craving a mountain of iceberg lettuce topped with shredded American “cheese”, canned olives, and ranch dressing? No. Do you know why? Because if that person exists, he or she is in an extremely tiny minority.
Still not convinced? Try this on for size: “healthy” options. These are menu items designed for people who are trying to eat healthier by fixing one very tiny aspect of their diet and compensating for it by totally overloading on another part that’s horrible for you. You know all those Applebee’s meals that are under 550 calories? First of all, unless you are drinking a milkshake with that meal, 550 calories means you’re just gonna be hungry again in 4 hours. I understand it’s expensive for restaurants to provide calories in the form of, say, fruit and vegetables, but I imagine a lot of the people choosing those “healthy” choices are hitting the fridge as soon as they get home BECAUSE A 550 CALORIE DINNER DOESN’T CONTRIBUTE MUCH TO YOUR DAILY CALORIC NEEDS.
Maybe I’m wrong, though. Maybe there are people out there who can eat a very tiny amount of food, drink only water, and have the willpower not to eat again all night. They probably think they’re doing the right thing by ordering off of the “You’re definitely getting smaller! No, seriously, I can already tell!” menu. They probably have no idea (because, of course, this information would defeat the purpose of the whole menu) that their healthy option is chock full of salt. (For my feelings on Americans and salt, see here.) You know what salt in large quantities isn’t? Good for you. Americans eat A TON of salt, sometimes even garnishing salty foods with more salt. And if you are trying to lead a healthier lifestyle, loading up on that beloved mineral is not doing you any favors. So if you are a restauranteur, and you start to designate something “healthy” on your menu, don’t think of the sodium-deprived, genetically-perfect-but-obese person. Think of a REAL person. This will guide you in creating a menu that people can order off of without fear that you’re lying to them. Everybody wins!
So there you have it. I am 100% convinced that there exists an invisible class of people who are constantly being lavished on by everyone in the United States. What do you think? Does your family accommodate the invisible? What about your favorite greasy diner? Your office? Your movie theater? Or am I the invisible one?