Saturday, August 04, 2007

Brand Loyalty

"No! We will NEVER eat there, EVER!" Dad signed. His eyes became angry slits and his mouth was wrinkled as he mouthed the word "EVER" through clenched teeth and tight lips.

"But Pizza Inn is just the same as Pizza Hut," I argued. "Why can't we just eat there?" I was eight years old and just couldn't see the sense in rejecting one pizza place over another when they were practically identical, even down to their red roofs.

"Because," Dad furiously explained, "They had me arrested. Why? For nothing! I was just sleeping after a long day of work."

"What? They arrested you? But why?!" I was beginning to hate Pizza Inn, too, as Dad pulled into the Pizza Hut parking lot and turned off the ignition.

Dad explained, "I was working long hours and on my way home from the construction site stopped in to have some pizza and beer. The next thing I know I feel a tap on my shoulder. It was a policeman who was trying to wake me up. I was so tired from long hours of work I fell asleep in the booth. But why didn't the waiter or manager try to wake me? Why send a cop? They said I was passed out drunk and arrested me! But I wasn't drunk, I was sleeping!"

I didn't say anything, just nodded in acknowledgement. I tried not to let him on that I thought something smelled fishy.

When Mom showed up at the Courthouse as Dad's interpreter, she talked his way out of the public intoxication rap. "See Your Honor, he's Deaf and he must not have heard them trying to wake him up. He wasn't passed out, he was just tired."

Mom left out the fact that Dad had downed a pitcher of beer on his own and that this had happened before, just never at Pizza Inn and never were the cops called.

The Judge let Dad walk and Dad had smug ammunition that he had won. Pizza Inn was a discrimating bastard and had tried to get him in trouble because he was Deaf. Any time he got in trouble, it was always because he was Deaf.

The next time I ate at Pizza Inn was in Oklahoma City over twenty years later. I had boycotted it in solidarity all that time even though I knew Dad was wrong. I felt weird walking in but wondered if Dad even remembered the incident. I soaked in the scenery, ate their pizza and noted that beer was no longer an option.

Just last month, Christian and I visited Dad in jail. I asked him, "Do you remember how you never let us eat at Pizza Inn? Do you know why?"

"Oh, yes!" And Dad launched in to his story as though it had happened yesterday. " was because I am DEAF!"

So I guess I shouldn't tell him about the time I ate there and how it really is just like Pizza Hut.

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