I’ve been truly afraid a few times in my life: when I bungee jumped from a perfectly good platform 110 feet up in the air; When we lived in Florida and I put out mouse traps but caught a coral snake instead; When I got on an airplane for the first time in more than a decade; When I moved across country while eight months pregnant; And last week, when I ordered pizza from the wrong restaurant to feed my hungry teenagers.
Not unlike other families, we have pizza wars. My boys’ favorite pizza is Papa Gambino’s. They would eat it multiple days a week if I’d let them. My husband’s favorite pizza is anything he hasn’t already had every Saturday night for the past eight years. It’s not that Dustin dislikes Papa Gambino’s, he just disagrees on principle with the idea of eating the same thing over and over again. But Dustin wasn’t going to be home for dinner this night, so he didn’t get a vote.
When I announced that it was Pizza Night, the boys cheered and began the usual 30- to 40-minute countdown of waiting for the pizza man’s car lights to sweep across the front windows. We order from Papa Gambino’s so often that we know the driver’s car. The delivery man is on a first-name basis with our dog and all of the boys, and one time, I randomly met his sister in the emergency room. When I call Papa Gambino’s to order, the person on the other end of the line usually says, “Oh, hi, Mrs. Smiley.”
But not on this night.
First, there was a pre-recorded message announcing weekly specials. And when someone picked up to take my order, they didn’t recognize my name or address. They didn’t ask if I wanted “the usual.”
“What size cheese sticks do you want?” the man asked.
“Well, I don’t actually know,” I said. “What size do we usually get? I’ll have that.”
“Uh, maybe a large?” he said.
Anyway, the good news was that I could get an extra, large pizza for 50 cents. Why not get several larges and have leftovers for lunches? After all, the kids never get tired of Papa Gambino’s.
I hung up the phone, and we waited. By “we waited,” I mean that the boys asked every five minutes, “Is the pizza almost here? We’re soooo hungry!”
Finally, car lights. We heard a car door shut, and I ran to open the front door for our driver. That’s when I gasped out loud and almost cried. It wasn’t Papa Gambino’s.
Turns out, I had called another pizza place, a chain that sounds a lot like Papa Gambino’s and has an identical phone number, except for one digit. Just one digit stood between me and “Worst Mom Ever.”
The delivery man loaded my arms with all the 50-cent extra pizzas I had purchased, plus the large cheese sticks that were definitely larger than we usually get. The red boxes mocked me. The non-Papa Gambino’s smell taunted me. But the worst part was, now I had to walk down the long hallway to the kitchen and face the boys.
I’ve made food mistakes like this before. I’ve used crunchy peanut butter instead of smooth. I’ve buttered the wrong side of the waffle. I’ve made chicken nuggets soggy. So I knew what awaited me in the kitchen: absolute anarchy.
I mean, I’ve been known to make trips back to the Wendy’s in a blizzard because they accidentally put ketchup on a very angry toddler’s hamburger. I’ve sacrificed my own meal when someone wasn’t happy with their fries. And I did these things because, for all the ways I stand my ground as a parent, I’m a total pushover when it comes to food. Especially when I’m hungry.
As I walked down the hallway, I considered my options. I could throw the pizzas outside in the snow and pretend the person at the door was a marketer. I could ditch the boxes and deliver the steaming hot pizzas to the table with my bare hands. I could get in the car and drive to Canada. Their dad would be home soon enough.
No, no, no. I had to go in there and face the mob. I had to confess my mistake. I’d resort to reminding them who gave birth to them if I had to.
I walked into the kitchen, and the boys snatched the boxes before I could set them down. Then a half-second later: “This is not Papa Gambino’s,” they said, their mouths full and faces disappointed. But they kept eating—and complaining (“I miss Papa Gambino’s!”)—anyway.
I guess it’s true what people say: if kids are hungry enough, they will eat. I wish I’d believed that before I trekked back to Wendy’s all those times.
And eating pizza is exactly what my boys will be doing for the foreseeable future. I have about 4 more boxes of large, 50-cent pizzas in the fridge that we need to go through before we can order from Papa Gambino’s again.