Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

I tried to make the invitation irresistible.

My girlfriend came home and I said: "I'm taking you out."

She looked please, but suspicious.

We jumped in the car and got to the restaurant within minutes.

She'd been right to be suspicious.

The restaurant was, you see, McDonald's.

This was, I told her, a very special day.

The burger chain was releasing its Szechuan Sauce all over again, a sauce made famous by Cartoon Rick and his mortician friend.

McDonald's had made a complete badger's nostril of its first re-release last October

Thousands of nerds couldn't get any and promised to assail the chain with, I don't know, spam emails.

This time, McDonald's had insisted there'd be 20 million packets in circulation. 

But would my local outlet have some?

"Do you have any of the Szechuan Sauce?" I asked the man behind the counter.

He looked at me blankly. Then, he said: "You mean this new one?"

I did mean this new one. And, yes, he had plenty.

We ordered some Chicken McNuggets, some fries and, the equivalent of a Napa Cabernet in McDonald's -- the Fanta orange.

We stared down at our Szechuan Sauce and read the delicate ingredients that came together to create it.

Water, sugar, distilled vinegar, corn starch, wheat, soy beans, salt and corn vinegar seemed to be the main ingredients.

Not to mention -- silly phrase, that, as I'm about to mention them -- potassium sorbate, citric acid, dextrose and sodium benzoate.

There was more, but I was already so very excited.

I peeled back the packet and picked up a McNugget that seemed perfect for dipping.

I dipped.

The sauce had the consistency of jelly. The sort of jelly adults use.

Under the lights of this particular McDonald's, it was hard to discern what color this Szechuan Sauce was.

Was it brown? Was it deep red? Would it matter?

This was supposed to be the apogee of, well, marketing.

I put it into my mouth and expected a vaguely, you know, Chinese sensation.

Instead, it tasted as if I'd dipped my McNugget into a two-day old McDonald's ice cream.

This was sweet and sour sauce, after the sour had pitched a fit and gone off with a red pepper. 

This was about as Chinese as steak and mushroom pie.

It was about as pleasant as licking a lollipop stick and hoping for splinters.

This was the sauce that had caused some McDonald's to call the police last October?

This was the sauce that had made thousands of nerds travel hundreds of miles to experience its allegedly venerable existence?

You could have poured it on a waffle in a substandard Nebraska diner and perhaps, perhaps, got away with it.

I worry.

McDonald's has been doing so much lately to drive the business in a new, hopeful direction.

Everything from finally, finally beginning to use fresh beef, to, goodness, releasing a McVegan burger

But this desperately sweet dollop of non--Szechuan sugarboarding was everything that the burger chain is trying not to be.

We walked out of McDonald's perplexed at what we'd experienced. 

We went home and did the only reasonable thing we could.

We ordered Chinese.

Published on: Feb 27, 2018
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