Some years ago, with my wife and a fifteen year old son, I went to Reading, the capital of the county I have lived in for over forty years, and visited a Burger King. To fully appreciate what follows you need to understand that this was my first visit to Reading in approximately eighteen years and my first visit to a Burger King.

I know this is remiss of me and that I should have gone to both places more often. Actually, I have been to Reading more often, but only to the railway station for a change of trains, and I realise this doesn’t really count. If everyone only did that, the economy of Reading would undoubtedly collapse, not to mention the early demise of Burger King itself. But, to be honest, (and in no way do I offer this as an excuse – only as some sort of explanation) I prefer Maidenhead and the Cotswolds and things like muesli (with prune juice and a sprinkling of raisons), apples and oranges and, of course, spinach cooked fleetingly in the few drops of water tantalisingly left after you have rinsed the leaves thoroughly through a sieve.

I only make these confessions so that you can empathise with the utterly bizarre events that follow. After alighting from the train (even the word ‘alighting’ gives a useful clue to my state of mind), we walked but a few steps and there it was – a Burger King, thronging with people but, somehow, inviting. We resigned ourselves to queuing, during which time I rehearsed our order; one Chicken Royale with a small Coke, one Double Bacon Burger and one Chicken Royale Meal (it had been explained to me, whilst waiting in the slow moving queue, that the latter was significantly different from the former).

So, by the time I reach the head of the queue, I had had ample time to prepare myself for the inevitable encounter with the server – a truly terrifying prospect after so many years as a virtual recluse in Maidenhead. She, as it happens, is a rather plump young lady sporting a baseball cap and a row of long service stars. I tell her, without faltering, the order I have rehearsed many times over whist waiting in the queue. Gratifyingly, she punches the appropriate buttons on her amazing machine. What a relief; even in this alien world, all is going according to plan. Fully prepared for every eventuality, I have a £20 note at the ready.

Now comes my downfall. The young lady speaks! Amidst the noise of an Elvis tape and the excited hubbub of my queuing peers, she asks me (or, to be precise, I think she asks me) ‘Do you want enlargement?’ Well, I have never been asked such an intimate question before, and certainly not in public. So, incredulous, I reply ‘Sorry, what did you say? Unabashed she repeats the question – though, to be fair, this time it sounds more like ‘Do you want to go large?’ My mind races. Is she asking me, incredible though it seems, whether my penis needs enlargement? I have seen those advertisements for strange contraptions in various magazines and, for a fleeting moment, I assume this is some sort of special offer thrown in with my big order. Then I realise that this is absurd. How, on the basis of this short encounter, could she possibly know that I needed such treatment – even if (and, please be clear, I’m admitting to nothing) it was true? No, she has obviously mistaken me for an eminent plastic surgeon, and is asking me for a breast enlargement. Again, despite my confusion, it occurs to me that in the circumstances, before the public gaze, this is unlikely to be the correct interpretation of her extraordinary question. Anyway, without the benefit of closer scrutiny, her breasts look quite large enough to me.

My wife, gathering up napkins and straws in anticipation of our meal, and appreciating that real communication between consenting adults is on the brink of irretrievable breakdown, calls out ‘NO!’. I take this as a supreme act of support. She is telling the girl that (a) her husband does not need a penis enlargement thank you very much and that (b) disappointing though it is, her husband cannot do anything about her breasts. It does the trick. The girl smiles, asks no further questions, takes my money and delivers the order. It is only when, at long last, we are seated and tucking into our meals that my son and wife, who know about such things, explain. It seems that ‘Do you want to go large?’ is an innocent question. It simply means ‘Do you want a bigger portion of French fries and Coke for only a few pence extra?’

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