My entire world was turned completely upside-down last night at a local Chinese take-out called “The Mandarin Wok.” As I stood in line to pay my check, I offered the customer behind me the basket of fortune cookies sitting on the counter. She scrutinized it, wrinkled up her nose, then pulled out a little notebook and wrote, “crumbled!“ under a picture of this:
Winking conspiratorially at me, she whispered, “I’m a Mystery Diner.” I returned the one-eyed gesture knowingly, muttering “Ohhh” under my breath, while forming my lips into a perfect circle.
I raced home and couldn’t Google the “Mystery Diner” term fast enough. Thank goodness for fortunes because I never would’ve discovered this clandestine phenomenon if she had simply muttered, “That’s the way the cookie crumbles!”
Here’s the scoop. Ready? Apparently there are “Consumer Spies” out there getting paid!
Job Description: Pretend to be hungry (so far I easily qualify without play-acting!) while grading and taking notes on food quality, ambience and service. Report back to the restaurant owner so they can see how their employees are doing.
Really?? And she looked like such a typical, ordinary Szechwan Garlic-Chicken Eater to me! Immediately my suspicions were aroused, wondering whom else in my life was a huge impostor?
My Stylist: Was she a legitimate beautician or could she be a “Mystery Shampooer” employed by Pantene to evaluate whether the conditioner I use in my shower gives me the silky fullness the tube promises. Yes, she must be a fraudulent stylist — that explains why she cut my bangs so short last time. And she’s always pushing Vidal Sassoon hair care products on me. Testing my loyalty to Proctor & Gamble, no doubt. I wonder if P & G has been made aware of my split ends?
My Babysitter: She may look like your average teenage vixen with an iPod and Justin Bieber’s name tattooed on her big toe, but what if she’s secretly a caseworker from our government’s Child Protective Services agency, evaluating my parenting skills? My mind flashes on an untouched gallon of Mint ‘n Chip ice-cream — plus none of the Pop-Tarts were missing after I returned from my therapy session last week. What normal teenage babysitter would leave those items uneaten while the little kids were sound asleep? In fact, I also recall discovering a surprise bonus of Frosted Flakes in my pantry. I never buy that brand. Not only did she NOT eat our junk food, but she brought us more? That must be it! The CPS agency instructed her to put “Tony The Tiger” there to see if I’d break down one morning and feed my kids crap for breakfast, instead of taking time to make omelets. Next time she “babysits” she’ll measure how much was ingested. She probably also counted our eggs for further evidence. OMG, my kids will end up in a foster home because I didn’t jumpstart their day with wholesome goodness! Or she could just be a “Mystery Flake” from the Kellogg’s corporation rating their “sogginess in milk.”
My Carpet Cleaner: After he steams my shag rugs, he always advises my family to remove our tennis shoes and leave them by the front door. As he departs, I betcha he checks out our worn soles and reports durability issues directly to the executives at Adidas Inc.
My Ex-Sister-in-law Houseguest: Sister-in-law, my foot! After all, I don’t have any real proof that she was actually born to the same parents as my ex-husband was. And for weeks now, she’s been sleeping in the spare room (until she supposedly gets back on her feet) complimenting me on how soft our bedsheets feel. I wonder how much $$ Tide detergent is paying her per night?
The Piano Teacher: Ain’t no qualified music specialist who could be THIS patient – – never once wincing when my daughter hits sour notes when playing chopsticks. And I’ve observed her frowns as she swipes her finger across the ¼ inch thick layer of dust on our piano bench before sitting down. Hmmph. Merry Maids thinks they’re so smart, checking up this way. Little do they know — I actually fired their cleaning crew 3 weeks ago. So it’s actually MY housekeeping skills the Piano Teacher has been assessing.
Landscaper & Mailman: There’s a collaboration going on between these two, I can just feel it! The reason the mailman always says, “your rosebushes are wilting” or “your lawn looks greener since I was here last,” when he walks up to my porch to deliver mail is because he’s actually employed by my landscaping company to check up on the gardener’s planting abilities. And by the same token, the gardener is always glancing at his watch when the mailman pulls up in his little truck, because he calls the Post-Office with documentation of the mailman’s inefficient schedule. It’s diabolical!
My Boyfriend: Well, I’m onto him now! After our next wild romp in the bedroom, won’t he be shocked when he asks, How things were and if there’s anything more he can do for me? And I’ll blurt out, “Aha! They sent you from The Masters & Johnson Research Institute, didn’t they?!”