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Finger Food 2.0 

Who's to blame for that finger in the Wendy's chili? Are you Hannibal Lecter? Take quiz, find out.

Wednesday, Apr 20 2005
In late March, an unlucky diner at the Wendy's in San Jose at 1405 Monterey Rd. made a horrific discovery: She had bitten into a human finger in her bowl of chili. The finger was described by county medical officials as cooked but not decomposed, and was found in two pieces (a 1-inch fingertip and a half-inch piece of fingernail), suggesting that the digit may have been torn asunder in a machinery accident or other violent episode. No restaurant employees or manufacturers in the food chain reported any missing digits, and the woman who found the finger, Anna Ayala, 39, of Las Vegas, denied she planted it. Citing emotional distress and an inability to keep food down in the wake of the incident, Ayala hired an attorney to investigate a settlement with the restaurant chain, while authorities launched an investigation and conducted fingerprint analysis to attempt to determine the identity of the well-manicured digit. When revelations surfaced that Ayala had several other lawsuits in her recent past, including one against fast-food chain El Pollo Loco after her daughter complained of food poisoning, the Nevada woman dropped the suit and expressed her desire for the media to leave her alone. But the mystery remains unsolved, and police are still investigating possible connections to recent animal attacks in Nevada and California. The Wendy's corporation, meanwhile, is offering a reward for information, and claims no knowledge of how the finger wound up served at its restaurant. Are you an apologist for Wendy's? Take our quiz and find out!

1) As Santa Clara County investigators continued to search for whom the mysterious fingertip belonged to, Ayala appeared on ABC's Good Morning America to recount the horrific incident, telling a national audience: "Suddenly, I chew something that's kind of hard, crunchy, I spit it out. ... We started investigating and poking it, other people, too. That's when we find there's something that looks like a nail." How would you react to that kind of experience?

A) You mean after spraying the restaurant with vomit, tears, and gunfire? I guess I'd become a vegetarian.

B) What's that? I'm sorry, I can't hear you through my exultant shouts of "Lawsuit!"

C) I'd tell myself it's probably just a bean. A Wendy's bean.

2) Although business has fallen off dramatically at the Wendy's in San Jose where the incident occurred, the restaurant has attracted the curiosity of passers-by, and some are now calling it the world's most famous Wendy's. Which of the following phrases do you think is the most commonly heard there?

A) "Hey, I ordered chicken fingers."

B) "Can I get fries with -- actually, forget it."

C) "Wow, this is great! We'll be able to sit at any table we want!"

3) While authorities are trying to trace where the finger appeared in the food chain that led to the Wendy's chili, media reports have speculated that the digit could be connected to a leopard attack in Nevada or a woman who broke up a fight between two dogs in San Jose. Reports have also suggested that police are questioning Ayala about a dead aunt. What do you think is the most likely explanation for how the finger would up in the chili?

A) It's just a new ingredient.

B) Gosh, I don't know. Both the dogfight and the leopard attack are so understandable ....

C) Has anyone checked the corpse of beloved Wendy's founder and still-commercial spokesman Dave Thomas? If there's anyone who's trying to keep a hand in things, it's him.

4) What's the strangest thing you've ever found in a bowl of chili at Wendy's?

A) The meat.

B) A wedding ring. I know, it was so romantic ....

C) A likeness of the Virgin Mary. (Bonus point if you still have the bowl.)

5) Wendy's is offering $50,000 to the first person who provides "plausible information" about how the finger got served up in the chili. Tom Mueller, the company's president and chief operating officer, said: "We believe someone knows exactly what happened, and hopefully the reward will encourage the person to come forward." Do you think this strategy will work?

A) I don't know, but I'd love to hear that tip line.

B) Oh, yes. Trust me, Tom Mueller is pissed off. Nobody puts a goddamn human finger in his chili and lives to tell about it.

C) For $50,000? No way. For a lifetime supply of Frostys, now maybe you're getting somewhere ....

6) In early April, police searched the Las Vegas home of Ayala, who accused officers of bursting into her house with guns drawn, hurting her family, ransacking the property, and "treating us like terrorists." Police refused to comment on the allegations, and said only that they were executing a local search warrant. What do you think the cops were looking for?

A) Something to do.

B) Duh. A secret underground freezer stocked with jars of human remains.

C) It's Vegas, man. You never know what you might find.

7) Does this incident make you more or less likely to eat at Wendy's?

A) Only death could make me less likely to eat at Wendy's.

B) Tough call. It is one of the Bay Area's finer dining establishments.

C) More likely -- a little finger never hurt anyone. (Bonus point if your name is Hannibal Lecter.)

How to score:

Score zero points for every "A" answer, one point for every "B," and two points for every "C."

0-6 points: Seriously, isn't it really creepy that photographs of the now-deceased Dave Thomas still figure prominently in Wendy's advertising campaigns? Plus the burger patties are perfect squares ....

7-10 points: Gives a whole new meaning to that "Where's the beef?" slogan.

11-14 points: Congratulations, you're a true Wendy's apologist. And you're right -- it's better to find a finger than E. coli.

About The Author

Matt Palmquist


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