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Tales from the Booth
There are few pleasures in life I enjoy more than eating a meal at a restaurant. The whole concept is just absolute brilliance. It’s late and you’re tired, too exhausted to fix a meal, so why not pay other people to make the dish for you? All you have to do is sit there and tell them what you want, entertain yourself for twenty to thirty minutes by seeing which poured combination of condiments on the table make your beverage look the grossest, and then happily eat and socialize while a person waits on your every whim. Need more soda? Here you go sir. Need another napkin? Here are twelve. You really want to butter that piece of pizza? Go right ahead. Life simply cannot get better than this.
My family and I are food-loving people. What does this mean? Well let’s just say the words, “Seconds? Oh heavens no! I’m full already” have never been said in my household. We take our restaurant outings very seriously. So seriously in fact that a bad meal choice could plague the atmosphere of the house for days; A bad Thanksgiving meal in ’02 kept my father in his room in tears for weeks repeating the phrase “I knew we shouldn’t have trusted her with the stuffing, I knew it”. It was only until I informed him that he was going to miss a trip to Ledo’s Pizza when he finally emerged. This was also the Thanksgiving year where one of my aunts showed up with a construction she called “Homemade Healthy Bread”. My siblings and I looked at each other with horror at this terrible sight. My Uncle sat in the corner in silence, shaking his head, embarrassed at his wife’s stupidity. Luckily my mother snuck out before mealtime and bought rolls as we carefully buried the “Healthy Bread” in the backyard next to the swing set. Good riddance.
It doesn’t take a lot to be labeled by my parents as a “Bad Restaurant”. Slow service, obnoxious patrons, and disgusting food are just some of the strikes needed to be placed on the Simpson Black List. Once on this list it is almost impossible to remove oneself from it, with even the sight of the establishment enough to draw sneers of contempt for such a terrible place. I don’t wish to reveal any of the names on the list but let’s just say one of them rhymes with Tuby Ruesday.
Even the thought of the memories at that particular establishment requires me to splash cold water onto my face. Just the mention of the name brings my father into a rage and my mother to tears. I know what you are asking, how could such a place have scorned you so? I trace it back to six or seven years ago. I’m aware of the fact the place has been around for a long time, we just had never gotten a chance to dine there. We were so young, so naïve. I was just ten years old as we sat down in the booth. Modern rock tunes blared from the speakers above our heads as we gazed around at the layout of the place. Not too bad, lighting could be better but architecturally it was sound (like I said earlier, we take our restaurants very seriously).
I knew it was a bad omen when our assigned waiter finally appeared, hair covering his face and a look that said “Hi, I hate you. Just order some dang food so I can make more money doing something a chimpanzee could do”. We placed our order of drinks with a sense of hesitation due to the fact that the young man was clearly not writing anything down. Now, many waiters can easily remember five drink orders and pride themselves on their memory but there was something about this guy that made us think that we were probably not going to get two Sprites, two Cokes, and one Diet Coke. Sadly we were correct as he returned with two Mountain Dews, a glass of milk, a Bud Light, and an extra bottle of Ketchup.
Before he could sprint away to inhale more narcotics my father piped up, “Excuse me, this is not what we ordered to drink”. The guy slowly looked around at the table, as if forgetting who we were or where he was, and shook his head.
“No dude, this is exactly what you ordered,” he stated as I looked down at the Bud Light he had placed in front of me.
“Yea dad this is fine,” I smiled as I picked up the bottle. My father snatched it from my hand and moved it out of my reach. Eventually they got across to the young man the real order, which, after three trips, he brought us. There was a sense of dread at the fact that we still had actual meals to order. The waiter came back to the table and stood at attention, waiting for us to rattle off our orders.
“Aren’t you going to write this down?” My mother pleaded as the waiter shook his head.
“No, it’s ok. I’ll remember”, he replied as the table collectively sighed. We stated our individual meals slowly and carefully, even repeating them a few times for good measure. My father even offered to tell the cook himself what he desired. After taking our menus the waiter smiled and said that the meals would be out momentarily. That was the last time I ever saw that person in my life. Sadly I’m not joking.
We waited for close to an hour until finally my dad caught the attention of another waiter. “Excuse me, we’ve been here a long time. The waiter we previously had apparently has defected from the United States. Do you think you could tell us when we will be receiving our meal? Should we just go home and come back later?” This waiter stared at him with the same dazed, confused look as the other guy and disappeared into the kitchen. We sat there in silence until eventually a while later we found a person with a brain in their head and finally received our meal, promptly around eleven at night.
Everyone has had their share of bad waiters or waitresses so at first we just blamed it on bad luck. Over the next few years we tried various other locations and came to a startling conclusion: It wasn’t just that one particular spot, they all stink. We would find one down in Fredericksburg or North Carolina and say aloud “Well this one surely will be all right”, and proceed to be let down yet again, every single time. My parents shook their heads as we slowly wrote the name into the black book.
One of these days I will see that waiter again, probably in a convenience store or electronics outlet. He will still have that confused look on his face, with bangs down to his chin. And when I politely beg him for a classic Jimi Hendrix album he will, before disappearing through the employees-only doors, bring me a Sprite.