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Absence of Utensils, Meerkat Ruin Dining Experience

January 26, 2010

When my coffee isn’t being filled half-way, and when my simple order for how I want my spaghetti cooked isn’t messed-up, and I’m not haggled by management for expressing my opinion about certain parts of the country,  I’m usually a pretty cool customer at restaurants. Especially when out with a group of friends, I’m having a good time and usually don’t care how long things take because I’m enjoying the company. That being said, every bend has a break. This weekend at a certain restaurant in The Fan, I experienced some of the most outrageously bad service I’ve ever had.

Strike One: The Hostess

Usually, hostesses are some of the sweetest people working at the restaurant. Wanting to make a good first impression, they put their newer, but personable hires to greet and seat. In the case of this place, they hired what looked like a South African Meerkat and behaved like Winona Ryder in Girl, Interrupted. When I first went to the table (my usual 30 min late), I pulled up a chair and everyone moved over to accomodate, usually a sign that I’m not just saying “hi”, but am, in fact, a member of the party. Like snow in a blizzard, she flaked all over the dining room. Put some candles on tables, refilled some waters, but maintained a firm detachment from the goings-on of the dining room. At one point, I was wondering if a tornado landed on her house in Kansas and she was roaming Oz, looking for the Scarecrow and the Tin Man. After my hand waving and audibles, she finally clicked her heels together and realized she was at work and that I was beer-less. She took my order, but unfortunately, tragedy struck again, and another tornado catapulted Dorothy and Toto back to Oz, where she remained for the next 30 minutes. Thankfully, the waitress arrived and I thought it was a straight shot down Easy Street from now on. AIRHORN.

Strike Two: The Waitress and the Menu

As many of  you know, and as I expressed to the waitress, Shepherd’s Pie is my favorite food. It’s also not very common at non-English/Irish restaurants, so when I saw it on the menu, my eyes lit up like Snoop Dogg and I immediately exclaimed my desire for my favorite feast. “We’re out of Shepherd’s Pie.” Of course you are. Ironically, this wouldn’t be the only thing they were out of, but we’ll get to that. After a few moments of sulking over the meal that could have been, I ordered the meatloaf and reiterated my desire for a Bud Light, the same request I gave to Dorothy before she and Toto went back to see the Wizard.  Another 30 minutes pass, and my friends’ food arrives. After they’ve been waiting for an hour, the food comes out and its colder than Elvis’s ass in December. At this point, the waitress tells me that “my meatloaf will be out immediately.”

Strike Three: The Absence of Silverware…and Sanity

It appears her definition of immediately is a lot like Bill Clinton’s definition of sex…relative. Thirty more minutes have passed and I’m nearly certain my meatloaf has gone the way of  Amelia Earhart. Thinking I can at least eat off the plates of others while I wait for my meal, the fact that I have no silverware dawns on me. Thankfully, a strong gust blew the free-spirit hostess back to the table where I was able to request the basics of any meal: utensils. What happened from this point blew my mind and drove home my long-standing belief: just when you think the bar is on the ground and could go no lower, the floor gives way. Watching her like a doctor from an observation room, these were her exact movements: She walked to the bust station. She walked through the kitchen. She stopped at two other tables. She talked to the bartender. Then she went off the grid, perhaps back to Oz. Moments later, she reappeared and uttered the following phrase: “Sir, we’re out of silverware right now. I’ll try and get you some before your meal comes.” WHAT?! Maybe next time I go to the Doctor to get a shot, she’ll tell me to wait until Balto the sled dog can bring a fresh batch of Penicillin through the Alaskan tundra to the waiting FedEx plane. I’m gonna start packing my own silverware, like OCD Jack Nicholson in As Good as It Gets. I didn’t think it could get more ridiculous. EHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

Jaw still on the floor from having heard the most ridiculous phrase ever spoken in a restaurant, the waitress commits the cardinal sin in the church of Dan: stating the obvious. “Oh your meatloaf hasn’t come.”

Weird, I hadn’t noticed. I have some other questions for you, while you’re here. Is there a healthcare debate going on? I heard there was an earthquake on a small Caribbean island, oh, and you’re not going to believe this—my friend told me the President is BLACK. No, I didn’t get my f***ing meatloaf, do you see a plate with meatloaf on it? And even if you did bring it to me, I’d have to eat it with my hands because I forgot to bring my own silverware to a place that makes and serves FOOD ON A PLATE. Ten minutes later, she comes back to the table and rubs sea salt into my gaping wound: “They still haven’t brought you your meatloaf yet?” Much like my roommates’ dog, who stares at me and tilts his head to the side when I scream at the television or commit some other act that he can’t understand, I cocked my head and srunched my face, wondering why Ashton hadn’t come out yet, and if perhaps I was on “Boiling Point” instead of “Punk’d.” “No ma’am,” I said. Maybe Meals on Wheels was knocking on my door. Maybe it was accidentally brought to the party across from us, who I swear each ate nine plates of food before I got a napkin and fork. And who the f*** is they? The waitress avatars on parallel-universe Earth who absorb responsibility for your incompetence? The oompa-loompas who jump out of the cabinets, deliver the food while singing a limerick with a thought-provoking moral lesson, then roll away the guests who turn into blueberries or dive in the chocolate stream? Jesus! You’re the waitress, who else is going to bring me my food?! STOP THIS CRUEL GAME.

After the passing of another 20 minutes, five of the seven checks came. Still no silverware. No meatloaf. I tried pretending I was one of the lost boys in Hook, and that my feast was invisible until I believed it was there. But there were no Lost Boys, no Rufio, and no food fights. I was not the Pan. I had no food, invisible or otherwise. I panned the idea of flagging down the waitress, clearly she knew it was a lost cause. I tried not to laugh at the hostess, who took another expired valium and changed novels from the Wizard of Oz to one of the Narnia Chronicles. I would sooner flag down Mr. Tumnus and learn the trickery of the White Witch before I got a frikkin fork and spoon. Beaten and disheartened, I asked the waitress to cancel my order. She graciously understood.

The meatloaf eventually came, and the manager, realizing the atrocity that was my dining experience, comp’ed me the meal, and it wasn’t half bad. Actually, I wonder if my friends, who ordered their food on time, got it cold, and had to pay for their meal knew I got a piping hot plate of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and snap peas for free. Gee, I hope they aren’t reading this…

*The author graciously thanks Allie, Ben, Claire, Evan, Laura, Robert, ehSteve, and Virginia for the many memorable moments that contributed to this composition.

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