"It's official," I said, as I morosely picked at the salad before me. "I'm in hell."
You certainly couldn't fault the company, because if I was going to end up in the great fiery down under, I could think of no better. Corb, the kids, his mother and grandmother, and even Josie had asked to come along for the ride. But from the moment we had been seated at our too-cozy table for seven, this dinner had quickly devolved into the most miserable eating experience. EVER.
(DISCLAIMER: Well, unless you're considering that guy who had his brain eaten, sliver by sliver, in the movie Hannibal. I dare say that was a fairly miserable eating experience, too...)
There was a time, not so long ago, when I kind of liked Friendly's, the restaurant we were eating at. Like David Lynch and his obsession with Bob's Big Boy, I even had this quaint little notion of trying to eat at as many as I could, in as many states as I could. I am happy to report that that obsession has long since passed.
What put me over the edge? Well, part of it could have been the too-cramped booth that we were sitting in. They tried to shoehorn the seven of us into a booth that should have only seated six, so that poor Josie was left hanging out at the end.
But that's relatively minor. A bigger deal: the two screaming brats in the booth next to us, with their charming little habit of jumping up and down on the cushions in their booth and wailing at the top of their lungs.
"Stop that," said their mothers. Well, on occasion. Clearly, they didn't want to be bothered from putting aside whatever fascinating conversation they were engaged in, to do something as trivial as, oh, say, actually pay any attention to the hellspawn that had erupted from their loins.
To them, the fact that their little tyrants were jumping up and down and ruining everyone else's meal was of little consequence. In fact, one time, one of the mothers actually had the nerve to say--AND I SWEAR I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP: "Be quiet and eat your potatoes, dear. You can go back to jumping and screaming once your done."
We weren't the only ones annoyed, either. The guy behind me grumbled that the mother should take control and actually take the brats outside to quiet down. Or maybe he said to take them out to the wood shed...something like that.
I know that I looked at Josie at least once or twice. we both remembered two or three times where we had taken our kids out of a restaurant, because they were behaving badly. Hell, I just did it a week ago, because my kids were giving me a freaking attitude about something stupid. I don't fork over fifty bucks for a plateful of attitude. No way, no how.
In fact, the noise in the next booth got so bad that the manager on duty was forced to come over and ask the mothers to quiet the hellspawn down. The mothers were all polite and apologetic, and managed to keep their kids quiet for all of five seconds. Then, they went back to jumping.
The hellspawn cramped space made dinner...well, not so fun. But to make things even worse, we had the good fortune to have as our waitress, the lovely and talented Stella.
Oooh, I shudder, just thinking about her. She was a diminutive middle aged lady with jet black hair that came straight from a dusty bottle. She looked as if life had kicked the shit out of her, and spoke with a Rhode Island accent as thick as a sirloin steak.
Things started out bad enough, when first thing, Josie and Corb's mom asked for separate checks. "You may be sorry that you got this table," joked Corb.
Stella seriously thought about this for a moment. "I wonder if I could leave for the night," she muttered. And I don't think she was kidding.
Stella was about as fast as a snail with Alzheimer's. No, seriously, I'm not kidding. It took us two hours for the whole meal, and believe me, the restaurant was not packed. The Melting Pot, which was a three-course meal, recall, took three hours. This one took so long because it was such an ordeal getting her to come to us. Half of us would get drinks, and then the others would get their's ten minutes later. We were allowed one drink for the whole meal, too. Corb ordered a second, but never did end up with it, even though he asked twice.
Plus, she mixed up most of the orders. I asked for a substitution to my salad--Oriental dressing instead of Honey Mustard. Stella took that as a mandate to have Oriental dressing sprinkled onto everyone else's meal. Because of course, everyone loves Oriental dressing. "Oriental, all around! How d'ya like them apples!"
But the worst part, the absolute most annoying thing about poor Stella, was that she had an explanation for EVERYTHING. And the worst thing was, she felt the need to share it with us.
I mean, I like talking to our waitresses and all, but I don't really have much of a desire to talk to them in huge detail about why they couldn't grant our hundredth insane request. My feeling is, make like Nancy Reagan, and just say no, baby! Explain why a little, so as not to appear really rude, and then move on.
Not Stella. "Can I have a peanut butter cup Fren-Zee?" I asked, after dinner.
She thought about it for a moment. "Yeah, but you're going to have to pay for it."
Fair enough. "Well, I kind of figured that. But I thought you got a free ice cream with what I ordered."
"That's a two scoop. You didn't order no two scoop!"
"Well, can't you just take away the cost of a two scoop? I'll pay the extra."
"I would, but the computer won't let me! I can only give you a two scoop! Sorry, sweetie."
After I had been serviced, Corb's mom was up to bat. "Can I have hot fudge on the top and bottom?"
Stella thought about it for a moment. "You could, but the cook won't do anything like that. I've tried to ask them, but they say it costs too much. They measure how much fudge they give you. By the ounce! That would use up way too much fudge for them."
"Can't they just split what they use in half?" Josie sensibly asked.
"No. I doubt it." Stella shook her head, supposedly in sympathy.
Corb's sweet old grandmother was next in line. "Can I pay for my meal with a ten dollar bill?" she asked.
Stella thought about it for a moment. "Well, you could. But, I aint got no silva."
"No...silva?" Corb's grandmother, who was raised raised in a fairly well-to-do Boston family, had a bit of trouble figuring this one out.
"Silva! You know...silva." Stella rubbed her fingers against her palm.
Suddenly, it sunk in. "Oh! You mean, dimes and quarters?"
"Right, silva! I'm all out, and to get some more, I'd need to ask my manager, and he's an awfully busy man, he is." I swear, this woman was the Rhode Island equivalent of Eliza Doolittle. Or am I just writing her that way?
"Well, don't you think you could ask him for some change?" asked Corb's grandmother, quite sensibly.
This was clearly not the answer Stella was looking for. Grumbling, she turned away from our table, and shuffled off to find some silva.
Now, I don't mind being told I need to pay a little extra for my ice cream. I can even put up with Corb's mother having to deal with an absence of fudge on the bottom of her sundae (although I personally started to get grumpy at that point). But when Stella starts harassing Corb's sweet old grandmother, I start to see red, big time.
So did Corb. When it came time to pay our check, he placed a big zero next to the tip line and wrote, "No silva!"
I can see why he did what he did...she messed with his grandmother! On the other hand, maybe because I have a bit of an accent myself, I felt kind of bad. The woman was clearly in the wrong sort of job, but maybe it was all she could get. From what I could see, she was annoying all the other waiters, too...not just the customers.
Anyway, you'd never see me waiting on people. My sarcasm would get the best of me. I'd say something like, "Would you like a side order of death with that?" and get my ass fired in seconds flat.
I left the restaurant feeling as if I fought in a war. Which just goes to prove: waitressing is a hard, hard job...and sometimes, not just for the waitresses.