dinner story #11
"I want Italian food." We were taking my daughter and a friend visiting from Colorado out to dinner.
I rattled off the names of about ten nearby Italian places, because Long Island has a zoning law that requires there to be an Italian restaurant/pizza place every 500 feet.
"I don’t like their pasta."
She’s not a picky eater so much as a picky diner.
"Well, I’m hungry enough to punch a baby right now," I say, and I herd everyone into the car because there are more Italian restaurants than babies nearby. We’ll just drive. Eventually we’ll hit one Natalie doesn’t hate.
"What about that one we went to for your ex brother-in-law’s birthday?" Todd asks and we spend ten minutes talking shit on my ex brother-in-law while we drive to this place. I kind of remember the food being decent.
We’re seated at a small table directly next to another couple while there are other bigger table surrounded by no one.
If you’ve read any of my dinner stories before, you know this is a bad thing. But we’re hungry. Starving. So we just sit and deal with it.
The waitress comes over to take our drink orders.
"What kind of beer do you have?"
She hesitates. Looks to the sky as if waiting for an answer from God. God whispers in her ear. She nods, recites:
"Bud, Bud Light, Heineken, Blue Moon."
We order two Blue moons. The busboy brings them over with glasses. We pour. The beer is sort of warm.
Eventually our waitress saunters over to take our order.
Todd and Mae are going to split a pizza. Todd orders. “The large pie with olives and red and green peppers.” Simple, right? Natalie orders chicken parm because Natalie always orders chicken parm in an Italian restaurant. I order a personal deep dish pizza with pepperoni and black olives even though ordering a deep dish pizza in New York is a crime against humanity. I ask for a side salad to go with it.
Todd tells the waitress his beer is warm.
"Oh. So…you don’t want it?"
There’s our first clue this dinner isn’t going to be a winner.
She takes the beer. Comes back with another. Asks Todd to feel the bottle to make sure it’s cold because I guess lost her sense of touch back in the Waitress Wars of 1988, and I’m only guessing 1988 because of her hair. It’s got a very Knot’s Landing feel to it. I’m surprised she’s not wearing shoulder pads.
She leaves, comes back five minutes later.
"So, that pizza with the pepperoni and olives?"
"You want the pepperoni and olives on the whole pizza?”
I’m assuming if people want a topping on half a pizza they usually request it that way. If you don’t request half it means whole, right? Is this just me?
She leaves, returns five minutes later.
"So…that pizza with the green and red peppers and the olives. Did you want those toppings on the whole pizza? Or did you want to split them up? Or just have them on half?"
"Uh…yea. The whole pizza please."
Again, when you ask for a pizza with peppers and olives, you automatically assume the the “on the whole damn thing” is implied because you did not say “on half,” right? Right.
Ten minutes later, she brings Natalie’s chicken parm out.
"I’m sorry sweetie, but your chicken parm was ready before your salad so I brought that out first."
In what alternate reality is a hot dinner ready before a side salad? I’m incredulous at this point so I just look up at the waitress and say “Really? REALLY?”
Natalie gives me the look. The one that says “Don’t fuck with the people who are preparing your food.” But honestly, I was a waitress and restaurant manager for many years and never once did I do anything to someone’s food no matter how much they annoyed me. Also, I’m in the right here. HOW IS A CHICKEN PARM DINNER READY BEFORE A SIDE SALAD? HOW?
Natalie pushes her chicken to the side because she doesn’t want to eat before us.
Ten minutes later, the waitress comes by with Natalie’s salad. Three minutes later she comes back with the dressing for Natalie’s salad.
"Excuse me," I say to the waitress. "But you really brought out her dinner kind of early."
"Well, it was ready."
"Yea, but it was ready a long time ago and we still haven’t gotten our food yet."
She looks at me blankly.
"I don’t want to eat without them," Natalie explains.
"Oh, you want to eat together?”
She really said that. Really.
I look at her the way you look at a person you suspect might be from another planet.
"Generally, people like to eat together when they go out."
I get the look from everyone. Because by this time I’m hungry and angry and sort of flabbergasted.
Natalie asks “Can you take this back to the kitchen and keep it warm?”
"Oh, you want it to go?"
I glare at her. “Why would she want it to go? She is asking you to keep it warm until our food comes out because you brought her food out about half an hour before ours is apparently ready.”
The look from everyone else. Sorry. But Jesus Christ on a pogo stick, this is starting to look like an episode of Candid Camera.
"Is everything ok?" the waitress asks warily.
OF COURSE IT’S NOT OK. NO. IT’S NOT OK AT ALL. YOU HAVE FUCKED UP EVERYTHING THAT IS POSSIBLE TO FUCK UP AND I’M PRETTY SURE YOU ARE EITHER MISSING VITAL PARTS OF YOUR BRAIN OR YOU ARE PLAYING A JOKE ON US but of course I don’t say any of that even though it’s on the tip of my tongue which is fine because Todd looks her in the eye and says,
"This is kind of a train wreck."
"Geez. I feeling like I’m on the grilling station."
I assume she means she feels like we are grilling her, detective wise, and not grilling her, chicken wise.
I sigh. I’m in the acceptance stage of this meal. And all at once, we just feel sorry for her.
"Listen," Todd says. "We’re ok. We just want our food."
"I feel like I messed up."
I hold my tongue.
"No, you’re fine," he says because she looks like she’s about to cry and nobody wants to be that guy who browbeat a waitress into crying. "You’re fine. Everything’s ok. We’re just having some fun here."
She looks relieved. “Can I get you anything else?” Well, our food would be nice.
"Can I just get an iced tea, please?" Because I don’t know what else to say at this point.
She takes Natalie’s chicken. Brings me an iced tea. Eventually our pizza comes out. Natalie has to wait for her chicken. I never get my salad. I don’t even care.
We eat and the pizza kind of sucks but we are laughing so hard about the whole thing we don’t care. We just make fun of the waitress and make fun of the food and we laugh at the expense of the restaurant though later I realize it’s at our expense because we’re the ones who paid sixty bucks for the worst service ever and mediocre food.
I’m not a “complain to the manager” type of person and I already met my “complain to the manager” quota for this year when I did so at the diner earlier in the week when the waiter looked down my shirt and said “Good thing you can’t read my mind.” This was before his expletive filled phone conversation and the arm sweep of condiments off a table. But that’s another story.
So we don’t complain. We still leave the 20% because I have a feeling the waitress doesn’t get very big tips and there comes a point where you just hope someone’s having a really bad day and isn’t as stupid as they seemed. Plus, we laughed. A lot.
But in true internet asshole fashion, I have the last laugh to myself. Because, Yelp.
[previous dinner stories]