Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ranting and Panting

Here's a great site to visit, in honor of the Earth. I found it in Rob Brezsny's newsletter:

I ran across a passage in my journal that talked about blogging. I was new to blogging and not sure if I wanted to continue. The things I worried about then -- in June of 2008 -- are things I still worry about: I have to monitor myself, for instance, a most distasteful task. In fact, in one of Valpak's psychological tests I took in order to be in a cell (big whoop, as we said in 1967), it showed that my "natural" self and my "adaptive" self are the same. It distills to: What you see is what you get. (It also finally distilled to, "You're fired!" but that did take fifteen years.)

But here I am, nearly a year later, still monitoring myself. Pretty good, huh? I have, for example, several friends with highly bloggable tics, but do I point at them here? Do I encourage your laughter as we examine their lovable idiocies? I do not.

I also wrote back then that I write too much, that only unemployed people would have the time to read all my words. I think that's still true, too.

And then I toyed with the word blog itself. I still can't really use it verbally without exaggerating it. I pronounce it more like blawg. I'm making fun of it -- and me -- just through enunciation. I'm not even completely convinced of its grammatical usage. Do I write a blog or do I simply blog ... er, blawg?

Ah, who cares? I want to write about restaurants. I'm not up for my entire rant about them, but I'm sure I can manage a shorty.

Mike and I went to Lee Roy Selmon's last night for the first time -- also for the last time, if I have any say in the matter. I just didn't enjoy the food. I had the Smashed Potatoes and they were nasty. At first I thought it was the gravy that appeared without my approval. I had tilapia, for pete's sake; why would I expect gravy? And it was mushroom gravy which, if you're my unfortunate Friend in Facebook, you've already seen is my least favorite food. Nonetheless, I soldiered on. But the potatoes themselves were bad-tasting. Maybe they put mushrooms in the actual potatoes, too. The color was right for that sort of subversion.

The fish was tender to the point of inconvenience. I couldn't spear a bite with my fork. It required a shoveling motion. A spoon would have been a more efficient utensil, I suppose, or a spork. How I love that word! If I could find a non-plastic spork, I bet I'd buy one.

The steamed broccoli was great.

Well, and the bread pudding sans Praline Sauce was perfect. It was exactly the way it was meant to be. I did eat the ice cream the waiter put on the side (despite my order that it be excluded altogether), but it would have been just fine without it.

Hmm ... I also asked for a piece of foil for my doggy bag but the server insisted on bringing foil and Styrofoam. I guess the waiter knows me better than I do (NOT).

I also quite enjoyed the warm moist terrycloth towels that were presented at the end of the meal. It's a nice touch, although an odd one. The only other time I'd seen that was on the KLM flight to Amsterdam on the way to Accra. And now here's a downhome cookin' joint with them. It's fine. The only problem with those towels is that it made me want to wash my whole face and arms and legs -- whatever flesh was available. Hm. Maybe the next time I'm blue I'll try the Warm Damp Towel Therapy and see how that goes. I'll bet it's better than Moose Tracks.

When Matt, who was there to serve us, first showed up, he placed our coasters with a flourish that ended with a smart tap. Well. When he brought the towels, he also put on a performance with them, twirling them -- which helped them lose their heat -- before placing them back on their plates. He was a nice enough fellow and he did seem to get it that we really weren't there for an evening with him, but I do question restaurants that demand weirdness from their staff.

The singing of Happy Birthday is so common in restaurants, it's not even considered odd anymore. I don't exactly mind it, but it's always too long. Yes. One verse of Happy Birthday is too long, at least at a restaurant. Go ahead and make a fuss. What the heck. It's a once-a-year event. Birthdays are fun. But just make one big punch and then get on with your life. The staff could bring the single candle stuck in the whipped cream on top of the melting ice cream on top of the chocolate syrup on top of the brownie on top of the white-chocolate-raspberry sauce with crushed pistachios and then yell, "Happy Birthday!" and be off. In. Out. Yay.

Instead, they sing, which they all hate to do. In fact, if they like to sing, they still have to pretend they don't. The song, never very peppy to start with despite its festive reason, drags even further as the lines go on, like a toddler's wet diaper at a family reunion. It's almost over now. I, as a nearby participating singer (because I do, in fact, like to sing, and they're making such a racket, it's not like I can chat with Mike anyhow), am starting to wonder what the Birthday Girl's name is, since I'll be singing it soon. I can see her staring straight ahead, her spontaneous smile starting to lose its motivation, and I can see there's no name tag.

Oh, but that's right! Restaurants have solved that problem. Instead of happy birthday to you, it's happy birthday from them. So: "Happy birthday, from Lee Roy Selmon's. Happy birthday to you!" Isn't that a special treat!

Yeah. Much better to just yell HAPPY BIRTHDAY and get back to work.

How about the writing your name upside down and backwards thing that servers at Macaroni Grill have to do? It might be cute even the third time you go, but after that, it's just one more thing you have to wait for, gritting your teeth behind your weak smile.

The noise at Selmon's was too much, too. I said to Mike, "Is this how America dines?" He thinks so. There were too many televisions, but at least they were silent. There was plenty of noise from the patrons themselves, all of us trying to be heard over the whiny, squealy guitar music. Now there's something to ease digestion!

Mike said he always asks them to turn down the radio when he eats at ___, a place I love, so it deserves the ___. He's been told that the waitresses like the radio. Dang. Don't they know they're at work? As Liz so eloquently puts it, "They're overhead. I'm profit."

Oh heck. Let's just finish the Restaurant Raunt* and be done with it, shall we?

Mainly what makes me crazy is that I actually expect the servers to pay attention to my body language. If I'm nose-to-nose, talking intently with my dinner partner, believe me, I don't want you to announce, "And here's your water!" You say it with such pride, as if it's a grand accomplishment. No. All you've done is interrupt us. If for some completely bizarre reason I'm unable to recognize it as the water I ordered, I'll ask you. Okay? Otherwise, just put it down and go away.

Last night, after young Matt came by many more times than necessary, with my smile getting tighter and my answers terser, the manager came by for a chat. He actually squatted down so he could look up at our nose hairs as he talked. He wanted to know how it all was. He knew we were new to Lee Roy's and he wanted to make sure everything was alright.

Really? Do you think he'd change that foul Smashed Potatoes recipe for me? Me neither. Do you think he could get Matt to quit saying, "Good choice!" every time I clarified my order? Do they think I need encouragement, like a three-year-old? "Well done, Barbara. You ordered the broccoli! Good girl! Good girl! Hey, Savannah!" he says, yelling over to the next table's server, "Barbara here ordered the broccoli!" What is that about? And has anyone ever made a bad choice? "Oh. Oh dear. Savannah, uh ..." -- with a quiet aside to me, "Sorry, Barbara" -- "Barbara here has ... well, she's ordered the tilapia. What do you think? Should we ... Sorry, Barbara. Savannah and I think that's a bad choice. I mean, I'll bring it. Don't get me wrong. But, really. Bad choice. Yeah."

I'm told it's only going to get worse as I age. At some point, they'll be saying things like, "Oooh! and she ate all her salad!" I know this because older friends have told me this. They'll treat Mike and me as a married couple, which is reasonable but screamingly inaccurate, and they'll start to think we're cute. Again, I know this from older people who have suffered at the hands of well-meaning but idiotic servers.

I have a friend who broke a decades-long bout of celibacy when he was seventy. When he brings The Little Woman to these restaurants and they get the Cute treatment, he's tempted to share with the server just what it is that he and she spent the afternoon doing. He thinks that might change the Cute to Running From The Room Screaming, but damn! I wish he'd do it and I wish I'd be there for it!

I recently asked for the first cup of coffee to be regular and the next to be decaf. Well, he brought the pots back too soon for me. I use cream and sugar. I don't want to destroy the delicate balance of the two, although I understand that not everyone shares this view. My friend and I were talking intensely, as we usually do. We kept up the conversation during the pouring of the coffee. Must I -- really, must I stop my life while the server pours the coffee? May I not continue my meal and conversation? I placed a hand over my cup and continued talking. He interrupted, "But I brought the decaf!" he said perkily, as if he'd performed something extraordinary.

"Yes. That's your job!" I sneered silently.

I was forced to offer a cold smile and murmur about the Delicate Balance, but I really wanted to slap him. He demanded that I pay attention to him. But that's not how it works. It's the opposite. Or should be.

I suspect I was a queen in a former life.

Oh, and how about the server who returns with the food and then says brightly, "Who gets the pork medallions?"

"Who gets the tip?"

Seriously, I often forget what I ordered. Again, I'm usually there for the company, not the meal. My focus is on conversation, not side orders. Well, not when I'm with Mike, of course. In fact, I believe it was Mike who first said -- not in a restaurant -- "Who gets the tip?" I think that's a great line and I suffered until I finally found a place I could use it without doing any serious damage, like inspiring servers to spit in my food.

Five or six of us were having a long late lunch at Habana Cafe here in Gulfport years and years ago. One of our party was from Venezuela, which is completely irrelevant to the story but for a moment, I thought it mattered. The waiter was a gorgeous young man with a fun spirit and a Spanish accent, and there was a lot of laughter between him and us, so when he showed up laden with dishes, saying, "Who gets the menudo?" I used that line. Whew.

It just all boils down to my wanting the servers to pay attention, which is -- or should be -- a huge part of their job. I want them to notice if I've run out of cream as much as I want them to notice that I'm alone and frail and have huge eyes and a quivering mouth. If I actually answer when they say, "How are you today?" well, then, they should go ahead and share their life stories. They should make little jokes and remarks every time they walk by my table. Obviously, I crave a little attention, so they should give it to me.

But if I glare at their every remark and heave sighs every time I have to lean back from my fervent conversation so they can place the water just so, well, then, back off, bucko!


*This was purposeful. Please. A little credit?


Jason said...

I'm told it's only going to get worse as I age.Yes it is. My mom has gotten much worse in her old age. During Halloween, she makes little rude comments to kids who are not in elaborate costumes, but they kinda dressed up... I can't wait for her to get more crotchety. Give me something to complain about.

I suspect I was a queen in a former life.Probably.

Seriously, I often forget what I ordered.That's that age thing again...

Barbara said...

Just you wait, my pretty!

bubbletruck said...


Anonymous said...

In my defense, the kids I'm rude to are TEENAGERS. Not the little ones who are into the "pretend I'm something else" part of Halloween.
Jason's mom
p.s. He's already crotchety --- ask his kids!