Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Most Interesting Restaurant Experience On Record

I posted this on another site a while back and, while I still remember this meal, I didn't think much about it until I recently brought up the example of restaurant servers in class. Being A.D.D., I went off on a tangent and recounted a portion of this experience to the class (I was doing it to keep the class interesting as we were working on some fairly difficult concepts in the theory of the firm). This post is about the craziest time the Mush-family has ever had at a sit-down restaurant, which occurred about a year ago. It wasn't long after the start of the fall semester at the schools, so there were a lot of newly-employed students all over the place. I'm not sure if the guy we had was new or not, but what happened could have happened to even the most experienced out there.

I normally try to keep all my posts pretty-much G-rated, this is one of those times where it's going to cross over just a bit into the PG-realm, due to a bit of language. With that said, heeeeeere we go!

We went to the Olive Garden last night for supper...not the best choice for a lower-carb meal, but they have whole wheat pasta. Anyway, we get in, hit the bathroom for Eric (85% potty-trained), and start to follow our host back to our table. While we're walking back, there's what I'm guessing is a mother and daughter (Mom's somewhere in her 60s, daughter is maybe in her 40s) just griping...and they hadn't even been seated yet.

Guess who gets seated two tables away from us immediately after we sat down?

We put our drink order in...the boys got raspberry lemonade, and we order the Chateau St. Michelle Riesling. Our server then heads over to the other table with Nurse Ratchett and Elphaba. After nearly 10 minutes of exacerbated Q/A with them on just about everything on the menu (I wish I were exaggerating...30 seconds in, Sheri leaned over and mouthed "high-maintenance" to me...she was spot-on!), they finally release their talons on him so he can start working on their meal.

While we're waiting, we can hear them "complaining" (I'm trying to keep it clean) about what they heard about on a recent advertisement on TV (the never-ending pasta bowl) and how it was not on the menu (the promotion just ended). As they gripe about that, I see the mother pull out a syringe and start loading up on insulin (for the ultimate glycemic rush she was about to get with all that pasta). I don't even think she did a glycemic test before she injected herself.

A few minutes later, our server comes back with the boys' drinks and our wine. As he starts to work on opening the wine, he has problems cutting through the seal over the cork. He comments that they just don't drink wine in their fraternity, and I ask him which one he's in (the professional business frat). We talk about school a bit as he gets the corkscrew in. Witch #1 from the other table hops up and interrupts us as we're talking and getting the wine opened, essentially demanding that they got their salad and breadsticks before the main course came out. We exchange glances with our server, who was trying to process what the hell was going on with them, and other tables are starting to notice them (we're all exchanging glances at each other now). As we talk (he was trying to get me to help the frat out as a faculty "mentor"), he pulls the cork out, only to find that it only partially came out. He asks if we want a new bottle, and, since I didn't see any of the cork go in the bottle, I tell him it's fine. He tries again, and Witch #2 starts griping about his inability to open a bottle of wine. He's starting to get a little rattled by he gets the cork fragments off the top and starts working the screw in the remaining cork, he pushes it all the way through and drops the cork in the bottle. He just shook his head and mumbled that he'd be back in a minute with another bottle.

He leaves, and every table in the room is staring intently at good ole Ma and daughter, who are now seriously "complaining" incessantly about how bad it's going to be because he's done nothing right. Daughter's quips, "Let's just wanna go? Let's get out of here!!!" Under her breath, Sheri's murmuring "GOOD!" DaughterWitch (DW, from here on out) gets up and goes somewhere. Meanwhile, our server comes back with a new bottle of wine...he opens it and then heads back almost in a dead sprint to work on their salad. A minute later, DW comes back with the manager, and they both start laying in on him as though they had been served undercooked cockroach instead of pasta.

Nearly every table was reallllllly hoping they were leaving.

They didn't.


The manager had developed a way to somehow put a permanent smile on his face as he walked away.

I'm laughing at that as I take my first drink of the, that's the dryest friggin' riesling I've ever tasted. I decided to see what wifey thought in case my taste was just off. A couple of seconds later, she asks what I thought of the wine, and I can tell that she's in the same boat as me.

My first thought was, "when the hell did I become a wine snob?" (I mean that in the best way to all my wine snobs out there (cough..Michelle)) We both look at the bottle, and we found that we had been served a great bottle of Chateau St. Michelle Chardonnay. We talk it over for a minute on whether to just drink the Chardonnay or request the Riesling and decide to ask for the Riesling. The server goes flying by to tableau des Witches and gives them the breadsticks and salad Now, Eric is almost in tears because he's seen breadsticks go by 3-4 times without them stopping at his table, and he was sooooo hungry for a breadstick. As soon as the server sets the salad down, you could see the fear pooling in his eyes. "It looks like there is one pepper that found its way in there...I know you requested no peppers."

"NO! WE WON'T HAVE THIS! (insert annoying grumbling here that only witches could do...I think they were casting a spell on him)." The other server in the section was pulling out a rosary and starting to administer last rights to our guy. Our server runs back to start again on another salad for them. After 4-5 more minutes of grumbling, they finally decide to get up and go!

The whole room contemplated applauding as they made their way out. As every table watched every other table for a cue to cheer, the whole room starts snickering.

The manager, still with the smile plastered on his face (the smile that had a kind of "if I quit smiling I'm going to murder someone" look to it), noticed that they had left. I think his smile got a little bigger.

The table behind Sheri started getting in on the game and playing with the other server (the one administering last rights)...they started complaining about having too much butter on the breadsticks and only having 14 ice cubes in their water (they wanted 15). The other server is just eating it up and loving it.

Our server comes back with 2 salads and breadsticks. When he noticed that they were gone, he lets out this huge breath that he was holding and asked if we wanted another salad. I talked to him about horror stories back when I served tables in college. Glad that we weren't mad about how long everything was taking (Sheri was commenting on how there was no pleasing them and at least, with them gone, he could now get a table that will give a tip), he mistakingly asked how the wine was.

"You aren't gonna believe this."

I showed him the bottle, and just starts to shake his head. It's beyond comical now. "I'll be right back!!!" A minute later, he's at the kiosk with the manager (still smiling maniacally) getting our ticket straightened out (we're getting bottle #3 now). I heard him tell the manager that we were being awesome about it, and the manager let out the breath he was holding in.

He comes back, jokingly shows me the bottle for about 15 seconds, and wonders where to put it because we have a nice collection of wine glasses at our table now (2 from a sample, 2 from the chardonnay, and 2 new ones). He pulls out the blade from his opener to take off the wrap and starts struggling with it...and then says something I would not have expected to ever hear at a restaurant...

"You know, I think I just cut myself."

Aaron immediately perked up and wanted to see if there was blood.

"Yeah, I did cut myself."

Trying not to outright laugh at all that has happened to this poor guy, I tell him to just give me the wine opener, and I'll finish it for him (which I actually had to do for a new server a couple of years back who have never used one of those openers before, though I wasn't laughing at that one). He refuses and says he wants to get another bottle.

To Hell with the diet, we're eating's been something like 35 minutes since we sat down. I downed the glass of chardonnay fast (I needed it), and Sheri (not a chardonnay fan at all), downs her glass too.

45 seconds later, guess who appears with bottle #4 of wine (which we have tasted but a glass of) and an opener? Smilin' manager!!!!

We immediately tell him that 95% of what has happened was not the server's fault and that they were one of those tables that was impossible (I also mention that he looked pretty good for what he had to go through with them). I think he called them a "character-building" experience for the servers. We get our wine (FINALLY) and both drink a glass in about 3 seconds flat.

Remember...we've been on a diet and haven't been eating as much (nor have we been drinking). Sheri was starting feel the effects just from the fumes of the wine.

I take Eric to the restroom to go potty. On our way, we see another econ faculty member waiting to be seated. I talk with him for a second, take Eric potty, and head back. Our server, now with what seemed like 6 inches of gauze on his thumb that he nicked, came back to make sure we hadn't stormed out. The other server comes over and mentions how you get used to those types of tables after a while and tells of a table he had where they had a conniption because he put too much parmesan cheese on their salad (a little more came out after they said "when"), and we, as well as the 3 tables around us, are busting up laughing ("Dude, the cheese is free!").

At this point, Sheri is entering the "giggling" stage of consuming wine (stage 2...the first stage is "wow, I'm starting to feel this"...said about 5 times). Just as she comments on how I'm driving home, guess who gets seated right behind Sheri.

Ray...the other Econ teacher.

Sheri starts to pale as she looks at me..."He's gonna tell the entire department that your wife's a drunk!" Ray's wondering why the hell we're laughing so much. I tell him that this has been the weirdest dining experience we've ever had.


Another table over comments "YEP!!!! He ain't lying!" We all recounted DW and her lovely mom as well as our 4 bottles of wine. As we're laughing, the other server comes back with this deer-in-the-headlight look on his face.

"They didn't leave! They're in another section and making the manager take care of them. He is getting ripped apart all over!!!"

Immediately, 15 heads start craning over the wall to see if we could watch.

We comment on how the manager just kept on smiling. The other server said he reminded him of one of the characters from "Charlie & the Chocolate Factory" who smiled all the time as he talked to the kids. This led to a 5 minute discussion over several tables as to what that guy's name was and which version of the movie was better (FYI: it was Slugworth, from the first movie).

Our food FINALLY arrives, well over an hour since we ordered it. Aaron gets quiet all of a sudden, but doesn't say anything (he's a great kid, but he's sometimes a pain with us (as all kids are with their parents)...when he talks to others, though, he's the mostest politest kid I've ever met). He ordered fries as his side instead of broccoli and pasta (can you blame him?), but the kitchen put the broccoli on his plate. Being resourceful, he tried pawning the broccoli off on us. Sheri realized what had happened, takes a big gulp of wine and, like Dory would say it, sings "just keep drinking...just keep drinking..."

The poor server stops by to check on how everything is. We tell him about the fries, and he says he's going home and coming back to start the shift over.

7 minutes later, he's back with a huge plate of fries. We've got another couple of new folks seated in our room, and they're wondering what's going on with all the tables having an uncontrollable fit of giggles.

Things somehow calm down a bit (about ten minutes) until he brings the check. The check is perfect...only 1 bottle of wine on there. We talk a bit more about school, and our server asks who I am. I tell him, and he says, "oh yeah, your name comes up all the time with classes."

Without thinking, I let out an "Oh crap...that can't be good!"

"'s all good. You're the second-best Principles teacher out there, next to Tony." (Tony had just retired but was still extremely popular).

Now you have to try to visualize me using every last ounce of energy to bite my lip and resist telling him that the third Principles teacher, who must not be that popular, is sitting right behind Sheri. He would have quit serving right then had I told him how deep he just stuck his foot in his mouth. He leaves as tears almost start streaming down my face as I'm trying not to make eye-contact with Ray, who, of course, is in my direct line-of-sight when I look at Sheri and Eric. I gave a friend of mine a run for her money when a bunch of Lodgers met up and ate in the now-famous Pope Room during the Chicago meet-up a couple of months ago, where we had her in hysterics from laughing so hard. In Ray's defense, he was also well-liked…it just sounded like he wasn't, based our server's talking about Tony and me. I would have loved to have seen that tip!

He brings the check back with about 20 Andes mints. Of course, we didn't realize how many there were until we started counting how many empty wrappers were in front of the boys (who, of course, were discreetly shoveling them in their mouths as fast as they could). Luckily we found out on just their third set of mints.

We gave him a 25% tip and, had we had anything other than a debit card, we would have given the other server (who everyone was calling Jimmy Fallon by now as he had a resemblance to him) a couple bucks too.

As we left (nearly 2 hours there, and the boys did amazing), I stopped to apologize to a newly-seated table in case we were being too loud. I told her to just ask the server what happened...she mentioned that she was having fun watching everyone else just busting up at everything that was going on.

Maybe you just had to be there to understand the perfect storm of gaffes, but my sides are still hurting from laughing while typing this up.

1 comment:

Timberline said...

I started laughing as soon as you said the "riesling" was dry -- we had a bottle of St. Michelle riesling last night for dinner that was too dry (unfortunately, it WAS riesling, and we were at home, so no go on the bottle change!). Still, this sounds like quite the evening. I can't believe what that poor teacher behind you had to hear...I guess third best teacher out of three is tough to swallow.

Thanks for the laugh!