WTH Fridays: Eating Out

The Little Woman sent me a text:  She and her best friend – a mutual friend, actually – were going to dinner.  This was a polite way of telling me that I would have to fend for myself, a situation that did not bother me in the least, considering that I’m the household chef.

Now, ordinarily, I take opportunities like this to pig out on things that I know the Little Woman wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole.  Nothing odd or exotic, mind you, but things like battered cod or chili – things that I know she wouldn’t otherwise eat, and I wouldn’t otherwise dare to make.

Semi-Relevant Tangent:  Seriously, who doesn’t like chili?  It’s not like I’m an chili expert – just some mild seasoning, ground beef, kidney beans, tomato sauce, and elbow macaroni.  Yes, I know that the inclusion of pasta means it’s technically “chili mac,” but so what?  It’s chili.  I love it, but the Little Woman abhors it, so I rarely get to make it.  Well, I can make it, she tells me, but it’ll be a gallon of food that I’ll have to eat by myself.  And as much as I love my chili, I’m just too old to eat that much of it.  When I was younger, I could do that (over the course of a week), but not now.  I suppose that I could freeze it, but that’s akin to Food Purgatory: The next time I saw it would be the day I was tossing it into the trash.

But I digress.

Instead of doing something like that, I decided to just stop by a chain sports bar* to place a take-out order.  I’d done that a number of times, and I’d had little issue with them.  Usually, we go there – maybe once every five or six weeks – to enjoy a night out and to play a few rounds of trivia.  But seeing how the place was packed, I figured that I’d just get my order to go – I’d rather have been at home, anyway.

Just so you know what the plan is:  I’m going to place an order to take back home.  It’s 6:30 pm; I expect to be back by 7pm.  This should be a piece of cake, right?

(* For the purpose of this story, let’s make up a name – oh, something like Albany Tame Pinions.  Just work with me, okay?)

So there I am, in line behind two women who I assume are together.  I think that had anyone been paying close attention, they’d have reasoned the two were old friends, the way they kept joking around.  Well, it turns out that they weren’t together; they didn’t even know each other.  The first woman, who’d been standing in line just talking, had apparently finished her order eons ago and was just wasting time.  When she’d finished whatever joke she was telling, she decided to move over to the “Pick Up” counter.  That left the  other lady.

Now this was something I’d honestly wish I’d had on film because I doubt you’ll believe my rendition of it.  Two countermen on two separate registers stood there, taking her single order.  The woman asked for side dishes to her order, but wanted a special price.  No ma’am, they responded, we can’t do that, but we can do this.  The woman had to check her phone because she was apparently ordering for someone else.  He wants this, she’d started, and the two countermen looked confused; we’ll have to check, they replied. Using an opened menu, she pointed to what she wanted.  This, but I want to substitute that.  The two countermen nodded in agreement.  She then –

This was FIVE MINUTES of nonsense!  And while I recognize that five whole minutes is next to nothing in the grand scheme of the Cosmos, it’s an awfully long time to place a frickin’ take out order.  I wanted to scream, “Woman, they sell wings.  Get some and go!”  But I didn’t; I just kept my cool.  You’d have been proud of me.  Even as I was walking back to my car, with her still placing her order, I smiled to myself and kept my cool.

Yes sir.  I.  Was.  Cool.

Okay, you know that I’m lying, right I was so mad that I almost changed my name to Doctor Livid.  How could one person place an order that took over five minutes to complete?  Who was she ordering for?  What made her think that she could get away with that crap?  She was cute, but she wasn’t that cute.

Angrily, I went off and ran an errand.  An hour later, I’d cooled down – for real, this time – and decided to give good ol’ Albany Tame Pinions a second chance.  After all, we go there regularly and although we’ve been victimized by bad service before, I always found it in my heart to “try again.”  This time, I was the only one at the “Order” counter, so that was a good sign.  I didn’t rate the attention of both countermen, as the woman did earlier; I was only helped by one, who took my order like he’d only recently learned that the sports bar served food.

I sat and waited for my order.  Meanwhile, a flood of people came and went.  I have no issue with that; they were smart enough to call in their orders, while I was not.  Stupid me wanted to use the personal touch.  As I waited, a group of interesting people paraded by me:  The grandmother who would walk up to the counter while on her phone, only to turn around and scream into it that she couldn’t hear and was going outside.  A minute passed and she returned, only to repeat the process.  I tried to think of something positive, but it wasn’t working.  The woman’s grandkids – one thought that he’d make a killing in stealing gift cards (before Grandma forced him to give them back), and his younger sister, who was given a cardstock crown by an employee.  The girl decided to fiddle with the crown and the tape that held it together gave way.  This gave the girl free license to grab other crowns from the countertop.  I looked at my watch for the what seemed like the twentieth time and let out a sigh.  The little girl knew she was in the wrong – I know this because of the “Go screw yourself” look she gave me as she stockpiled paper hats.

Then there were the two guys who decided to talk about the baseball game, and one smiled at the other and-

OH, HELL, WHERE IS MY FRICKIN’ ORDER?!?  It’s been over twenty minutes, and while I appreciate that there are other people here, I’m trying to get home!  I can’t take this anymore!  It’s now 8 pm and my pants are so close to turning violet right now I don’t know what to do!

Actually I did know what to do:  I went to the counter and told one of the countermen that I wanted to cancel the order.  Seriously.  I’d had it, and if they weren’t going to serve me in a reasonable manner, then I’d get my refund and go on my merry way.

Counterman looked like I told him to make gold from straw.  Need to get a manager, he mumbled, and was gone in a flash.  The second counterman, who had been in the kitchen, returned up front.  He was there to handle another customer, but it was clear that the first counterman had told him of my request.  I got the impression that they were stalling for time, too, because when the manager finally arrived – realize that I’d now dedicated almost 30 minutes of my life to this – my order suddenly appeared.

Now, a smart manager would have said, “Hey, I realize you’ve been here longer than you should have, and I’ll refund your payment and comp the meal.  Have a good night.”  And you know what?  I would have refused him.  I don’t want free stuff; I want things done correctly.  This is a training moment, not a please-don’t-call-corporate moment.  Whenever I’ve had to complain, and that’s not often, I always start out with, “I don’t want anything for free,” because I just want to make sure that this type of misbehavior doesn’t happen again.

In this instance, however, the manager was of the mind that I was likely after free food.

You want this or not?” he barked, something that would have been less troubling if he hadn’t waited for a group of people to surround the counter.

Well, shit.  I might as well take it, seeing how I had to wait forever to get it,” I responded.

Hey, if he wanted to play games, I was more than happy to oblige him.  And as my pants started transitioning from violet to darker blue hues, I did make a show of taking the bar’s general manager’s business card.  I hope they’re working themselves into a panic over what I might say.  Truthfully, I won’t call, and I’ll probably go back to Albany’s at some future date, but not any time soon.  I don’t want anyone fired or disciplined; it was a difficult night and they’re just kids.

But yeah, I may have to go back to what I used to do – making my own spicy wings at home.  And the Little Woman?  No more friend-time for you, missy.

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