4.01.2006

Feeling Not-So-Mellow


Because Miss George will be on a cruise with Mamoo Monday (No tattoos this time, Mamoo. What if you want to wear a strapless gown to the office Christmas party?), we had to celebrate her 17th birthday last night. She let me know early on that she wanted to go out to dinner but she'd be working until 8:30. That meant we'd have to go somewhere close, in order to eat and get Lo home to bed before she turned into Rosemary's Kindergartener. Since we couldn't go into Hotlanna proper, and the pickins in The Land O' the Stripmall are slim, I asked GareBear, her bo-friend, where he thought we should go. He recommended Mellow Mushroom or "anywhere really, really expensive"--THAT is how well he knows our girl. Pizza it was.

Now, I 've always loved the place, myself. I mean, it's groovy, right? We've been going for years, since the days I used to suck down a few pitchers and cry all the way home in the minivan. Where else can I get tofu AND Italian sausage on a pizza without being judged. And Biggy has wet dreams about their salad dressing.

Alas, Friday night, March 31, was to be our last visit.

It started out okay. The crowd was light, due to all the kids headed to the orgy in Panama City Beach. We got a nice big table in the middle of the room, and I didn't even have to sit by Lo. Great, she could spill her tea on someone else (she did). Then our waitress--let's call her Crystal--came to take our order. She was looking all Joni Mitchell, but Joni would have been smart enough to carry a note pad. We've got six persnickety people. It ain't gonna be two large pepperoni pies and Cokes for everyone. The salad order should have been her first clue. I won't bore you with the variations we came up with on Greek salads, but--trust me--you and I would have gone to get a pencil. Most important, the birthday girl and I were sharing a veggie special--NO ONIONS and NO MUSHROOMS. I must have said it five times, how much I hate onions, how I'd rather juice my dog's anal glands than eat onions. I kept asking, "Are you sure you don't need to write this down?" She said, "No, you'll see."

I should mention that I waited tables for eight years as an undergrad (yeah--eight years--that's what I said), and a large part of that experience happened in Athens, GA. I've suffered every kind of pain-in-the-ass customer, including REM in their hobo days. They and their furry-legged groupies would camp out at my tables and drink coffee all day, stinking up the joint with B.O. and patchouli. After 900 refills, they were good for about a nickel. (The Red Hot Chili Peppers were even worse; they'd bring their own tea bags and order hot water and lemon.) Anyhoo, I UNDERSTAND. I'm a nice patron--generally pleasant, patient, and generous. I'm also CLEAR about what I want and try to avoid any miscommunications that could cause THEM grief down the road.

You know what happened.

It's not like I could have simply picked them off either, so complex is the veggie concoction, with its broccoli, artichoke hearts, moose feta, twice-baked rice cakes, silken tofu, miso soup, etc. etc. etc. Besides, I TASTED onion long before actually I bit into one.

Next:

I go to the counter, where Crystal is so busy counting her money she evidently can't see me, hear me, or smell the onion on my breath. When her co-worker finally asks me if I need something (?!), I tell her I need to talk to Crystal. We're standing less than two feet apart, but Crystal still can't hear me. It appears she needs to find out if she's raised enough money for the operation.

The co- nudges her till she finally looks up. "Crystal," I say, "my pizza has enough onions on it to make Hannibal Lechter cry." Blank stare. Then a flat "Do you want another one?"

Birthday Girl and I sat there while they made a wholenother pizza. In the meantime, I got to watch the employees at the counter whispering and casting dirty looks our way. And when they picked up the mistake-pizza and took it back to the kitchen, I observed as they dug through it to see if it indeed had onions on it. As if I'd just tell them that so my daughter and I could watch everybody else eat while they made another one EXACTLY like it. Like that's my idea of fun.

I don't joke about food, people.

9 comments:

Biggy said...

The dressing really is that good.

Collin said...

Is this an April's Fool post?

If not, I'm impressed by the dish on REM and Red Hot Chili Peppers. You could sell that shit to Star magazine. :)

Tania Rochelle said...

Michael Stipe should read it and mail me a check.

minus five said...

you shouldn't be such a picky eater and things like this wouldn't happen to you.

Tania Rochelle said...

You're one to talk, Sarah. Why don't you tell 'em all your food rules.

jennifer said...

my favorite Michael Stipe quote ever: "If you bend that a little, you might be able to get it in." Overheard at a Barber Street party back in the day when someone was trying to bring a tree into the kitchen.

minus five said...

i don't know what you're talking about.

nolapoet said...

As many years in the restaurant biz as in F-T journalism. I know. I have this experience quite, quite (too) often.

When I first came to ATL from N.O., I was miserable because the level of service here S*U*C*K*S. By contrast, the one thing you CAN get in New Orleans post-Katrina is good damn table service and real food made by real cooks.

What waitrons need to understand is that they are being paid to serve. If you can't at least pretend to be attentive and to anticipate (silently) your customer's needs, then you need to fold sweaters at American Eagle!

Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority equate that with bouncing up to the table, announcing that they will be "taking care of you today" (you gonna cut my meat and eat it for me, too?) and then a) ignore your plaintive glances and outright hollers across the room, or b) butt in at the climax of your story, wedding proposal, breakup, or brilliantly-led-up-to point to ask, "IS EVERYTHING OKAY?"...

This lack of service savvy runs from Waffle House to white-tablecloth. No pride at all. If I were physically well enough to wait tables here, I would make a BUNDLE. (I'm a 20-25% tip waitress.)

So, I cook at home. A lot.

Anne-Davnes said...

I had one and one only experience waiting on tables. I quit after the new hostess fogot I was a newbie and on Mother's Day brunch, gave me 7 tables. I ran into the kitchen crying once the first table snagged me and snarled, "MISS!!! WHERE are our SALADS????!!!"

I still have nightmares about that day. I enjoy serving people - just not when they expect me to. Maybe it's a control thing. I dunno.

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