>>> The Hard Way
By staff writer Mike Faerber
December 19, 2004

It all starts when you’re hanging around with friends—or if you’re especially blessed, your family—and one of them mentions being hungry. Of course everyone is too lazy or too not a mother to cook, so the prospect of eating out comes along!

Now if your life was an Applebee’s commercial, you’d be in heaven right now because there are absolutely no complications in the meal process. The wait staff is cheerful, the table is gorging themselves with reckless abandon, and there is cheesy KC and the Sunshine Band music blaring over your carefree chatter.

And Grandpa doesn’t bring up your ex-girlfriend from 6 months ago merely because he’s out of the loop.

But somewhere from the tube to the table, Lucifer dabbles his little finger in the meal process. Maybe that’s why the food is steaming hot “Careful, honey. Don’t touch!”

So here’s where it all went wrong.

The Wait Debate

“Hop out of the car and see how long the wait is.” Yup that’s your job. The answer is of course the dubious 45 minutes, right on the cusp where you have to get everyone’s opinion on whether it’s worth it. With the average family of five you’re prone to receiving three “I don’t cares”, one “it’s not going to be shorter anywhere else”, and one “I’d rather eat at Chili’s.” With the average group of four friends you get four “don’t cares.” So you eventually break and decide to go put your name down, much to the chagrin of the hot “14 but looks like she’s 18” hostess, who knew you’d be back. The logical part of you bemoans the fact that it’s quite tacky to hit on jailbait especially when she’s working, but the emotional half is thinking “I want her baby back, baby back, baby back….” Lucky for you she opens her mouth to say something:

“Some people came in. Now it’s an hour wait.”

Eating Mis-Order

As soon as your table is ready, they don’t waste any time seating you. In the restaurant biz, the faster you turn over customers the more money you make. So don’t be surprised if you have your drink ordered and have already forgotten your waiter’s name before you even sit. If you’re like me, it takes you a while to decide on your food, but that’s time that the server and your friends/family are willing to spare. Sure they’ll ask for a “few more minutes” on occasion…begrudgingly. Sometimes with good reason too. They know that in the dining business, it’s 2 strikes and you’re out, meaning good luck seeing your waiter if you brush him off twice.

Yet there is a far more annoying customer, the one who is perilously picky with his meal and puts the whole table’s food in jeopardy. If someone mentions the words “Can I substitute a salad?” or “Can I have that come on the side?” you should be wary of eating with them again. She (usually a she) has put the waiter on alert, and now he assumes nothing with your order. After you list out the various details about what does and does not come with your burger, when all you wanted was the standard order, you should give a good hard punch to that person.

But only when mom isn’t looking.

Deserting the Dessert

Should you be with family, this closing of the transaction activity is not really a concern. However, the issue of dessert very much is. Your parents, with doggie bags in hand, will insist they are far too full…until the server brings out the menu. At this point your mom will spot the triple fudge nut brownie with more fudge sitting on fudge and nuts…and fudge. SHE wants and suggest that YOU order it. Once given the go ahead you decide “Meh, why not. But I’m going to have the ice cream instead.” The chain reaction is born, suddenly everyone at the table wants their own unique dessert, except for mom. She’ll just have a little of yours.

With friends however, paying the bill becomes a debacle. Guys for one hate being in debt so that rules out the “one person pays and the others will handle it next time” solution. The foaming breath of the waiter barking “NO SPLIT CHECKS” takes care of that option as well. The end result is an NY stock exchange type scene of buying, selling, and trading until three guys end up even, while the last one is 96 cents short. He of course wants the others to just let it go. After much deliberation, a peace ensues.

Guy 1: I dunno it just doesn’t seem right that he gets off with 96 cents that rounds up to a dollar, you owe us a dollar.
Guy 2: C’mon just let it go! It’s not that big of a deal.
Guy 3: Ya know if it helps us get out of here faster, I’ll pay the damn 96 cents.
Guy 4: Oh shit, we forgot about the tip.