Can I just have a regular tablecloth?

Working in a corporate part of town, with a big local player, one tends to find that other big players come to share in the spoils. Like sharks and remora, lions and jackals. The chain stores and restaurants show up to feast on the crumbs emanating from the maw of the big business.

I had supper in such a place last night. Romano's Macaroni Grill. It's one of those places where the wait staff are probably referred to as associates or team members or something that in no way describes their job duties or their actual standing in the restaurant chains' personnel hierarchy, and where said wait staff are almost certainly instructed to exhibit broad and overarching displays of exuberance and cheerfulness, and to all carry pepper grinders large enough to club every last baby seal at the North Pole straight up to blubber heaven.

In Romano's Macaroni Grill they put white butcher paper on top of the tables and every table has three crayons. My table's three crayons were labeled blueberry, strawberry sundae, and blue cheese. Someone needs to inform Crayola that a crayon bordering on the color of midnight at the bottom of Dick Cheney's leaking stuttering heart does in no way resemble blue cheese. Not even if that blue cheese was made by the lore and vitriol from an urvile's iron staff (points are given if you recognize the reference).

In Romano's Macaroni Grill the staff exuberance is demonstrated by regular cheering and clapping. It is demonstrated by the bartender ringing a clamoring, clanging bell, probably each time he or she earns a tip. At one point a busboy dropped some dishes and every employee in the place hollered at the top of their lungs and laughed while the bartender seemingly garroted himself on the bell cord it rang so loudly. This is corporate ordered fun times. I know you understand what I mean.

My waitress approached my table, picked up the blueberry and strawberry sundae crayons, and wrote her first name upside down and backwards on the white butcher paper of my table. A neat trick and, no doubt, also ordered by corporate.

"My name is Kim and I'll be your server." she said, in case I was illiterate. Considering that both Costco and Sam's Club were right up the road it was probably wise to always assume the worst about the skool larnin' of the customers.

But, of course, as I just said, this was a place where the corporate types and their families come for supper, thus the white butcher paper and crayons. The Costco and Sam's Club crowd were eating in Applebee's, up the street.

I was able to tolerate Kim because she was about my age and, partly as a result of this, and more importantly, competent. The food was also tolerable, in that comfortable corporate way. Corporate because it was made according to exacting corporate rules. Rules that exist in every store of a given chain. Comfortable because people, no matter where they travel in this country, find something familiar; something that they recognize, so that there is no challenge, no worry, no grief. Ahh, just like Mom used to make before she started on the Xanax and red wine. And oh! the people that come into these places. One fat bastard in a grey Hawaiian shirt had the flat porcine eyes of the terminally venal. All the other corporate men were wearing their corporate family clothing -- cargo shorts and expensive sneakers, button down short sleeve shirts and ball caps bought at Old Navy, with cell phone or blackberry firmly attached at the hip. $100,000 salaries and expense accounts but still dressed like 10 year old boys when at their leisure. Says a lot about this country.

While I was still waiting for my table I noticed one of the hostesses, wearing an understated black dress and raven colored stockings. She had red hair in a neat shoulder length cut. Her nose was sharp and her chin was pointed in a way that would not serve her well in her dotage. I thought, to myself, that if she had green skin what a perfectly fine Elphaba, from Wicked, she would make. Imagine my genuine surprise, then, when, not two minutes later, Elphaba began singing Happy Birthday to a gathering in a booth in a trained, powerful, operatic-style soprano. Then she did it again and again and again until it was clear that people were pretending it was their birthday so they could hear that piercing soprano voice over and over, and until I was silently praying for the ghost of Beverly Sills to wreak almighty and unholy vengeance upon everyone in the joint.

This is the price one pays to live and work in such places. I'll say one thing about the small town I just left: At least I was able to find decent food not conceived by a committee wearing Hugo Boss suits.

As it was, I ate my clams and I ate my pasta and I ate my bread dipped in extra virgin olive oil, and then I drove home. And would someone tell me why somebody would buy a Toyota Prius hybrid and then drive it at 90 fucking miles per hour on the fucking Interstate? Isn't that missing the point? It is entirely possible that I'm completely missing several points in this post.
  • Current Mood: just because
Romano's took a long time to come to Oregon. Oregon does not allow waitstaff to be paid in tips and a small wage. They have to make minimum wage. Romano's sucks and I never eat there.
First, I love your writing...

About the restaurant: how I loathe enforced happiness! There is something chilling about it. I've seen groups of servers standing around singing "It's your birthday, it's your birthday, hooray!" and clapping in rhythm, but not a smile on one face. Creepy.

At least your server didn't say "I'll be taking care of you today." I hate that manipulative phrase; it's clear that the purpose is to touch my psyche and make me feel nurtured and loved, like my mommy is bringing me my supper...