Sunday, August 12, 2007

Friendly's Almost Pushed Me To the Dark Side

I hadn't eaten at Friendly's Restaurant in ages but after a morning of traipsing through the mall with my Mom, we were hungry. Friendly’s seemed like a step up from the food court. The waitress came and took our order promptly enough – turkey clubs all around -- but she was a bit brisk and dare I say, not very friendly. Small grievance. Maybe she was overwhelmed. I've never waited tables. I don't think I have the temperament. But my spidey senses began tingling when she snatched the menu from my hand so fast I'm surprised I didn't get a paper cut. This is what we call in the literary trade a foreshadowing of worse to come. And come it did, or rather didn't.

My Mom and I sat and talked. And talked. And talked. And we watched people who came in after us get their food. What the deuce? Don't get me wrong, I enjoy conversing with my Mother. I don't get to do it as often as I would like, but I was also hungry. Now it wasn't distended belly Red Cross hungry, but I was ready to knosh.

How long does it take to make a club sandwich? Bread, meat, lettuce, tomato. I'd even ordered mine without tomato so it should have been easier and faster to make. What could the problem be? Did they run out of turkey? Were they growing the grain for the bread or behind on churning the mayonnaise? I have no idea how mayonnaise is actually made, and I don't want to know. A little mystery in life is a good thing

Sensing my growing disquiet, the waitress swung by and assured me that our "ticket" was the next one up. I discovered, however, that she was working with a more liberal interpretation of the word next than I was used to. Not only was our order not next, it wasn't even second or third. Now her assurances – there were two – were nothing but hollow platitudes. I came to the inescapable conclusion that "Tiffany" would not be getting a tip. In fact, it was becoming ever more likely that what she would get was cussed out.

I have a very active imagination. As we sat there, stomachs growling, I fantasized that at the 30 minute mark the manager would come over and explain what was going on. Maybe while trying to corner the turkey it teamed up with some renegade chickens and they were fighting back with the coordinated tactical precision of a Special Ops team. Due to an unexpected quantum flux, our order had been delivered to an alternate universe. Right now in some other reality I had already finished my meal and was enjoying a dish of black raspberry ice cream. Or perhaps, more mundanely, the cook had suffered an unfortunate mayonnaise churning accident. But alas, these are champaign wishes and caviar dreams. No explanation was forthcoming, fanciful or otherwise.

When the next plate of food came out that wasn't ours I was done. At this point, I don't know if that table had come in before or after us. It no longer mattered. I had reached a dangerous point where irrational thoughts began to bubble up from the dark side of my mind and sound plausible. My hand wrapped menacingly around my glass of ice water -- the only "food" on the table -- and I had a strong urge to throw it at the waitress.

First of all, that kind of behavior was only cute on "Dynasty." Who didn't love it when Alexis slapped the crap out of Crystal? Blunt hair cuts and shoulder pads flying; it was fabulous. Second, some my best friends are waitresses. If a customer did that to one them I'd be ready to put my hair up in a pony tail, take off the jewelry, grease up and roll.

When you're having an ethical quandary conventional wisdom suggests you that ask yourself What Would Jesus Do? As evidenced many times in the bible (changing water into wine, the miracle of the loaves and fishes, the last supper) Jesus likes to eat. I think he would have wanted his turkey club in a timely manner or know the reason why.

Besides, I think What Would Jesus Do?, is not a fair question. I know we're all God's children, but it's pretty safe to say Jesus is God's favorite. No matter what he does, God is gonna cut him a little slack.

A much better question to bring oneself back from the hunger induced brink is What Would Judge Judy Do? Given the facts she would agree that, yes, the service at Friendly's was bad, but it didn't excuse me tossing plates like frisbees and lobbing cutlery at the register like it was a dart board. It's moments like these when I miss my terrible twos. Those heady, free wheeling days when I could throw a tantrum without legal repercussions. Ah, youth.

Besides, you never know. Maybe the waitress had skills. Given the right set of circumstances, I might be willing to kick ass over a turkey club, but I'm pretty sure a reciprocal ass whipping would not be as pleasant. And if the rest of the staff jumped in too, some serious injury could be in the offing and not just my pride.

And so eschewing the dark side, and potential legal problems, we left. Walked out sans meal. I'm sure by the time I got home, cooked, ate, and cleaned the kitchen, our order was finally ready, complete with tomatoes.

I have since emailed the Friendly’s website, which seemed eager to know my comments, but I have yet to hear back. So what I thought was anomalous bad service is really emblematic of the wider corporate culture. Well, at least they’re consistent, or would be if they changed their name to Unfriendly’s.

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