A Christmas ‘thppppppth’

A restaurant. Off Interstate 80 westbound. People say it’s a nice place. Nice setting, nice building, nice food, nice people …

Nice took a whipping on Christmas Day.

My friend/co-conspirator Grace White and her daughter, Alisa, were being treated to dinner by Alisa’s boyfriend, Nathan. Aware that I’d eaten earlier, they had already ordered by the time I showed up.

I ordered coffee from Erika, our singularly efficient waitress. Yeah, I said waitress. You got a problem with that?

I detest the word server. To my ear, the label is demeaning, dehumanizing and downright insulting. Server, servant, servile … a tool, an appliance, a non-person. (See: “Florida voter.")

It takes brains, tact, stamina, patience, thick skin, saintly tolerance and a strong pair of feet to transport victuals for a living—that thankless minimum-wage job is performed by professional waiters and waitresses. A server is somebody with two tennis balls in one hand.

Meanwhile, back at the restaurant … ever been the “here, taste this” victim?

The soup, a cotton candy-pink concoction deceptively referred to in the plastic-protected menu as “lobster bisque” was lukewarm. The salad, bereft of recognizable greens and drenched in a brownish, over-seasoned substance of indeterminable origin, was similarly lukewarm. The ladies’ entrees, slabs of salmon, were barely tepid, mushy and topped with a mercifully sparse coating of something tasting like Jailhouse Sawdust ‘n’ Breadcrumb Surprise.

Nathan’s tiny gastronomical travesty, billed under the hilarious alias “Steak Diane,” was finally discovered hiding beneath viscous clots of poorly doctored steak sauce, a jug of which might be found at your neighborhood Everything’s A Dollar store.

Limp, overcooked vegetables were presented in forlorn clumps of what appeared to be thatches of Medusa’s hairdo. Dinner rolls were stale-edged and cold. Desserts were forgettable.

Unsurprisingly, management was summoned.

Fifteen minutes later, a contemptuous female (who subsequently claimed to be the general manager, though she really wasn’t) appeared at the table and condescended to simply stare down at us in wordless disapproval. Ever a gentleman, I shall not succumb to the temptation of abusing your sensibilities with any further description of her visage.

Alisa, a wonderfully assertive young lady, very politely articulated the party’s dissatisfaction. General Manager’s response was to turn and stalk away.

“Hold it, please,” Alisa said. “What are you going to do about this?”

“Nothing,” snapped General Manager, arrogance in overdrive.

“Did you think I was making this up?” Alisa was incredulous.

“Nobody else complained,” sneered General Manager. She turned to leave once again, but now it was Grace’s no-nonsense voice arresting her.

“Let me understand you clearly. Are you accusing my daughter of lying?” asked Grace.

“Nobody else complained.” This time General Manager repeated her mantra even more pointedly. Big mistake.

“First of all,” Grace began almost conversationally, letting it build, “we’ve enjoyed dinner here almost a dozen times in the past and have never been disappointed or dissatisfied.

“Secondly, my daughter is too busy having a life to waste her time or anybody else’s by making frivolous charges. Thirdly, neither we nor anyone else we’re able to warn will ever return here again. And lastly, you are the single rudest person in the history of food.” Then, chilling even my jaded bones, Grace slammed it home with one icy, regal sentence: “You may leave now.”

I love surgical.

Deflated and whimpering, General Manager slunk away like Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas departing a porn shop.

Nathan paid the full fixed price of $34 per unfortunate customer. In the foyer, as we departed, General Manager stunned us all by sticking her tongue out at Alisa. No kidding.

The coffee was delicious. Go figure.