Wednesday, January 9, 2008

the color coded mood indicator table tent ...

the last time we ate at a mainstream restaurant was more than a year ago. this is less because our leisurely lives conflict with conventional dinner hours -- although that is one reason -- and more because we are snobs. but this time chuck had a gift card. and honestly, i like to see how many of this mainstream restaurant's breadsticks, end to end, it takes to fill the large and small intestine of a woman who is 5'6. and i don't like to leave until -- much like a play doh fun factory -- a breadstick tail has crowned.

the hostess surveyed our matching hoodies and chuck taylors and asked what everyone in the restaurant was probably thinking: is this a birthday or an anniversary? a special occasion? and we were all: yeah. it's a super special day. it's gift card redeeming day and you win because we chose you over red lobster.

later, our waiter chad held open the specials menu, pointed at red mounds of penne noodles, told us it was penne noodles with red sauce, and read the description to us -- which was probably something like "penne noodles topped with red sauce." eventually the individual features on chuck's face inverted themselves and i was openly laughing and by the time chad was to the alfredos, i had invented a new accessory for diners: the color coded mood indicator table tent.

say you go to a restaurant and want the most attention that can possible be given: frequent water refills, where's the bathroom?, what would you recommend?, appetizers, entrees and desserts and coffee and wine, and movie suggestions ... i indicate this with a universally understood color coded mood indicator table tent. and chad spends his night bustling around fluffing my chair, pushing my bangs out of my eyes and making sure i'm full but not too full.

on the other hand, if you think chad should only tell you about things not described and photographed within the binding of the menu, you are assured you will have the bare minimum of special needs, and you want to only hear his perky little tenor three times at the most ... universally understood color coded mood indicator table tent. and chad gives this table a wide berth.

and chad of course will know that his tip will reflect how closely he comes to fufilling your color coded table tent dream of what a waiter should act like. these tents are wallet sized.

***

certain professions require a level of seamless banter, and waiting tables is definitely one of them. i know. i've done it. i think i was pretty good at it. one time, while working breakfast, i got a busload of bluehairs fresh from the bingo circuit.

"i'll take a short stack," warbled woman one.
"i'll have the short stack, too," creaked woman two.
"hm ... i'd like the short stack," gurgled woman three.

"man," i said. "short stacks are selling like hot cakes."

and when they didn't laugh, i left them alone. just shy of saying "refill your own decaf, phyllis."

retail. rock star. hair stylist. information booth worker. magician. i think that a color coded mood indicator table tent would benefit everyone involved: i'm waving a purple table tent so you know you don't have to tell me about the toddler who's face is taped to your cash register, or the scar from where you had the mole removed. and you should be relieved that you can shelve your dog and pony show. save it for someone who wants entertainment. thank me, that you don't have to take your socks off to prove that the blister was really that big.

i'd just like to get through this exchange without adding you as a friend on facebook.

***

last week i had to call my insurance agent to make sure that i was automatically renewed for the next period, and did not need to come in and sign anything. i told him my name then politely gave him enough time to flip through his cheat sheet so he could feign recognition. and maybe he does know who i am, maybe he doesn't, but he immediately acted like he did.

i asked if i needed to do anything, or if i was still insured.
he said it looked like i was fine.
i thanked him and began to hang up.

"wait," he said. "you only call when you want something?"
"well," i said, "i guess i could tell you what i had for lunch ...?"
he seemed to be waiting for me to finish. truthfully, i hadn't eaten anything yet that day so this topic was a dead end.
"how ya been? what's new?" he asked.
"um ...," i hemmed.

sometimes it feels like my insurance agent is reading a "choose your own adventure" series on banter. "if customer says she had grilled cheese, please turn to page 35." it's exhausting to me. it has to be exhausting to him, if that is what he is doing from 9-5 weekdays. i'd like to give him a vacation from his efforts. i'd like to give him a color coded mood indicator table tent.

11 comments:

Sproactually said...

In Times Square there is a tourist orientated packed food experience know as Bubba Gumps, as in the Bubba from Forest Gump. Now, similar to the mid priced packaged food experience that offered you the chance to help sharpen the bread stick baking skills of the staff, the food ain't all the bad, the view is cool and the it's fun in a let me act stupid with everyone else.

But on the table is a flip sigh, Run Forest Run, Stop Forest Stop, you need something, flip the sign to stop and the next bubbly tight shirted vixen will stop and see if your ready for the next ultimate margarita. Leave it to run, they ignore you.

CDP said...

Excellent idea, and you should immediately patent it.

Your bluehairs were either hearing-impaired or on the slippery slope toward dementia...no other possible explanation for why they wouldn't have laughed at that joke.

L Sass said...

If you produce and sell that table mood indicator, I will be first in line to buy it!

ceecee said...

We had an awesome insurance guy back in the old, old days. He was very helpful when we wanted to juggle a two-vehicle policy on three vehicles. And he was young, funny and smart. But things got a little weird the day I was out running errands and he stopped by the house because he was in the neighborhood and walked in without knocking. And Mr. Ceecee was taking a bath. In our bathroom without a door. That was a little too much Insurance Guy.

feistyMNgirl said...

hilarious post. i've often desired a touch-panel screen as communication: sit down, punch in your order, no banter needed.

i'm reminded of office space:

Chotchkie's Waiter: So can I get you gentlemen something more to drink? Or maybe something to nibble on? Some Pizza Shooters, Shrimp Poppers, or Extreme Fajitas?

Peter Gibbons: Just coffee.

Chotchkie's Waiter: Okay. Sounds like a case of the Mondays.

feistyMNgirl said...

oh, and my husband's last birthday? our insurance agent CALLED the house, and SANG happy birthday on the answering machine.

someday, the wrong wife will get that sort of message and explode.

Mach1 said...

Your insurance guy sounds creepy. He also sounds like he's hitting on you.

And the story about the old ladies is awesome.

Beverly said...

I don't think he's hitting on you. He wants to know if he can sell you more insurance.

christina said...

i don't think he is hitting on me, or trying to sell me more insurance. i think he's just socially awkward.

nanners said...

they have a bubba gump at the moa in mpls., so you don't have to go all the way to new york for the "fun."

kristabella said...

1) Hahahaha about the Playdoh fun factory

2) This is a most excellent idea. If I wanted conversation at dinner, I'd talk to the person I was with.

3) I loved Choose Your Own Adventure. Except when it had a stupid ending. And I'd go back and pick the other fork in the road. Because ending up homeless is never fun. Nor an adventure.

It's like when I used to play Life and restart the game when I was a teacher. Because I can afford babies on a teacher's salary!