Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Bubble Bath, Part 21

  Editor’s Note: We’re still sitting at IHOP, waiting for our food to arrive, which apparently might not happen in our lifetime. I have just overheard what I think is a drug deal taking place at the table behind me. Terry thinks I’m just operating in my usual drama queen mode and has little interest in validating my delusions…

  Me: “I’m serious. Something is going down.”

  Terry: “That’s nice. Do you think we should paint the bedroom mocha or latte?”

  Me: “You never believe me about anything.”

  Terry: “What would be the point? You’re just going to change your mind in the next five minutes.”

  Just then, the good server comes racing into the room with steaming plates of food for all her customers. Customers that came into the restaurant after we did. And where might our server be? Who the hell knows. Maybe she ran to fetch the drugs that her boss is selling alongside the Rooty, Tooty, Fresh and Fruity.

  I sigh. “I’m going outside for a cigarette. I’m sure I have plenty of time.” Terry nods absently, his mind working on painful ways to torture Gertrude should she decide to ever come back.

  I pass through the little lobby area, and notice that Mayflower, the decaying hostess wretch, is propped up against the wall, probably waiting for someone to apply electrified paddles to her chest. She briefly glances at me, and I can tell by her eyes that she hates everyone in this building and wants all of them to die. I hear ya, sister.

  Once I’m out the front doors, I wander around to the side of the building to do my business. (I’m one of those people who try to be considerate with my dirty habits, not one of those losers who will stand right there in a high-traffic area, belching exhaust on innocent families and then wondering why people spit on them. It’s no surprise that NYC has basically banned smoking in any place where anyone might possibly want to breathe.)

  So I’m doing my thing, waiting for the nicotine to flood my body and trick my brain into thinking I actually enjoy my life. I glance to the left, where I spy two men sharing a wrinkled, brown bag that obviously contains a bottle of hooch. I consider joining them. Seriously. I don’t care that we might transmit germs to one another. (The alcohol would kill most of that mess anyway.) But what actually stops me from sauntering over is the prospect of having to talk to another human being, which is the last thing in the world I want to do right now.

  I turn my head in the other direction and, lo and behold, there’s Bubbles traipsing toward me, her happily-tended toes putting a spring in her step. As she comes even with me on the sidewalk, her perceptive analytical skills kick into gear, and she immediately senses something amiss. “Spill.”

  “Well, we’re still waiting on our food.”

  Her mouth drops open. “You’re kidding me!” She reflects briefly, then advises: “I’m gonna run into this shoe store over here for a sec, then I’ll meet you inside.” Translation: If we still don’t have our food when Bubbles completes her footwear transaction, she is going to march into IHOP and burn the mother down.

  I stab out my cigarette, check to make sure it’s really dead, chunk it in a nearby trashcan, and then race into the restaurant to tell Terry the news. Bubbles is gonna whup some ass and we’ll be in the front row! Woo hoo!

  But before I can share all the juicy details, a parade of servers comes marching into our neglected room, all of them carrying bulging bags full of to-go boxes. They pile these on a spare, empty table near the loudmouth in the corner, then they all turn and march back into their holding pen while the restaurant manager slips into the room as well and approaches Don Bigmouth. “Your order is ready.”

  Dang. So it wasn’t a drug deal after all. Just some really hungry people. Not that I’m a fan of illicit recreational merchandising, but it had been a little exciting to think I was this close to activities that could send somebody to the Big House. Terry just looked at me. See? Food. Not drugs. You really need to quit watching “X-Files” reruns.

  Amazingly, Gertrude, our server that we had assumed had fled the country for political reasons, actually made another appearance. She explained that the kitchen was really backed up because someone (she glanced at her manager with obvious distaste) had allowed someone else (she glanced at Don Bigmouth with even more dissatisfaction) to order 20 meals for takeout.

  Oh. I see. But that’s not really our problem, now is it? Where’s our food? She went to check, as if something miraculous might have taken place during the fifteen seconds since the last time she had been in the kitchen.

  Then we descended into madness.

  The jerk in the corner, Don Bigmouth, was chowing down on his meal along with his silent but devoted groupies. Suddenly, Bigmouth discovered something on his plate that was completely unacceptable, leading to the following dialogue. (Keep in mind that Bigmouth is also Trashmouth, and there has been a bit of tidying up with the language.)

  Bigmouth, bellowing: “There’s gosh-durn bacon on my truckin’ plate!”

  His homies wail and clutch at their faces, horrified at this utter outrage.

  Bigmouth, yelling across the room at a server that is NOT his: “Get the truckin’ manager right NOW.” (Said server looks at Bigmouth dully, sighs, then slowly ambles out of the room. Apparently this type of discourse was common for this restaurant, so she did not have any urgency concerning her rudely-given directive.)

  Bigmouth, bellowing: “There’s truckin’ bacon on my gosh-durn plate!”

  Thank you for the clarification. I don’t think Brazil heard you the first time.

  The manager appears, his face slightly pale and sweaty. He gulps and approaches Bigmouth’s table. And Bigmouth explodes with a fury. Big is beyond upset about the porcine surprise, compelling him to cuss out the food, the server, the manager, the restaurant, the city, the state, and anyone who has ever spoken approvingly of pork in their entire lives. This goes on for quite some time.

  During all this mess, I surreptitiously fake-stretch and glance over my shoulder to get a visual, fully expecting to see half a pig lying across the table behind me, an apple in its mouth. Instead, Big is jabbing at something with his fork, a little speck of meat that even ants wouldn’t bother to tote back home. “Don’t tell me that’s not bacon!” challenges Bigmouth, his homies nodding their heads and pointing.

  Bigmouth really likes repetition: “I said, don’t tell me that’s not bacon.” (Look, no one is disputing the bacon status. Geez.) “I don’t eat bacon. I know what it tastes like. THAT’S bacon!” (But if you don’t eat bacon, how would you…) “It’s bacon!” he practically screamed. “Bacon!”

  Well, yes, it’s probably bacon, but if that tiny thing is going to bother you, you might as well never leave the house. Because there are much bigger disappointments out there. Of course, I don’t vocalize any of these thoughts. After all, Big is waving a pronged weapon and has enough adrenaline and/or drugs coursing through his veins that he could chew rocks. Besides, it’s really not my place.

  It’s the manager’s place. Yes, you should placate the customers. But you should not allow them to disrupt civilization as we know it. However, the manager did not understand this, letting Big scream for a good 10 minutes before finally wandering away. Which was exactly enough time for the big hand on the clock to reach the same number it had been on when we walked into this place.

  We had been sitting here for an hour. And still no food.

  Terry and I looked at each other. “We’re done,” we said at the same time, and started gathering up our things.

  Right on cue, Bubbles walked in the front door. She didn’t even bother to head in our direction. She took one glance at our table, quickly noted the absence of any plates, and immediately cornered Mayflower at her little hostess desk, demanding to speak to the manager. Mayflower just kind of shrugged, nodded her head at the pale, sweaty guy just leaving our room, and then went back to giving herself CPR. Bubbles walked up to the manager and launched. Terry leapt out of our booth to go express his thoughts on the matter as well. I scampered to keep up with him, not wanting to miss any of this.

  So there we were in the entryway of the IHOP. Bubbles and Terry were ripping this guy a new one, arms flailing. I was just standing there, trying not to grin as I pretended to be emotionally distraught. The manager was a total wimp, proffering weak, feeble excuses about the slow service, the lack of food, and how he had gotten to this pathetic point in his life.

  Then he stupidly said this to Mayflower: “Don’t charge them for their drinks.”

  What! Of course you’re not going to charge us for the drinks. That even got ME riled up, and I usually don’t say anything, ever. Now Bubbles, Terry and I were tag-teaming with the invectives.

  And wouldn’t you know it, right then Gertrude came wandering up with our plates of food, confused because we weren’t where she left us yesterday.

  But we were done. We stomped out the front doors, triumphant that we had stood up to The Man and given him an earful. We were noble warriors, fighting for justice.

  Then we paused on the sidewalk. We may be the Norma Rae’s of our generation, but we were also still truckin’ hungry.

  Gosh-durn it.

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