Sunday, April 3, 2011

I Really Don’t Think This Is What Genghis Khan Had In Mind, Part 3

  In the end, we decided it would be tolerable to allow Mom to remain in our family, at least for a little while more. Besides, abandoning her and then having to make sure she couldn’t find us seemed like an immense amount of work, and we were too tired and hungry for that. Our primary focus was now on getting food in our bellies, and we just had to hope that Mom would behave decently until we got our strength back.

  I flipped open my phone and called my sister. “Okay, we’re done with this mess over here, and we’re starving. What’s the plan?”

  Dawn paused, an action which made it instantly clear that the people over in that vehicle were operating without a specific, detailed agenda. This was madness. With our family, you simply cannot venture out into the world without a plan. If you don’t tightly control the thundering herd, it’s only a matter of time before authorities must be called in for the good of the country. But Dawn quickly recovered and had a suggestion: “What about that stir-fry place you were talking about?”

  Ah, the stir-fry place. That would be Genghis Grill, a mildly-amusing chain of restaurants advertising the thrill of getting to “make your own food”, a claim that is somewhat misleading, since you don’t actually “make” anything. Rather, you get in a line, clutching a silver bowl, and then proceed through various stations so you can pick out raw meats and veggies and whatnot, slap on your choice of spices and sauces, and then hand the mess to an attendant who hands you back a little card with a number on it.

  Then you are told to go away, and the attendant takes your slop to a very large open grill where perspiring “cooks” throw your creation on the steaming metal, and proceed to attack it with wooden implements. I, for one, am quite satisfied that the actual grilling is handled by professionals and not the common peasants. You let certain members of my family get anywhere near an open flame and half the state of Texas will be burnt to the ground within minutes.

  I had presented this option to Dawn on the previous night, seeking her thoughts on the matter. I didn’t want to surprise the family by dragging them to this place, only to find out that one of the nieces had a deathly fear of people wearing white hats and waving wooden sticks, and another niece suffers from constant nightmares involving the sound of shrimp sizzling on a grill. (You never know with kids these days, since there is an overload of information available to them and they can come up with so many phobias. Back in the day, we didn’t know anything, and therefore everybody was afraid of the same things: snakes and clowns. That’s it.)

  “Well,” I posited to Dawn, “if you think everybody will like it, let’s do it. But the only location I know about is on the other side of town. Can everybody last that long?”

  Another pause from Dawn, then “One sec.”

  Oh, God. Dawn, do NOT turn around and take a poll of the other car occupants. You will never get a finalized vote and we will all die of starvation. I’m too young and pretty for that. Make the decision yourself. Please, please, please.

  Dawn was back on the line. “Terry thinks there might be a location over near you guys.” (Oh?) “He’s checking the Internet.”

  Aw, hell. This meant he was checking the internet on his phone. You know how those smart phones are. They’re fine and dandy unless you’re in one of those mystifyingly random areas where the tower-signal sucks. Then it takes 3 hours for a page to load, if at all. Terry does not have the patience for that, and he can get a little bit cranky.

  Right on cue I hear Terry in the background: “GAWD this thing is slow.” (Dawn, this is when you need to go to Plan B. Snatch the phone away from him.)

  But Dawn doesn’t, instead trying to somehow assist Terry with his recalcitrant communication device. Then she makes an odd sound that could be surprise, dismay, or the sudden realization that she might not be wearing panties. She gives me an update. “Um, we’ll call you back in just a few minutes, kay?” Click.

  I set the phone down and looked at Roni. She made an intricate gesture indicating “They are never going to find it. Ever. We might as well go back in this convenience store and get some beef jerky to tide us over. But you go. Don’t let Cotton Ball back in that store.”

  I looked in the back seat at Cotton Ball. Mom was gazing out the window at a cow while softly singing a reggae tune about affirmation and the various uses of tofu. Nope. She was not going on another unsupervised expedition.

  My phone rang. I snatched it back up. It was Terry. “Well… we think there’s one over on-”

  Me: “Why don’t we just go to the one we know about, down in Cedar Hill?”

  Him: “That’s kind of a long way.” (Translation: That screaming you can hear? It’s two of the younger occupants of this vehicle fighting over who sounds more like Britney Spears when they sing. If they don’t stop in the next two seconds I’m driving off the nearest bridge and there will be no guilt whatsoEVER on my part. Can you hear me now?)

  Me: “I know, sweetie. I’m so tense I haven’t had a bowl movement in three days. But let’s just head south. We know how to get to that one. And there aren’t as many bridges down there, which is probably a good thing for you right now.”

  So we headed south.

  Decades later, our cars pull into the parking lot of Genghis Grill. As usual, it takes an additional decade to get everybody out of those cars. (You’d think these people would move faster if they were really that hungry. I just don’t understand why it has to be such a process.) We finally clatter into the building and wait for the host to hang up the phone (looking for another job?) and greet us.

  When he does, he gives us that look we see all too often: Holy cow, one of them is in a wheelchair! I have no idea what to do now so I’m just going to stand here and wait for somebody else to do something.

  Idiot. Are you really trying to tell me that no one in a wheelchair has ever dined in this establishment before? We just rolled up a wheelchair access ramp, so somebody around here knew to expect this. Or did you think we should just sit at the top of the ramp and have our meal served there?

  Luckily, the host seemed to recover somewhat and started grabbing from a stack of menus. “Party of seven?” (And he can count, too!) Sadly, that may have been the extent of his special skills. Because he and his low-slung designer jeans turned and led us to three small tables smack in the middle of the heaviest traffic lane in the restaurant.  One side was all booth, with the traffic-side sporting chairs. Which meant we would have to park Roni where she would be sticking out into that traffic, with clueless people constantly kicking her wheels and then looking at her like she somehow did the kicking herself.

  I was ready to go off on the host. (“Look, if YOU had a metal chair sticking out of your ass all the time, would YOU want to sit here?”) But Mom had it under control, quickly hurling one of the chairs out of the way (some stranger may have screamed, not sure), shoving one of the tables closer to the booth, and then deftly inserting Roni into the now-spacious opening.

  Oh. So there was no need for my Norma Rae moment, bellowing about the rights of the little people. Instead, I took my own seat, grabbed the menu, and instinctively flipped it to the adult beverage section. While I pondered whether I wanted something with four types of liquor or just three, I un-sealed my little silverware bundle and discovered the item below.

  Really? How am I supposed to eat with that? Was this a harbinger of the suffering and tears that might fill the next hour in this place?

Click Here for the Next Entry in This Series…

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