Sunday, September 27, 2009

Happy F'ing Birthday

I have a fear that the Olive Garden nearest to my house might have pictures up in the back of two women who look remarkably like my best friend and me, and we will either not be given tables in the future, or we will receive food that’s been spit in and peed on in the future. Who knows? Maybe there’s a network that all the Olive Gardens are attached to, and that’s the real reason why it takes an hour to get a table only after you give them your name – they run your mugshot (secretly snapped behind the board listing the specials) and name through a database to see if you’ve been unruly and obnoxious in the past, and then your buzzer simply never goes off. I will probably find out if I ever go back.

The frightening thing was, there was no alcohol involved and this was solely our charming personalities that created this situation.

Let me explain.

Wherever I go to eat with friends, no matter what time we arrive, we close the place out. I don’t do it often, but certain people bring out the talker in me, and when we get going, there’s no stopping us.

Such was the case tonight, only it seemed that every few minutes, we were startled and silenced while the wait staff assailed a table nearby with a boisterous and unintelligible song of birthday wishes, complete with clapping and flaming birthday cake. After the 20th time we were beyond irritation and instead were incredulous over the absurdity. How on earth could over 20 people have birthdays to celebrate at the Olive Garden at the same damn time? And why were we driven mad with interruptions so loud and intrusive that it was impossible to converse over the din of the ridiculous singing and clapping? I made a point of saying to her early on that if not out of respect for me, then out of respect for other diners, she should never inform a restaurant of my birthday in the future. She agreed whole-heartedly and the promise was reciprocated to her.

Our conversations were unusually hilarious, and we found ourselves laughing so hard we were sobbing into our stiff, green, linen napkins, but as soon as we’d recover and get into the next conversation, we’d have to pause to wait for the next birthday song to end. The hostility grew, but was tempered with our own good moods.

Her: Didn’t they already sing happy birthday to someone at that table?

Me: We’ve been here a while. Maybe it’s a new family.

Her: I don’t think so. I think there were two birthdays, and instead of singing to both at once, they separated them to create the greatest possible disturbance.

Me: It could be. Maybe it’s birthday night and we didn’t get the coupon. I hope they’re carding people, because this is a fuckload of birthdays for one night. I mean, what are the odds? There HAS to be a reason for all this.

Her: What if they’re just doing it to irritate us?

Me: You think it’s personal?

Her: Maybe we’ve been here so long they’re doing it on purpose to piss us off so we’ll leave.

Me: ‘Pssst, we know it’s not your birthday, but can you just pretend and let us sing to you. We’re trying to get rid of the ladies at that table over there who are laughing too loud and won’t leave.’

Her: ‘We’ll knock half off your bill.’

Me: ‘And you get the flaming birthday cake for free.’

Her: ‘In fact, we’ll sing to everyone at your table and you’ll all get free flaming cake.’

Me: ‘It’s the only way to get rid of these girls. Have you HEARD them? They’re laughing so hard that they’re crying over there. This is an ITALIAN restaurant. We have standards, you know?’

Her: ‘Yeah, we serve WINE, not CORONAS, so that kind of happiness isn’t allowed. Who do they think they are?’

Before we could finish laughing at the birthday conspiracy, the table behind us was victimized by the birthday assault team. Which just made us laugh harder.

Her: HEY, they were sung to like 15 minutes ago!

Me: ‘Okay, everyone, can I have your attention? Is there anyone left in the building who hasn’t been sung to? Other than the two girls over there, obviously. Anyone? Anyone? Okay, good. NOW IT’S TIME FOR REPEATS!’

Her: For my birthday, I’d like to request no one sing a word. Just bring the damn free flaming cake.

Me: Or they can sing in sign language.

I made various nonsensical hand gestures, and ended them with two middle fingers up.

Her: No, I ask for a moment of silence.

We both hung our heads and then burst into laughter all over again.

Me: It should be like on an airplane, where you get earphones if you want to hear the singing, but otherwise it shouldn’t disturb the other passengers.

Her: Don’t make me land this plane!

Me: They need a stage, where they can all just climb up on the stage and sing one birthday song every hour and point to the birthday people in the restaurant, then deliver the flaming cakes without a ruckus.

Her: Pointing, ‘Happy birthday to you, and you, and you,’ Elvis style.

Me: And only once an hour! So you knew you’d get 58 minutes of peace!

And then another birthday song erupted and we almost slid under the table we were laughing so hard.

Me: That’s it! We’ve hit critical mass! There are no more flaming cakes! The wait staff are all hoarse! The Olive Garden refuses to acknowledge another birthday tonight! We are banning birthdays completely!

We laughed for a minute, and then ANOTHER birthday song blared in our ears, at the table across from us.

We lost it. The sobbing was uncontrollable. We could not keep it together.

Her: They’re winning! Don’t let them win! We will not be silenced!

We were greeted with glares as fiery and spiteful as any I’d ever seen, launched from the evil eyes of the wait staff who were reduced to running from table to table, singing birthday songs, heckled by us.

Me: It’s a very good thing we have not only eaten our meal and dessert, but paid as well. They would probably dunk our food in the toilet and overcharge us for everything at this point. BUT IT’S TOO LATE! Now the only thing they can do is ignore our empty glasses, which they do anyway! HAHA!

Her: Yeah, and the food was good, too! SO THERE!

Me: Is it because we’re laughing so hard, or is it getting really hot in here?

Her: It is warm, and I’m always cold, so that must mean something.

Me: Maybe a night of baking 3,000 birthday cakes did it.

Her: Flaming cakes! Hundreds of them will probably raise the temperature, and we have been surrounded all night.

Me: No kidding! Not that I believe for a minute that they bake anything back there. It probably all rolls through a toaster oven or something, on an assembly line.

Her: Lean Cuisines. They just peel and microwave.

Me: And put it on the nice plates. Serve it all with linen napkins and freshly grated Parmesan. It’s brilliant! Probably flaming cakes from Easy Bake Ovens!

And then we died laughing all over again.

Me: Do you think we can get out of here before the next birthday song? I might go postal if I have to sit through one more.

Her: I don’t know. It’s a long way to the door, plus I have to pee.

Me: OH NO! They don’t sing in the bathroom too, do they?

We got up to leave before we were asked to leave, which was surely a fate we would suffer soon enough. Not a single staff member smiled at us as we left, nor did they wish us a nice evening or ask us to come back soon.

As we left the restaurant, we eyed remaining tables suspiciously, looking for folks who looked like they were about to receive free flaming cake, but we managed to get out of the front doors before the next song erupted.

We said our goodbyes and she gave me a reference assignment. The plan is to get together again next week for a repeat, only I have to find a restaurant where we will be allowed to sit for 6 hours and laugh, and there are no birthday intrusions.

People, I have no idea how to figure out where this miraculous restaurant might be, but if you know, please share. And then come with and cry into a napkin for the entire night with us.


Leelu said...

Do you have a Winstead's near you?

You know, my fiend, that I would have been giggling right alongside you there. ;D

Julie said...

FYI, birthday cake is not free at Olive Garden. My friends brought me there for my birthday once, and despite never having ordered cake or told the staff myself that it was my birthday, I wound up being charged for the cake on my bill!

Anonymous said...

Yes, and they certainly don't bake them at the restaurant. We gathered the family once & took everyone to the Olive Garden because my 85 yr old M-I-L had seen the ad on TV & wanted to get the birthday cake. We made reservations, ordered the cake, showed up on the day, had dinner, sat. And sat. And sat some more. After a while, someone asked us if we wanted anything else, obviously trying to move us along. We told them we were just waiting for Greatgrandma's b-day cake. "Cake? what cake?" Why, the one we ordered 6 weeks ago when we made the reservation. And checked to make sure it would be big enough for this mob. The cake that is the ONLY reason we came to this restaurant. You are going to tell this little old lady she doesn't get her birthday cake? Yes, indeed, they absolutely had no idea that we wanted a birthday cake, and would not be able to thaw one out for several hours, and no, we couldn't have the one that was ready for the party that wasn't coming in for another 2 hours & thaw another one for them. Needless to say, noone from this family has ever gone there again. Which is no particular penance, since they have ruined my favorite stuffed mushroom dish by taking out almost all the garlic. (sigh)

Mary Piero Carey

Rachel said...

Ehya, Olive Garden has certainly gone down hill from when I was a kid... I remember having to get dressed nice to go to Olive Garden, now they'll let anyone in ;)
Actually, we've gotten kicked out of Denny's so I can't talk :D I'd be right there with you, being loud and annoying and proud of it!

As for a restaurant you can be loud and noisy at, see if there's a Dick's Last Resort nearby! They encourage that kind of behavior! The waiters are awesomely rude and if they're having a bad day, they will take it out on you. If you go there knowing this, it's a very enjoyable experience and gets a lot of stress out!

Anonymous said...

Dick's Last Resort in McHenry or Fatmans in Gurnee