Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wasn't That Special

   “Now,” as the Church Lady says, “wasn’t that special?”

    Perhaps we’ll revisit the Connecticut cowboy and the southern presidents again – I’m thinking they might provide Election 08 coverage or call a Braves game -- but for now we’re going elsewhere. In future columns I’ll be writing on, inter alia, (O.K., I’m a lawyer, you’ll get some Latin) bumper stickers and church signs, people with tiny phones growing out of their ears, eating fruit, nostalgia for the old Wal-Mart, nostalgia for the old People’s Drugs, global warming and land speculation, armadillos, being a song writer, being a band manager and making myself Traffic Czar of Newton County.

     If you have ideas for columns, email me at the address which I hope appears below, but today the subject is my love/hate relationship with Longhorn Steakhouse – any of them, they’re all the same.

     I go out for lunch almost every weekday and to dinner maybe bi-weekly. I’m familiar with what’s out there. Longhorn serves the best steaks available locally and their grilled salmon, which I’m enjoying as I write this, is the best I’ve had anywhere, anytime. They know how to cook asparagus superbly and the kitchen runs like clockwork.

     So what’s not to like?

     What’s not to like is what I have to go through to get the food.

     You’ve heard me rant in this space before about having to listen to restaurant servers, and at Longhorn they bring the whole package of obnoxious jargon – commanding me to “Enjoy,” asking me not the standard, “Is everthang all right?” but “Was everything excellent?” and answer all requests with “Not a problem.”

     So I have to be in a good mood to venture eating here, else I might snap and hurt somebody, maybe a young woman who’s just trying to make a living in the manner her employer has instructed. Because as part of their training, these young servers must put to memory the company training manual, “What Stupid Americans Like and How to Give it to Them.” I imagine this document beginning, “Hi! You now work for Longhorn Steakhouse, as advertised on T.V.! That makes you a star! People will be flattered if you spend a long time telling them what’s plainly written on the menu...”

     It should be pointed out that I usually lunch alone. It’s where I read newspapers, work crossword puzzles, write this column. I value this time. I’m happy here with a, I must say, comfortable booth to myself.

     Here’s a sample dialogue between a Longhorn waitress and me. The actual dialogue is in quotes while the parenthetical information is what I think rather than say.

     “Hi! Welcome to Longhorn! I’m Overdosed On Stimulants and I’ll be your server! Have you been to Longhorn before?”

     “Many times.” (But that’s not going to stop you from telling me what’s written on the menu, is it?).

     “Today we have two new items and they’re both excellent!”

     At this point she sits down in the booth opposite me. I’m not kidding. It’s happened more than once. It must be in the manual. “If you see a man eating alone, he’s probably lonely. His drab life will be brightened if you sit with him a few minutes.”

     “Our new trout dish in our new lunch specials menu is my favorite! It’s grilled to perfection then smothered in our own special blend of bacon, butter and lard. Would you like to try it?”

     “No thank you, I know exactly what I want. I’ll have…”(Who invited you to sit at my table? If your going to do that you probably shouldn’t put this large serrated steak knife on the table. A swift flick of the wrist through the jugular and you’ll be spouting other material entirely. You don’t know who you’re messing with. Really, I’m like a cat.)

     I’m having my coffee. The salmon was great, and talk about biting the hand that feeds, I’m finishing this column. In an ironic twist, my server today, (only once that I can recall have I had the same one more than once,) Amber, apparently hasn’t read the manual. At any rate she’s actually paying attention rather than chattering non-stop. She sees what’s up, is polite and says no more than is necessary. If I were the Mormon protagonist on “Big Love,” I’d be trying to line Amber up as my next wife.

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