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Doug Wrenn

I'm Hungry, Therefore, I'm An Idiot (They Think)
By Doug Wrenn
Nov 25, 2010 - 11:00:01 PM

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"I think, I think I am, therefore I am, I think."
("In the Beginning," by The Moody Blues)

Whoa! Now there was a deep thinker! (Or some poor soul stoned out of his gourd!)

I'm not stoned, but on a good day, I do like to consider myself to be a deep thinker. Restaurant staff, however, seem unanimously convinced that I'm an idiot because I'm hungry, I think.

Recently, in a local Mexican restaurant, I ordered the cheese, tortilla, meat, and assorted other goo combo order # 3, which simply meant one shell was hard, the other soft, something else contained beef (or something similar) instead of chicken and the other stuff was shuffled around in different locations than in the combo platter # 4.

Now, my three favorite cooking utensils are a telephone, a microwave and a fire extinguisher, just to give you a quick glimpse of my culinary expertise, so I can only presume from limited previous experience that in Mexican restaurants the various goo combo platters are all cooked in the oven on the actual plate on which they are served.

So as my food (or whatever) arrived, my waitress, after distracting my view of the football game on the TV behind her (Yes, I was sitting at the bar, and having "dos" Dos Equis!) stopped and very melodramatically held out my plate without putting it down (airline stewardesses doing their shtick about the floatable seat cushions and dropping oxygen masks would be proud!) and emphatically informed me, the customer (A.K.A.: "the idiot") that the plate was extreeeeemely hot! (Yes, she really did pronounce all those "e"s.) Well, Honey, I'm paying for this reshuffled goo, so I sure hope so, or else it's if it's cold, it's going right back to the kitchen for a more fired up re-do. (or possibly even a "re-goo"!)

I was also recently dining with friends for lunch one day and ordered an all American classic: a burger. Now this wasn't one of those tacky joints with litter all over the ground, over accentuated letters in the company's name taking up 3 parking spaces and little kids choking on toys because the federal government neglected to warn their parents that kids can choke on small items, but a classy joint. That basically means that you sit down, maybe even indulge in an adult beverage and have a waitress not only deliver your over- priced fast food to you, but mandate how you'll eat it. (Yes, even "Big Brother" needs a helping hand from his many unofficial deputies every now and again out here in the great state of "Nanny."

Mea culpa for my violating the sacred taboo of well cooked meat, but I had the audacity (or the ignorance) to order (Actually, I asked politely.) for my burger to be cooked medium rare. (On the off chance that place actually had a cook who knew how to properly cook a burger to order, a modern day fantasy about as rare as a Tea Party convention being held in Hollywood!)

This demure little thing suddenly turned into something more chilling than a guy's ex- wife getting hired as a bartender in the place where his league bowls! "Esmeralda," now with red eyes, sharp fangs, and her tongue lashing out at me as her head spun around and smoke emanated from her ears, not so demurely informed me that such a grave violation was forbidden in this upright establishment. I could have my burger cooked at medium, or hotter, in other words, incinerated just short of still smoldering nuclear waste on a bun with a pickle on the side.

Feeling frisky at that moment for reasons that completely escape me (However, the libation may have helped!), I asked Ezzie if the so-called chef intended on paying for my meal. After a pregnant pause with eyebrows raised so high I thought her hair was going to traumatically part itself backward, she said no. So I then asked her specifically which non-beef (and cheaper) item I could instead choose from the menu. In case you've never worked in a restaurant and thus have no clue what can happen behind the closed kitchen doors when the staff is annoyed, suffice to say that kids should not try this, nor should the inexperienced patron with a compromised cardiac state. Save this kind of nonsense for the well seasoned, highly trained, and occasionally mildly buzzed chop busting professionals (such as yours truly).

Ironically, as I looked down, I did later note a disclaimer on the bottom of the menu that informed the questionably upright and mildly clueless that partially cooked meats can lead to food poisoning. I suddenly felt a chill up my spine, but as I turned around, further perusal of the premises turned up no sign of Mayor Bloomberg, the newly self-appointed Chief, Crusader and Czar of New York's Food Police. (Whew! I gratefully and fortuitously dodged that bullet!) Nevertheless, I know knew what I was dealing with in this place. As for their dopey warning in the menu, try that stunt in a sushi place and see how far you get! (Hint: kind of like asking Bloomy to pass the salt in a New York deli!)

The better half and I dined out last Friday night (Anyone noticing a pattern here, yet?), and as per usual, the Maitre de, after looking right at us and subsequently grabbing two menus to prepare us for our departure "boothward," initiated our journey with that classic question, "Two?" and accompanied by a brief pause and goofy facial expression like she actually anticipated a different response. Much like a lunar eclipse, every so often, I really do act like a gentleman in public, so for the sake of my dear flower, I refrained from doing what naturally seemed instinctive to me, which was to reply to the Madam Maitre de, "No, actually there are ten of us and the other eight are stuffed in the trunk of the car awaiting deployment orders; hang on a couple, Sweetheart" and then pull back my shirt sleeve and yell into my wristwatch (Dick Tracy style), Unit 1 to Unit 2, advise all units, GREEN LIGHT! MOVE IN! REPEAT, ALL UNITS, MOVE IN!"

If this was ("Tweedle") Maitre de, I think I encountered her daughter, "Maitre Dum" yesterday in the drive through lane of well known coffee franchise with a haughty reputation. (Yes, I'm still just a working schmuck, but I am serious about my coffee! Such starkly diverse quirkiness is just part of my natural charm!) Of course, as I pulled up to the speaker, I couldn't even get a word out of my mouth when she immediately tried to guess (or suggest) what I would like. In the other well known and far less haughty coffee (and doughnut) franchise, this wouldn't be a problem, but in this establishment, their coffee drinks have names longer than the lines to the ladies Porto-lets in the parking lot of football stadiums during full capacity tailgating. And then after all that, I succinctly said, "No." Gee, what a waste of breath (and time). And shucks, no consolation prize for playing, either.

Now gleeful that at this precise moment it was actually my opportunity to end the guessing game and, just as a novelty, actually tell her what I wanted, I ordered my single, and seemingly simple medium cup of coffee with milk. After she corrected my improper grammar (If you know the place I'm referring to, they don't use simplistic terms like "small," "medium," or "large." I can't pronounce their size drivel, but it sounds more like Columbus's ships, "Nina," "Pinta" and "Santa Maria!"), Maitre Dum, obviously without benefit of a camera to go along with her speaker phone, asked what percentage of fat I would like in my milk, otherwise, trust me, even she could have figured it out after one good gander at me!

When all this highly complicated business (much unlike something overtly simple like closing on a property sale), was at near conclusion, Maitre Dum, who either just didn't get it, or perhaps works on commission, then asked, "Would you like anything else?" (At this point, extra strength Tylenol would have been helpful!) I was working at the time, and my dear flower was not present, so I unabashedly replied, "Uh, yeah, now that you mention it, give me eighty more, all the same, and throw in an extra couple gallons of milk, you know, the thick, creamy, fat gloppy stuff that can clog arteries better than Friday afternoon traffic, thirty or forty of those horrendously sticky rice crispy things, and maybe four or five dozen napkins for all the spillage, too, OK, Honey?"

Ironically, if "Blue Collar" comedian Bill Engvall was to use his trademark line, "Here's your sign!" on these befuddled restraunteurs, they would most likely ask, "Oh, what's it say?" Or perhaps it's just the world we have evolved into, thanks to crazy old ladies who nuke their cats in the microwave after being out in the rain, klutzes who don't know that coffee in "to go" cups is hot, and rocket scientists (obviously late for work at NASA), who try to save time by ironing their clothes while wearing them, and last but not least, our ever vigilant and litigious trial lawyers (who can be found in your local phone directory by firm name under the heading of "Do We, Cheat 'Em, And How!"), we now need signs to idiot-proof us all, thereby protecting ourselves from ourselves and thus also preventing lawsuits. (Not to be confused with courtroom attire for those of you who may be "hungry idiots"!) After all, our omnipotent and benevolent federal government is busy with such weighty matters as regulating baseball, telling us what light bulbs to use in our homes, and devising how else to ignore and usurp that pesky Constitution!)

Thankfully, tomorrow is the day of thanks, in other words, Thanksgiving, and the family will be assembled at the homestead of our beloved matriarch, who does not need a sign, knows enough not to block view of the TV at game time, and only ever asks me one silly question every year, and always come dessert time (after were done arguing about politics, mine being ideologically right, and hers.... just wrong!), "What kind of pie would you like, Doug?" I just don't get it. Why does this question always have to be asked in a multiple choice format, as opposed to the far more preferable "yes or no" version? ("Doug, would you like some pies?")

But alas, even despite this minor point of confusion every year, dear Mom, despite her advanced years, clearly still gets it:

"I think, I think Doug is my son, therefore, he likes to eat, I think."

That's right. At Mom's, idiots need not apply, but the hungry are always welcome (and very well fed).

And to you and your family, my sincere wishes for a happy, healthy (and hearty) Thanksgiving. (But be very careful of that gravy; it's extreeeeemly hot!)

Doug Wrenn


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