I’m not very discriminating when I go out to eat. Pretty much sit me at a table and plop something down that doesn’t have eyes or olives on it, and I’m good to go. I also don’t expect my server to be Mother Teresa and suffer for my sins, so expectations on that front are pretty low as well. Yet, I recognize that being a server is not the greatest job in the world, so I always try to leave a 20 percent tip, even if the service is only perfunctory at best. However, sometimes events transpire that defy understanding, such that I either wish I had the last half hour back or wished my server would get sucked into a black hole of non-existence. I never anticipated that the latter event would happen at a local IHOP in Fredburg.
Let me preface what I’m about to relate with the fact that the manager in the last instance actually gave us half-off on the meal, which was a welcomed surprise.
My first trip to the IHOP version of the twilight zone happened years ago. My wife and daughter (our oldest) went to IHOP for a nice weekday morning breakfast. The place was virtually empty except for a very surly server, who resented having her break time interrupted to wait on customers. She slithered over to the table, took forever to take our orders, and then disappeared. I mean it. She disappeared from all knowledge or perhaps to the Fuddrucker’s next door. It was hard to tell. Half an hour passed, and I finally caught the attention of the manager on duty.
Where’s our food?
The food we ordered.
We have no order for you.
Where’s our waitress?
Good question. Let me check.
Minutes passed, finally, the manager showed up with another waitress, who said she would take our order.
What happened to the other waitress?
She fell down.
And that was all we could get out of them. Our first waitress vaporized from reality. Perhaps she transcended reality and achieved glorious self-awareness, fell in the sausage maker, or said the hell with it and dodged out the back with a gallon of maple syrup under her arm. Who knows?
My second adventure was on a day I decided to take my oldest daughter to lunch. She is mentally and physically handicapped, so she requires a fair amount of supervision of her personal care habits. First, we tried to order off the children’s menu, which was convenient for her because of the pictures (she’s completely non-verbal). But that was verboten because she was a teenager.
No, I’m sorry you can’t do that. She’s too old.
We’ll pay more. We just want the selections on the menu.
Sorry you can’t have that. You can only have what is on the adult menu.
So we made the order, and the food came in a reasonable amount of time. But before we got into the meal, my daughter started giving me the look she needed to go to the bathroom, so I helped her up and took her into the restroom. When we returned, the table had been cleared off, and only the check was there.
Excuse me. Where’s our food?
We thought you were done.
Well, we weren’t.
That’s too bad. You can pay now.
If it hadn’t been for the fact I had my daughter with me, and we needed to be somewhere, I might have made a stink with the manager. Instead, I paid the check, left no tip, vowed to never eat at IHOP again, and hoped that maybe, if God were just, our waitress would just “fall down” — that is — after a piano dropped on her head and a truck backed over her. Okay, I’m a hater.
Memories are fickle, and I’d quite forgotten the previous episode when I returned to IHOP for a quick breakfast with my youngest daughter. The manager sat us down, and we waited. And waited, and waited. Apparently, Rod Serling was right. We had gone beyond sight and sound, where no server could ever see or hear us. After spending 20 minutes watching other people drink and eat, I finally flagged down the manager and asked, rather pathetically, “Can we get something to eat or drink?” After that, a real live human entered our dimension and waited on us, and the meal passed as it should.
Normally I look for places where I can be alone to think and not be bothered; I just never anticipated that would happen in the middle of an IHOP, the home of the pancakes of non-existence.
I will have to say they have great coffee, but don’t fall — you might disappear.