The Restaurant Story

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Author: Kara Mae Adamo.

Yanno, I just…I try to be cheerful and positive. I’ve even attempted a more passive outlook since my recently scribed “Dead Things” outburst. But then I went out to eat, and it all went to hell. I used to scuff at the concept of a robot apocalypse (as I scoff at any apocalyptic nonsense, from the zombie apocalypse to the more far-fetched rapture). Now, however, I’m starting to have second thoughts.

The other day, in a hungry frenzy, Robby and I took off down Colonial Boulevard to find something to eat. It was late at night and most of our usual haunts were closed (aside from Ale House, but my figure can’t take many more loaded cheese fries). We didn’t want fast food and we all know what happens if either one of us steps foot into a Walmart after ten, so our options were limited.

In the much-blurred recesses of my brain, a few memories of the laudably dubbed “Club Apple” of Port Charlotte and North Port are filed away under “my drinking days.” For those of you who are sadly unfamiliar with the area or the term “Club Apple,” allow me to clarify. This is something you northerners are going to have to struggle with. When I say “Club Apple,” you’re probably thinking of some strobe-lit club with artsy, rhetro apples painted on the walls and a crazy dance floor and unique drinks with apple pucker and vodka.

That is because you are not from Port Charlotte.

Club Apple–and I’m being serious when I say this–is what Applebee’s turns into after nine o’clock on Tuesday nights. Applebee’s. As in the place your grandparents take you for dinner at five in the afternoon. A DJ or somebody with a 1990’s boom box strolls in and sets up a microphone and they play music until about 10ish. That’s when they turn on the karaoke machine. Partying it up in PC! Woot!

Anyway, now that I’ve sidetracked long enough to give you an adequately horrific visual of women in their eighties singing Poker Face, back to the Orlando Applebee’s by UCF…

I don’t remember if it was a Tuesday or not, but Club Apple wasn’t going on when we went there. My guess is that, since the average age in Orlando isn’t 75, there just isn’t much of a market for such a thing in Central Florida. Then again, maybe it was just a Monday or something. Either way, we went to Applebee’s and sat at one of many empty tables. Soon after we sit down, this college-aged waiter comes over. He looks normal enough, but he’s wearing this bizarre watch that looks like something Marty might have worn in Back to the Future. It’s essentially a thick black box on a wrist strap. Strange accessory choice, but whatever–to each their own. He smiles and asks us what we want to drink. We ordered and started looking at the menu.

Another ten to fifteen minutes went by (I knew because a weird digital clock thing was blinking up at me from the table). The waiter finally came back and presented us with watered down versions of what we’d ordered. He asked us what we wanted. We ordered and started chatting about this and that.

So then another twenty minutes goes by (again, I’m not assuming; the table told me so), and we realize that our drinks are empty and we still have no food. I ordered a salad (no meat…just veggies and dressing). Rob ordered his steak medium…so it shouldn’t have taken twenty minutes to cook. We shrugged and figured maybe something happened and they had to remake it.

Another ten minutes goes by. The waiter passes us on his way to do nothing (we’re two of perhaps five people in the whole place), and Rob calls him over. He said our food should be out soon and we asked for more drinks. Eight minutes later, we received said drinks. The food came out within a few seconds of that and we started to chow down.

The food was awful. Rob’s steak was dry and tasteless and my supposed vinaigrette salad dressing looked suspiciously whitish and translucent. I ended up pushing it aside and not eating any of it. The drinks were good, though, and happy hour lasts forever there, so we kept our spirits up and continued to laugh about random things.

The waitor didn’t show up again for another half an hour. I would have sent my food back and asked for something else (something I never do), but I didn’t even have the option. He flat disappeared. Meanwhile, Robby has discovered a new toy. He keeps playing with the box thing on our table that is telling us the time. Upon further inspection, we realize that it’s not only blinking the time at us–it’s advertising beers and actually kinda looks like a gps.

Eventually, the manager shows up and asks us if everything is to our liking. The waiter resurfaces and skirts around, giving us more alcohol while we talk to his boss. Aside from the strangely timed service, everyone has been pleasant enough. While we’re talking to this manager, I look down and realize that he seems to have shopped in the Back to the Future gift shop at Universal, too! He and the waiter had the same goofy watches that looked like they came straight out of a sci-fi comic book from the eighties.

As I start zoning out in a tipsy stupor and begin to imagine the manager in that weird life vest thing Michael J. Fox wore, I hear Robby ask the manager what the strange magickal box is for.

“Oh,” he says, messing with his super-secret-agent watch, “it’s a paging system.”

My little ears perked up. “I’m sorry, a what?”

“It’s a paging system. When you need your server you just call for them by pushing this button.” He took the box from Robby’s hand and pressed on the touch screen. In like two seconds, the server shows up, messing with his own super-secret-agent watch. The watch is now vibrating on his wrist.

It’s a shock collar for servers.

I couldn’t help it. I burst out laughing.

As it turns out, the waiter wasn’t showing up because he assumed he wasn’t needed. Their new system requires you to send for them. Otherwise, they are told to leave you alone because you don’t want to be bothered. And do you know what they pay for this system? $3000.00 a month. Three grand so you can press a button to let your server know they’re needed. I wanted to tell the manager that if he just paid me $2000.00, I’d serve tables for him with more efficiency without the damn watch. I also wanted to ask him if he owned a delorian.

So that’s what it’s come to. Don’t get me wrong. I’m outraged. First of all, for old fashioned types like Rob and I, the system doesn’t work because we don’t even know it’s there. Secondly, as I said, it’s training your serving staff the way dogs are trained not to poop in the house.

But still. Every time you press the button, the guy has to show up. Every time. Oh, the fun you could have!! I wonder what happens when his phone vibrates after a shift. Is it like Pavlov’s dog? Does he recite the daily specials or take a drink order in the middle of class? I may never know.

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About Kara Mae Adamo

I have 11-1/2 years in the restaurant industry and spent my first semester in college supporting myself as a professional mural artist in Orlando, FL. I used to be a food and wine critic for My City Eats in Orlando, FL. I was a professional blogger for SOS eMarketing and the Senior Editor/Contributing Writer for The Gates of Seminole magazine and Gates Media, Inc. I now work for an Interior Design Company. We specialize in turnkey decor for vacation homes in Central Florida. On a more personal note, I'm basically trying to paint, laugh, sketch, write, rhyme, skim-board, sew, act, sing and dance my way through life--it's haphazard, it's often irrational, but it's exhilarating...and really, what else is there?

2 responses »

  1. Kara, I think, we will see this shock collar thing more often as time passes. Waiting tables as any other profession that requires a person to just show up, clock in, and do a simple task (and by simple task I mean anything, but creating/inventing, something a well-trained monkey can do) will be automatized to the maximum to make it more efficient. Speaking of Pavlov, reciting the menu is not as humiliating as salivating endlessly:)

    Offtopic: I have to tell you this, your blog is great, I truly enjoy reading your smart, witty posts. You have a great gift of putting thoughts and observations into words!

    • thanks, Artem!!

      and yeah, it’s probably the way of the future (whether I like it or not)–still, there is something so classy about a fine dining experience where the waiter or waitress has made it their career. My interest in wine has shown me the artistic side of the whole ordeal. I hope they don’t phase it out completely. There’s just something about the human touch that we seem to be separating ourselves from. It’s sad, really.

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