Okay, kids, it’s time for a very serious lesson. The moral of today’s story is this: NEVER EVER EAT AT HOOTERS.
Okay, not really. That’s only part of it. The real lesson is this: if there’s something you don’t want to do but you’re considering it because someone else tells you “it will be a good experience for you,” RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN IN THE OTHER DIRECTION. THE OTHER PERSON IS LYING TO YOU FOR HIS OR HER OWN BENEFIT.
It doesn’t matter whether they want you to have sex, do drugs, shoplift, or eat the squirmy octopus thing on the sushi boat. It is always a BAD IDEA. Stick to your guns and tell that person to fuck off, the way you’d tell Hitler to fuck off if he came up to you and asked you to read Mein Kampf, the way you’d tell Mohammad Atta to fuck off if he came up to you and asked you to hold his flight jacket. Be true to your instincts, because they’ll save you from abject misery.
In my case, it would have saved me from dining at Hooters. I’ve always said I’ll never set foot in one of those places. I think they’re dumb, and I don’t even like wings. Aside from the whole exploitation debate, I just knew I wouldn’t have a good time there. Yet I allowed my stated preference to be overruled, and sweet Jesus, I have never had a more uncomfortable meal.
To start with, the noise inside was overwhelming. I could barely hear my own thoughts, and even simple communication became a shouting matches (“Do you want to sit here?” “What?” “Do you want to sit here?” “Huh?” “JUST SIT.”)
Sit we did, at a small and sticky table near the door. It took 10 minutes for a waitress to come say hi and take our drink orders. “It’s my first night back,” she said, blinking mascara-crusted eyes and wiggling a glitter-dusted body. Not since the days of the Spice Girls have I seen this much body glitter. She was passably cute, if a little more rounded than the elastic waistband of her tiny shorts wanted to permit.
We ordered two waters, and sat back to peruse the menu. Once I eliminated the things I don’t really like (wings and fried chicken) and the things I wasn’t willing to pay for ($15 seafood platter), I was left with a burger. I decided I’d go with a blue cheese topping, just to be different.
Next, I scoped out my surroundings. On the window to my left was a poster advertising a bikini contest, with an oily blonde leering at me in a skimpy turquoise bikini. I looked across the aisle to my right, where there was a framed picture of a waitress rolling around on a bed in her Hooters uniform. Sitting at that table was a family of four, with a blond, freckled 12-year-old boy posted directly beside the nauseating photo. Assholes, I thought, glaring at the parents.
The family’s waitress was different than ours; theirs was a tall brunette wearing shorts that angled so high up across her cheeks that the entire curve where butt meets thigh was visible to all and sundry. And believe me, there were plenty of sundries. The night’s crowd included a family having a birthday party FOR A LITTLE GIRL, and a family eating out with GRANDMA AND THE KIDS. What kind of fucked up family takes their little girl to Hooters for her birthday? The girl was sobbing, and I would have been too if my parents were stupid enough to take me to that Junior-League-reject whorefest for my birthday party.
I looked at my watch. We’d been seated for at least 20 minutes and still had no water. Parched from the long drive, I looked around for our waitress. She did not reappear for quite some time. When she did, she blazed past us to the table of guys to my right. She talked and flirted with them slowly, shamelessly, as if no one else could possibly be seated in her section. I tried to collect enough spit in my mouth to swallow, as a replacement for the nonexistent water.
It was at least another 10 minutes before she acknowledged us again. When she returned, it was sans water and sans any order-taking paraphernalia, like paper. She apologized for forgetting our waters, apologized for taking so long, apologized for being so disorganized, then wrote our order on a napkin with some sort of aqua magic marker and waddled off, shedding glitter behind her like a rave-enabled Gretel.
In the meantime, P. went off to wash his hands and I sat there trying not to stare at the jiggling butt cheeks of the passing waitresses. Not five seconds after he left, our waitress came back to our table to find out what kind of sauce he wanted on his wings, and what kind of dressing he wanted with his side order of celery. I knew the latter, but not the former. I told her he’d be back in a second and could answer her then. She got a worried look on her face and said she had to guard the computer to keep our ticket open. Apparently, something dire happened if she failed in this objective. She apologized again (third time? fourth time?) and ran back to the computer/drink station.
By now, we’d been seated for about half an hour and we hadn’t even had our order placed. I was upset because this girl was clearly incompetent, I still didn’t have anything to drink, and everywhere I put my eyes, I was confronted with some co-ed’s glittery breasts, thighs, or butt cheeks. Not appetizing. Not relaxing. Not the kind of scenery I wanted on my vacation.
Finally, P. came back from the restroom. She pounced as soon as he sat down, crouching near him so he had a clear view down her shirt. He told her what sauce he wanted, and she ran off the put in our order. By some miracle, she returned with two water glasses and placed them in front of us before turning to clear a table across the aisle. I looked at what we’d been given: P.’s straw still had the paper top on it to assure him of its cleanliness; I had no such luck. “How come yours still has the paper thing?” I said. Our waitress heard me and turned around with a Cheshire cat smile. “Oh, yours came off in my hand,” she said. “It stuck to my finger when I put it on the tray.”
Now I know this is Hooters, with nary a Michelin star to its name—but still. If you’re bringing out two drinks, and only one has the requisite sanitary protection, you do something to make them match. Either you bring BOTH drinks out WITHOUT straw wrappers or you grab another straw and bring BOTH drinks out WITH straw wrappers. I don’t want to think about her sticky fingers touching any part of my straw, but now I have to. Thanks, you germ-infested bitch. Thanks a lot.
While we waited for our food, I stared at P. long enough to make him nervous. I wasn’t doing it on purpose; I was just looking for some neutral ground. If I looked left, I stared right into the crotch of the bikini girl on the poster. If I looked right, I ended up seeing the butt cheeks of a passing waitress. Even weirder, every time I averted my eyes from butt cheeks, I saw some guy at a table on the right staring at me while I was staring at the waitresses. I’m telling you, you can’t shake a stick in a Hooters without smacking a possible sex offender. (Do any normal guys eat at Hooters? I only found one.)
Eventually, the glittery waitress deposited my burger in front of me, patting my shoulder for no apparent reason. The side of celery and ranch P. ordered arrived in its own basket, which was kind of like reserving a limo for a mouse. Three or four thin, spindly stalks of cheap-ass vegetable fiber and a plastic cup of off-brand Ranch dressing…talk about .99 well spent, folks. My burger looked pretty good, except for the fact that I had to hunt for the blue cheese on top. There was one dollop, about the size of a dime, resting calmly on my patty.
Since the burger came with slaw, the waitress left me a set of utensils. They lay face-up on the tray she’d given me, all the better to see the small pieces of crap crusted onto the fork. It was probably just a few pieces of stuck-on lettuce, but still. She was oblivious, and I ate my coleslaw with a spoon.
She came back to check on us twice. Once, she deposited a stack of fifty napkins next to P. She’d already left him plenty when she brought the food; I think she just wanted to bend over next to him. The second time, she placed a paper ticket on the edge of the table. I didn’t even look at her. When I was dying of thirst, I had to wait half an hour for a water. When I was dying of hunger, I had to wait for her to accost my husband to place our order all because she couldn’t remember what she had to ask to complete the order itself. Now that I had my food and simply wanted to eat it in peace, I had to keep interrupting my meal to reassure her that she’s doing a swell job and that we (finally) have everything we need.
When it came time to pay up and get the hell out of there, P. slapped his card onto the ticket and she whisked it away. When she brought it back, she failed to whisk herself away. She lingered, standing over his shoulder, looking at the receipt he was about to fill out. She straightened the ketchup bottle, pushed the salt and pepper back into place, and touched every menu in the metal wire holder to make sure they were straight. P. made eye contact with me, and I mouthed, “Just wait.” I felt sure she’d realize how rude she was being, and give us a moment to strategize about the tip without her boobs touching my husband’s shoulder. No such luck.
She changed positions a few times, always leaning over P. or over the table, but never moving out of eyesight of the as-yet-blank line where we’d insert our tip. Bitch, please. If you’re so afraid of a shitty tip, try not being a shitty waitress. Every inconvenience we encountered was her fault; we had no problem with the food, the chef, the manager, etc. I would never have left without giving her a tip, but it would have been nice to indicate my displeasure with a solo dollar bill, or maybe even two, which would still have been 10%.
I fumed as she idled and fidgeted, moving items on the table around as if she were arranging a Thanksgiving centerpiece. P. and I made eye contact again, asking each other a silent what-the-fuck-is-she-doing? Finally, he picked up the pen and gave her the standard 15%, just to avoid a scene and get the hell out of there. He signed the receipt, and we stood up so fast you might have thought our seats were on fire. She’d taken away our one method of satisfaction…giving her a tip that matched the quality of her service. The worst part was…she knew she’d done a shitty job. She knew she deserved a lame tip. But she banked on the fact that we wouldn’t stiff her with her looking over our collective shoulder. It’s a dirty waitress Jedi trick.
I knew I should have stuck to my guns and never set foot inside a Hooters, but I was seduced by the siren song of vacation, and the lure of “new experiences.” My bad. It won’t happen again.