Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Team Applebee's Vs. Youngman Brown

As I mentioned before, I have had to work during many of the Flyers playoff games.

I got out of work on Thursday night after the second period ended.  It is a forty minute drive to my parents’ house*.  This would mean that I would miss the rest of the game, which was currently tied.

*I have been staying at my parents’ house while I search for a new apartment.

So I went to Applebee’s.

By myself.

Whether or not it is okay to go to eat by oneself is a social issue that I have wrestled with in the past, and it is something that I will wait to write about sometime in the future.

But in the current scenario, it was a fairly easy decision for me to make.  Not only was I deeply concerned about the outcome of the game, but I was also famished.  And it was after 9PM, which meant half-priced appetizers.

“Welcome to Applebee’s,” the hostess said with a smile.  “How many?”

I looked behind me to see if anyone had followed me in, but saw no one.  Apparently “How many?” is the polite way of saying, “Are you by yourself?”

“Just me.  Could you seat me where I could see the Flyers game?  Are you playing it?”

She turned to a boy – another Applebee’s employee – and with an odd grin, asked him “Do we have any tables where he can see the game?”

It was odd, this exchange.  It was some juvenile form of flirting, I guessed.

As she led me through the restaurant to my table, however, I realized that they were making fun of me for asking if they were playing the game.

I saw the Flyers game everywhere I looked.

You never realize how many televisions there are at Applebee’s until they are all tuned into the same station.  It was as if I was inside a giant television, and the walls and ceiling were broadcasting the game.

“Darren will be your server tonight,” the hostess with the leastess explained.  Then, almost as an afterthought: “Is this table alright?  Can you see the game okay?”

She said this with the same courteous smile, but with a hint of patronization, which was faintly visible within her stupid dimples.

     Team Applebee's:  1           Flyers: 2
     Youngman Brown:   0           Devils: 2

*   *   *

I was looking everywhere for my waiter.

This is a tough thing to do when you are completely engrossed in a hockey game.

The wings I was eating were quite spicy, and my glass of water was empty, save for a few ice cubes, on which I was currently chewing.  I was in major need of a refill and Darren hadn’t been around for a while.

As I was sucking the life out of my last ice cube, I heard a collective clapping coming from the other side of the restaurant.  Then I saw a cupcake with a candle lead a parade of waiters and waitresses to a table in which they all sang some alternate version of “Happy Birthday” to one of the patrons.  Darren was amongst them.

Then the Devils scored.

And I was enraged.

My mouth was on fire from the wings.  My water cup was empty.  And everywhere I looked, I saw a television showing the Devils hugging each other in celebration.

I glared at a 30-something-year old woman blowing out a single candle on a cupcake, as all of Team Applebee’s watched her do so.

As I said, I was pissed.

Not at the waiters and waitresses, as I am sure that they are forced to partake in this idiotic charade. 

And not even at Applebee’s for allowing, even encouraging, this type of behavior.

Instead, my anger was mainly geared at this woman who was born on this date however many years ago.  Or more specifically, whoever was sitting at her table who had informed the Applebee’s staff of this fact.

It is only acceptable for kids.  Source
I imagined the father, mother, sister, brother, friend, or spouse excusing him or herself to go to the bathroom.  Nonchalantly, he finds the waiter and pulls him aside.  He carefully explains the situation to the server, explaining that it is a special day for his table-mate – one that comes but once a year.  Is there anything – anything at all – that the waiter could do to make their sojourn to Applebee’s on this historic day more memorable?

The confidant might have seen such an exchange in the movies, this under-the-table verbal agreement, which contains every ingredient except for the slipping of a twenty-dollar bill.  And perhaps he feels like something of a dinnertime spy. 

“But I didn’t even see you say anything to the waiter!” the birthday-girl tells him, further building his feelings of undercover prowess.

“This is so embarrassing!” the birthday-girl says.

It should be.

Not a single Applebee’s employee gives a shit that it is your birthday.  Moreover, you have just delayed the service to every single other customer. 

And in my mind, somehow, someway, you are responsible for the Devils scoring that goal.

     Team Applebee's:  2           Flyers: 2
     Youngman Brown:   0           Devils: 3

*   *   *

I had finished my wings and gulped my water, which Darren had finally brought to me. 

I noticed that the manager was making his rounds, going from table to table and asking everyone if they enjoyed their meals.

I was formulating a statement in my head, attempting to compose a tactfully compelling argument against their policy of singing “Happy Birthday.”

But then the Flyers scored, and in an instant my mood was completely transformed from angry and cynical to euphoric and content.

The manager looked at the television screen and pumped his fist, then high-fived the couple with whom he was speaking.

As the minutes of the game ticked away, I began formulating a different statement to tell the manager.  About how great it was that I was able to stop at Applebee’s so that I could see the end of the game.  About how the staff was wonderful and friendly.  About how the food was delicious and really "hit the spot."  About how I had such a great time, in fact, that I felt as if it was my birthday.

Yes, that is how greatly playoff hockey can alter my mood.

“Well, have a great night,” the manager told the two ladies at the table next to me.  I was his next stop and I cleared my throat as he approached.

He looked at me as he walked by.

What.  The.  Hell.

     Team Applebee's:  3           Flyers: 3
     Youngman Brown:   0           Devils: 3

In reality, he probably had some important Applebee’s Manager-type business to attend to.  Perhaps he was summoned on his seemingly completely unnecessary headset.

But in the moment I felt snubbed.

If I didn’t feel like a complete loser for being alone at a chain restaurant before, I certainly did then.

The third period ended, and the Flyers game was headed to overtime.

“Did you save some room for dessert?” Darren asked me cheerfully.

“Just the check,” I said.

I left Darren a 15% tip, which, from a chronic over-tipper like me, is equivalent to being stiffed*.

*If you work a job based on tips, you will understand.

Then I hustled out, not allowing the hostess enough time pull herself away from her flirt-tacular coworker to grab the door for me.

I jumped into my car and sped home, listening to the game on the radio.

Until the Devils scored, of course.

-Youngman Brown

P.S. The next time you are trying to decide between Applebee’s or Chilis, remember this post and choose Chilis.

     Team Applebee's:  3         
     Youngman Brown:   1           


  1. I worked for restaurants for years and I can tell you without a doubt...everyone HATES the birthday song. In fact MOST idiots that say it's their bday are lying and just wanted a free dessert....sorry dude, that sucks.

  2. Ah yes, the birthday signing! I hate it! I hate all the loud commotion that comes with it and interrupts my dinner and conversation. I hate it even more when they sing to an adult. To a kid, I can understand but a full grown adult? C'mon man! Most adults don't like the fact that they are getting older and would rather not celebrate!

    As for dining alone, I can't say I've ever done it before. I bet it is quite awkward. But under your circumstances, I can see why you braved the experience. When a man needs to see the game, he will stop at nothing...especially during playoffs!

  3. Quite honestly, I've never understood the need for TVs in a restaurant...but that's probably because all they every show is sports...maybe if they showed episodes of the X-Files or Star Trek I would be more inclined!

    As for Applebee's? I'm not surprised. I've always like Chili's better!

    And the dining alone? I've actually never done it. Weird. If I am by myself and have to eat (unless I'm traveling and honestly that's only been once) I wait until I get home. I don't think there is anything overly odd about it though. A person has to eat and if you are out and about, why not?

  4. Your wit and hilarious interactions with Darren, the manager, and Flirty McSarcasm were not lost on me...but I couldn't keep my eyes from the Flyers/Devil's tally and knowing how drastically your mood would change at the outcome. Yeah...to say that I'm on edge about tonight is an understatement. I'm cautiously optimistic but aware that playing this way will not get us past the Rangers let alone the Kings with the roll they are on.

    Yes...I'm aware I made almost this whole comment about hockey. As always...great post. Go Chilis!

  5. I used to travel for work and ate alone often. I usually brought a book or work with me and tried to tune out everything around me. For some reason, a solitary woman gives the impression that it's open season for random men to sit down at your table, without invitation. I got tired of finding polite ways to tell them to step off. I really wanted some down time to relax and just eat my dinner, alone. Eventually I found ordering room service (no matter how expensive) over going to eat at "Applebee's" alone, a much better choice for me.

    And please don't think for a second I feel it's because I'm so remarkable I attracted this much attention. I'm certain it was because I was out alone and these men perceived me to be eager for someone to pick me up or just so pathetic they had a great shot!

  6. Applebee's is where dreams go to die. I'm pretty sure they train their staff to be as unfriendly and aloof as possible.

    Buffalo Wild Wings, however, has a friendly staff that is often easy on the eyes. Just sayin...

  7. Well, I liked this post so the score has changed again.

    Team Applebees: 3
    Youngman Brown: 2

    You still have a chance...

  8. If I had to go to Applebee's for my birthday I'd commit suicide. Also, everyone who goes out with me for my birthday knows, that telling the restaurant it's my birthday, is punishable by a kick in the nuts or a swift punch to the vagina.

    I also tip heartily so a 15% is like saying, "You suck." I have left a dollar on one occasion and wrote, "No, this wasn't an accident. You should get a new job."

  9. Bah, I worked as a cook at an Applebee's. If it makes you feel any better, every worker at Applebee's hates their life I've discovered. Anyway, don't worry, I haven't gone to Applebee's but for a drink since I stopped working there. Horrible things go on in the kitchen. I suggest you never return.

  10. I would feel no shame in going to a restaurant to watch an important hockey game by myself. They need support, and I need to see the game with some tasty food! I usually don't mind going to restaurants by myself though; I just bring a book. I've had waitresses express envy. It's nice. :)

    However, if the staff members were being dicks, I'd be pissed too.

  11. Your efforts to stay in the game were valiant but you never had a chance, clearly.

    Of course, eating alone *is* an unforgivable societal sin (what's next? eating with dogs or a homosexual lover?) so the Applebees staff can't shoulder all of the blame, now can they?

  12. I feel for you. I missed the game winning goal of last night's Rangers game becasue Boyfriend changed channels during the "intermission". I had to watch it via replay. I wasn't happy.

  13. The last time we ate at Applebee's was after Hurricane Ike. Consider the situation - summer in Houston, 2 weeks without power. We exhausted our supply of meat pretty quickly (grilled to avoid spoilage) and had been eating canned food from the pantry for 4 days. Applebee's was the only place in town that had power. Even so, I had to really think about it before I agree to go.

  14. I have zero tolerance for the Happy Birthday dickery that goes on in restaurants such as Applebees, Red Robin, and their ilk. "Hey! Congratulations on not dying this year! In honor of your mad survival skillz allow us to warble some anthem of scorn and apathy whilst bestowing upon you a shitty cupcake that our sous chef Jorge may have spit on!" Happy. Fucking. Birthday.

  15. Speaking of game...wait....here it comes....YOU LOSE!!!!
    Well you shouldn't keep talking about games. On another note, I think its just fine if you dine by yourself. There is no rule that says you can't enjoy a dinner watching TV or reading a book, ALONE. Or if there is, posh, I don't follow rules anyway.

  16. Does it help that we ate at Chili's this weekend? Had to drive right past Applebee's to there to do it too!

  17. Probably a Devils Applebees anyway.

    OMG Sheila, do you realize how many people I have to tell now!!!

    Guessing you aren't happy right now. I will in an act of solidarity pull for your boys tonight which will hurt me more than you know. I am only pleased because your Flyers knocked out the poster boy of the "Nothing But Crosby" network...

    I expect a similar game 6 rubbing of rabbits feet for my Caps! Game 7 all bets are off.


  18. YB,

    Oh, so epic on so many levels!

    First of all, you should be mad at the birthday woman herself-- not mad at her for being born on this day 30 some years ago and guaranteeing to ruin your future evening-- but instead, mad at her for her total lack of good judgement in choosing to marry the type of husband who would take her to celebrate her special day at Applebee's. Men, take heed: when a woman coyly says that she simply wants "nothing" for her birthday, this translates to $100 fancy dinner with wine. WRITE IT DOWN-- MOV IS RIGHT.

    Okay, second, sooooooooooo hilarious that the manager walked past you!!!!!!!!!!! love this! (I think he most likely walked past you out of consideration that you were there to watch the game, though.)

    You are a GREAT writer. I especially loved your imagery of being INSIDE a tv set. Perfect!

    p.s. and your p.s. was the best part of the whole post! sort of like the cupcake/ dessert of the post!

  19. Can we make "Team Youngman Brown" t-shirts? Also, does wearing one to a restaurant negate my deep desire to always get free cake?

  20. I can't stand Applebee's. I'm an overtipper also, but when I stiff someone, I give it to them hard. Zero, namely, but that's only if they truly deserve it (blowing me off, not bringing me things I ordered more than once, etc).

    Also, anyone who has their birthday at Applebee's and is over the age of 12 should kill themselves.

    1. I will stiff someone as well and the service has to be really bad for me to do it, but I will leave a nickel. I want to make sure they knew I didn't just forget. I was choosing to leave nothing.

  21. "Not a single Applebee’s employee gives a shit that it is your birthday" Oh the laughter! Loved this story!

  22. I knew there was a reason I wanted to follow your blog...HILARIOUS!!!!

  23. I know nothing of Applebees or Ice Hockey but I just had to say that I am actually going to my first ever hockey game next week.
    Yep. Here. in Australia. Pretty cool I reckon
    (hey, can I hit you with any questions I might have after?)

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  25. I threaten my family with the loss of body parts if they tell a single freaking soul it is my birthday and have them sing to me.

    Unless they are sending over free drinks keep that singing crap to yourself!

  26. Oh my!! Looks like they whipped your butt!! I'm sorry to laugh at your pain, but I cracked up all the way through!

    P.S. What they hell? NY Applebees don't sell 1/2 off appetizers until after 10!

  27. Stupid Applebee's!!

    Like you, I used to wrestle with the idea of dining alone. I was certain it made me a loser and that everyone in the place (staff and patrons alike) were judging me for it.

    I have since stepped out of my comfort zone and have made it a regular occurence. Now, I can go anywhere alone. Even Mexico. Twice. It's refreshing, I assure you!

    P.S. It's my birthday today - I think I'll go to Applebee's! :)

  28. Poor Youngman! I'm so sorry you had such a crappy experience, especially after having to battle with the whole eating alone thing. I hate eating by myself in public too. I rarely do it and doubt I'd ever do it in "sit-down" restaurant like this. I've done it a couple of times in fast-food restaurants and in this "mom & pop" local diner that I love. But, that's the extent of my bravery.

  29. It's your birthday. So we're going to embarrass the shit out of you with a free brownie and the collective resentment of an entire restaurant. That should make you feel better about being another year closer to death.


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