There are few moments in life that combine fully-justified self-righteous indignation and self-hating castigation like noticing that the people who sat down in the restaurant after you have already been served their food.
If this isn’t immediately clear, let me explain. You’re right to wonder why someone else got their food first. But you’re also the sort of person who cares that someone else got their food first, and even though you know you’ll frame it in terms of the Proper Order of Things, and Fairness, it’s mostly because you’re starving.
You’re in the right, but this really isn’t about justice.
To set the scene: wife and I went out to dinner at an Indian restaurant we like. Tinny plinky sitar on the overhead speakers, large tapestries of incomprehensible scenes of battle, Ganesh winking puckishly from big modern paintings. They make a Vindaloo that can dissolve steel, and I have learned to order medium. Once upon a time I always went for Hot, and ended up sweating and gasping and muttering this is incredible, but I don’t like losing six ounces of fluids in public and walking out with my hair matted. So I go for Medium.
Or would, if the waiter came. We were seated right away, but I saw one of the waiters taking an order for a table of 14, and groaned. Hadn’t had much to eat that day. Small breakfast, then of to do the shopping, figuring I’d graze on samples, but at Traders Joe it just dessert, and Target’s samples - well. Phone rings while I’m shopping, and it’s daughter.
Okay, Dad, here’s the thing, Mom got a flat tire coming back from the dog park? And we got off the highway but now we’re just parked and waiting for the tow truck.
Uh. Oh. Where are you?
I don’t know. Mom left to see if she could find a better place to park. I don’t know.
LOCK THE DOORS.
LOCK. THE. DOORS. SHE LEFT?
What do you want for cereal? I'm in the cereal aisle.
So from then on I have an image of the family in the car surrounded by bloody moaning zombies trying to get in, and since the message was “come when you can” I lost all connection with the act of shopping, and headed for the check-out even though I hadn’t figured out what Thursday’s mean would be. No idea. Fish, probably, but we’ll deal with that later.
At check out it was nothing but carts and not enough cashiers. A fellow in a red shirt was pacing back and forth barking orders on the walkie-talkie to get more clerks; finally I got into a lane and waited while someone else unloaded her cart, judging her purchases and the way she put them on the belt, of course. You put your cold and frozen together so they’re bagged together and keep each other frosty; you put your household items at the end so they’re in a separate bag; you distrbute the boxes so the clerk has something to frame the bag. ALSO HURRY UP MY FAMILY IS IN PERIL.
There was an old lady behind me, grim and sour of expression. She picked up an US magazine and disapproved of everyone in it. She put it back. The belt advanced; I unloaded my cart. The customer slid a credit card, and it was declined because MY FAMILY IS IN PERIL. She had no idea how this could have happened; she just used it the other day. Because that’s what you say, right? That’s how you save face. The clerk doesn’t say “I’m sure you did, and this technological glitch in no one reflects on your economic status. Here, run it again, and I’ll enter the secret code that accepts it no matter what.” The clerk doesn’t care. At the most it’s embarrassing and at the worst it’s something that requires the flipping of the Blink Switch which summons a manager.
The customer produced a thick sheaf of twenties and counted them out. While this was going on I became aware that the old sour lady was bumping her cart into my hindquarters. Gently. Repeatedly. As if to send a message that I should move forward seven inches.
I moved forward seven inches.
I hoped that was enough for her.
In the end everyone was fine, and I picked them up at the garage. Put away the groceries, aware that I had only half-shopped; provisioning was incomplete, and this pained me. As did the rest of the afternoon: Daughter had a friend coming over at 5:30, needed a ride at 6:00. The garage would call to say the car was ready. Any attempt at a nap would have to thread the needle between the garage’s call and the friend knocking on the door, which would make the dog bark, but if I waited for the garage to call it could be much, much later.
Give it a try. Hope for the best. Laid down and started to snooze, somewhat, troubled by the fact that my wife was putting up Halloween decorations outside, which meant she would pick up sticks and put them in the lawn-waste bin, which meant she would be reminded I hadn’t done anything with the 150 pounds of dirt in the bin I dug up when I put in the stones for the trash-bin apron. Which meant I would hear about it.
The phone rang. It was the garage. Check. Tried to get myself into a nap mood; tried to focus on the sound of the humidifier, which I turn on for white noise to drown out the slight remnants of tinnitus I still detect in the quietest moments. Worried that if I didn’t nap the rest of the night would be a slog. And then I woke up.
Hey: if I’m waking, then I napped. Check the clock. Please don’t be ten minutes later.
Ah: 25 minutes later. Success. So! Drive wife to get car.
“Were you going to let the dirt sit there all winter?”
Of course, I deserved that, but the remarkable thing about women is their ability to phrase, without irony or self-awareness, a question in the form of “when did you stop beating your wife?”
“I still can’t believe so much dirt came from that small plot. I mean, it’s huge. You think how much dirt there is in the world, and it’s just mind-boggling.”
“Were you planning on doing anything with the left-over stones?”
Yes, but how likely is it she’ll believe me? Let’s try.
“I put the smaller stones in the garbage to see if they’d take them, and then thought I would break up the stones into smaller ones and throw them out one at a time, like the guy in the Johnny Cash song who smuggled out pieces of a Cadillac from his assembly line job.”
This led to a conversation about how she needs a new car, which she does, and at this point I’m signing on to whatever she wants, as long as we don’t talk about the dirt I was supposed to spread on the lawn for planting grass seed because there’s no point doing that now, is there? With all the leaves. I will buy her a car if it means we don't have to talk about the dirt.
Drop her off, go home, get daughter and friend, drop them off. Go home, tell wife that the movie we wanted to see isn’t playing anymore.
Because America doesn’t appreciate Steve Coogan that’s why and it makes me sad. So, Indian?
So, Indian. We’re seated behind the party of 14. I am dying of hunger. The waiter takes ten minutes to get to us, and five minutes after taking our order he asks if we could move so he could seat a party of eight. I figure, fine; our order’s in. We’re good. We’re golden.
Forty-five minutes later the party of eight is digging in to their dishes, and three other tables who came after us are also eating. There are many waiters. There are many lesser souls scurrying around with water pitchers. None have come by to inquire after us. Finally I snag our waiter’s eye - not literally, unfortunately - and ask if there’s a chance we might eat some food.
“It will be one minute,” he says, running off.
It is five, and then it is seven, and then he comes by and dumps the dishes and leaves without an apology. It is the act - the craven act - of a man who did not put in the order.
My Vindaloo is watery. The rice is a few minutes away from cold. No one comes to refill the water.
When we are done I stand and go to the cashier, and ask for the ticket for Table 12. The man at the desk is the owner. He is printing out many tickets. When he finds mine I explain that we had waited 50 minutes for our food, and while I understand that they are busy, three tables that were seated after us were fed before us.
I am very sorry, he says.
A man comes in with a big thermal bag. He’s picking up an order. He talks to the owner. The owner talks to him and checks on something. I’m standing there with my card in my hand, thinking: this guy is going to get take-out and pay for it before I’m done with this.
WOULD SOMEONE PLEASE FEIGN CONCERN. That’s all I want. I know you don’t care, really; who can care that much about something like this? Just pretend. Just put a hand on your sternum and fake dismay and take the fargin’ naan bread off the bill, okay? Ask a question: which waiter? Because that will make me retreat, because I don’t want to get him in trouble, it’s not about that, mistakes happen, I was a waiter for years I understand. Just fake it.
He slides the bill across the counter. Full boat. For the first time in a decade I draw a line across TIP and we’re out of there. I’m thinking I’m going to Yelp the hell out of this.
“We could find another place,” wife says. “Something in Uptown.”
“Yeah, but then you have to park, and wait for a table.” Pause. “Besides, I really like the food. And parking is easy.”
Any Yelp review would be swamped by all the people who love the place, and I would stand out like a vindictive anomaly. If anyone did believe me, it would be too bad, because they’d miss out on some great food. So, Woodman, spare that tree.
By the time I got home it was all behind me, but I saw the pieces of stone had been moved from the garage to the stone wall by the garage door. They blended in nicely. They looked as if they belonged.
Are those going to sit there all winter?
Why yes. I believe they will.
Continuing our account of the annual Pumpkinification of Everything.
I don't know. Mud. Acquaintances in mud. Peanut Butter. Chocolate. Chex Mix. It just doesn't add up.
Back to 1967, when ads were at their creative peak! Some say. I demur. Then again, they could get straight to the point:
That's the classic Arby's building. We have at least one surviving in town:
IT'S DEAD, JIM
Curious food photography was not limited to the 40s or 50s. Oh no. The ice cream almost looks as if it's slumped over in grief, or trying to console the strudel.
Ah yes: Peppridge Fahm. The brand was already 30 years old by 1967, having been founded by Margaret Rudkin in '37, and named after the family fahm. How did it start?
Margaret Rudkin was inspired to found Pepperidge Farm due to her son Mark's asthma, which prevented him from eating the town's bread. Rudkin was devastated that her son couldn't enjoy the bread, which made up a many of the town's sweets, so she decided she would create a non-asthmatic bread for him.
Non-asthmatic bread: there's a new one. A video tribute to Margaret can be found here, and includes an early ad of the old fellow in the horse-drawn delivery vhicle around 2:30.
THE WONDERS OF THE WORLD
The 5th AND 6th:
They were the Seven Wonders of the Cat World, if you were wondering. I can't imagine what this was supposed to mean. To cats I'm sure it was just mush.
Remember these guys?
You know the story doesn't have a happy ending when you're purchased by TWA, which would go away in 2001. But someone brought the name and started up a new Ozark airline in 2000; it gave it up a year later and sold its planes to Great Plains Airlines, which would also expire.
Get up and go, you Go Getter:
BRILLIANT STRATEGY. BRILLIANT
Well, it certainly breaks the mold, while making you suspect the other Lucky Strikes have mold for an ingredient:
It's their way of saying that Luckies are one harsh mofo, and indeed they were strong, strong cigarettes. I just remember trying these back in the days, and they were the worst thing I'd ever tasted.
BLUR-FACE PEOPLE HAVE IT EASIER NOW
The incredible RadaRange!
Tappan brought out a microwave in the early fifies, and it cost $1295, which was around $11,500. Consumer sales were surprisingly few.
Oh but of course WOOD FRIDGE DOORS.
Blur-Mom one-hands an infant in the ad, for some reason.
RAYETTE . . .
Was the company name, and I had no idea.
My mom had a particular portion of the Ozone Layer Hole named after her, I think. I remember clouds of this stuff hanging in the bathroom for hours after she was done.
What I didn't know for years was this: it was a St. Paul MN company. Based here, since 1909.
This was a popular middle-brow middle-class hobby. Don't laugh.
Pat has more fun than Janice. Lest you think this is just more sexist tripe, men made some appearances as well. But it does show the divide. Rock? The Stones? Sorry, we're more of a Funny Girl kind of people. And you know, people who like Funny Girl are the luckiest kind of people.