“Hi, welcome to Applebee’s,” the smiling hostess said as we approached. “Thank you sooo much, we’ve been waiting all week to get our Applebee’s fix—we just love it here,” my lady friend said as she looked back at me with a devious grin. So that’s how we’re going to play this I thought—random walk-by drink decision combined with complete sarcasm. Nice.
Our waiter, who I imagine just started shaving sometime in the last few months, was preemptively greeted by my friend’s enthusiastic, “Hi, how are you doing this evening? We’re big fans of your restaurant.” Then, before he had a chance to restart his textbook greeting, I added, “Yeah, is this 67 or 68?” “Sixty-eight, honey,” my friend said to me before glancing back at our waiter. “We’ve been to 68 Applebee’s locations so far this year. We love this place.”
After explaining how we travel a lot for our jobs as importers of corn chips and exporters of diapers, we finally decided to let him get a word in and take our drink order. “Now, does your Perfect Margarita have Rose’s lime juice in it, because I’m completely allergic,” my lady friend asked. “Yeah, we’d have to get out the EpiPen. It’s a big production these other folks probably wouldn’t wanna see while they’re eating,” I added.
Ten minutes later our drinks arrived via our frazzled little friend. “Those look delicious. You must have had a team back there squeezing limes,” my friend said. “Yeah, it was me and my manager and a bartender,” the waiter said as he proudly set down the drinks. My friend took a sip and said, “Mmmm, that’s perfect.” “Perfect or nearly perfect?” I asked her before glancing up at our waiter as he changed the subject. “Where are you guys from?”
“Tempe,” I said. “Tempe, Arizona.” “We were in Syracuse before that,” my friend added. “And then Cincinnati before that,” I continued. “But we don’t like to talk about Cincinnati,” my friend said as we both broke into laughter at the inside joke of whatever it was that supposedly happened in Ohio.
“We’ve been meaning to ask, where did the name Applebee’s come from?” I inquired. “It means neighborhood,” our waiter said. “In what language?” I shot back. “Well, it means like a neighborhood place, like a bar or restaurant, that’s in a neighborhood,” he nervously backpedaled.
“Whatever it means, it always means fun for us,” my smiling companion said as she placed a calming hand on my shoulder before completely changing her demeanor and quipping back, “But I do have to ask, what is Applebee’s official policy on providing health care benefits to life partners of employees, because Starbucks has been doing that for years.”
“I don’t know if we have one. I mean, they haven’t told us anything about that,” our waiter responded with a puzzled look. “Well, we hate Chili’s, so that’s out,” my friend said as she casually pointed at the one right across the street. “So I guess we’ll just have to start going to Ruby Tuesdays,” she said shrugging her shoulders.
As all of this took place we couldn’t help but notice those around us—a lethargic family of three overweight generations and a table of drunken rednecks celebrating the matriarch’s birthday with overbearing laughter. As funny as going off the grid for an evening sounded at first, it was quickly becoming very depressing.
“So, 68 Applebee’s huh,” our waiter asked before saying quite possibly the wisest thing he ever could’ve added. “Do you guys ever try any locally owned restaurants in the cities you visit?”
With a knowing smile I responded, “You know, we actually had dinner at Easy Bistro and loved it.” “You should try Aretha Frankenstein’s for breakfast,” he said. “It was on the Food Network and everything.” “Really? You must be very proud of your local restaurants around here,” I said as I thought to myself—I know I am.
Chuck Crowder is a local writer and general man about town. His opinions are just that. Take what you read with a grain of salt, but let it pepper your thoughts.