Friday, January 18, 2013

Bloodyminded in Bellevue

For lunch today the whole team trooped over to a burger joint on the other side of Bellevue. We'd heard a lot about it and how wonderful it was. I'd looked at the menu and discovered it sold the wonderful concoction 'dork' (a blend of duck and pork) and was entranced and enthused. I might not be able to eat meat, but I'm excited at the many and varied ways people can think of to serve it up.
Yesterday I was complaining about the overly friendly people working in the shops of Bellevue.  It's only just, therefore, that today I should encounter a man doing a pretty good job of showing that he didn't care about his job.  It was rather refreshing, really.

The burger joint is in the ground floor of an office building, and bedecked with all the usual 1950s paraphernalia that must be supplied from an enormous warehouse somewhere; kitsch adverts, old license plates, blah de blah de blah.  The place was pretty packed with overweight people eating burgers, and loud music was blaring.  We sat down, and the first thing our server did was sit down next to us, because he "couldn't hear a thing with that speaker in my ear".

We'd walked for twenty minutes in the freezing fog to get there, and were all stuck with meetings to return to, so we were expecting a quick in-and-out on this.  Instead, our server turned a bit lugubrious.  He recognised my British accent and asked me where I was from.

"I'm from Britain" I said.
"Well, obviously.  But where in Britain?"
"London" I said.
"Well, obviously.  But where in London?"

I told him Crystal Palace, because most Americans who believe they have a good knowledge of London have been to Covent Garden and Buckingham Palace, but it turned out he'd lived in Croydon for a while, poor man.  It pleased him greatly that I'd lived close to where he had, although that didn't mean anyone else got their drink order taken any quicker.  Once he'd got a list of Cokes and milkshakes, he sprinted away, leaving everyone wondering when they were going to get to order some food.

Another member of staff brought the drinks over.  For all but one of us.  Eventually our server lolloped back, to be told somebody was missing a milkshake.

"Well, it's not me that is doing that" he said, displaying a contempt for the usual kowtowing attitude each member of staff is meant to display.  "I've got five other tables all bitching away" he explained, without rancour or aggression.  I was pleased to see this careful body swerve away from responsibility.  Then he took our orders for burgers, pointing out that I was being difficult because I was English, and wandered off again.

The clock was ticking.  Eventually he returned, with a root beer.  Nobody was drinking root beer, so he took it away again and brought some ginger ale instead.  Somebody tried to ask how long the food would be, but he'd scarpered again.  When he passed by next, they asked for their food to be bagged up for takeaway, although as luck would have it, everyone's meetings were cancelled at the last minute, so we could stay and eat.

The milkshake was yet to materialise.

My burger arrived.  It was slightly smaller than my head, covered in cheese (it turned out the Havarti may have been an overambitious mistake on my part) and accompanied by some of the worst French fries I've eaten on the North American continent.  Starving (having not eaten for at least an hour) I began to chow down.

The milkshake still didn't come.

The other burgers arrived, along with some back chat about how busy he was and what a bunch of tossers half the restaurant was.  He can't have been that busy, because he took time to sit down with me and ask what my favourite football team was.  I lied and said I was a Fulham supporter (well, I've been to two games in my life) and he seemed fairly pleased by that.  Who would have thought living in (or near) Croydon would make people happy to see you.

The milkshake arrived.  It wasn't all you could have hoped for.  Ah well.

When it was time for the bill, we asked if we could split it.  There were eight of us, and he pointed out that he wasn't going to be able to sort that out.  The humour you'd hope people would get from high-fat food was not much in abundance.  I was trying hard not to crack up with laughter, and instead chucked some cash into the middle of the table and hoped it wouldn't deterioate into a minor fracas.  When we left, he was still chuckling away about Croydon and probably planning his next assault on the customer service standards of the USA.  A man that cheerfully unhelpful and transparently contemptuous of his customers is a rare bird to witness in America, and thus a wonderful thing.

I got back, couldn't work, think or stand for a couple of hours, the burger weighing like a stone on my insides. I wonder if they get much repeat business.


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