A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Gift Cards at the Cancer Bar

I spent last weekend at my brother’s house, and I discovered that I share a pet peeve with my sister-in-law: purchasing restaurant gift cards at the restaurants themselves. My sister-in-law related a recent experience at an Applebee’s near Bloomsburg. She asked the hostess about buying a gift card and was directed to the restaurant bar. At the bar, she stood between two parties (both smoking) and waited for the bartender to finish text-messaging someone. My sister-in-law waited just long enough for her blood pressure to reach the boiling point. She returned to the hostess station and demanded that the hostess purchase the gift card for her. The hostess bought the card from the bartender who, it seems, was oblivious that my sister-in-law was ever at the bar in the first place.

Then I shared my experiences, first at Red Lobster in Alexandria, VA (circa 1993) and more recently at Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse in Buckhorn, PA. My experience at Red Lobster was my first time purchasing a restaurant gift card and it was nearly my last. At Red Lobster, I stood for thirty minutes before I could get the bartender's attention. I should have learned a lesson then: if I really want to get quick service from a bartender, then I need to stand at that spot at the bar where the waitresses get their table orders. The diners can go thirsty a few moments longer — I was there first.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten this lesson a few years ago when I was directed to Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse bar for a gift card. I stood at the only empty spot left at the bar — behind the beer taps where little ole me at 5’1” could not be seen. Fortunately, I did not have to wait long.

At that moment, one of my female cousins entered the bar with the same mission and used her Philadelphia bred assertiveness to yell “Yo!” at the bartender. We both got served promptly. I should add that the male bartender might have been persuaded to help us based on my cousin's height (she could be seen over the beer taps), and extreme beauty (unlike me, she does not sport a mustache).

There are two aspects about restaurant chain bars that should be noted here. First, the bar is probably one of the busiest places in the restaurant outside the actual kitchen. The bartender not only mixes drinks, draws beers, and collects money from the patrons at the bar, but he/she is also preparing drinks for the wait staff to serve at their tables. Second, the restaurant bar is, for many people, the last public place they can enjoy a smoke while they eat or drink. The days when they could light up at their dining table or their desks/cubicles are long gone. For many smokers, the restaurant bar is their Little Big Horn, their last stand before they cough and hack themselves into oblivion.

Please understand I do not have anything against smokers; some of my best friends engage in this filthy habit. I do feel obligated to remind them that when it comes to cigarettes, there are faster ways of committing suicide. Also, I am a firm believer that secondhand smoke is harmful. Many will dispute this point (as they blow their pollution in my direction), but I am convinced that any long-term exposure to secondhand smoke will aggravate my heart condition. By long-term I mean any unit of time five minutes or longer in length. Since I waited for thirty minutes at the Red Lobster for a gift card, then I believe my experience meets this criterum for adverse health effects.

Fortunately, times have changed and there are now other options for gift cards. Many merchants make their cards available for purchase at the local supermarket or online. My sister-in-law pointed out that the card selection isn’t always the greatest at the food store. This is true, but at least you’re not taking your life into your own hands.

These restaurants are just great! Not only do they make unhealthy, deep fried food look like the greatest thing since sliced bread (when in reality the food could make your cardiologist hurl), but they also send you to the bar for a free case of lung cancer. Of course there are also the effects of the alcohol on your liver, but hey, no one is forcing any of us to patronize these death traps. I’d stay away for good, except they make the food taste so damn good.


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