Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Ch-Ch-Chain Of Fools

Memo to Applebee's: YOU ARE DUMB.
Who the fuck do you think you are? Did the Nobel Prize add a "shitty chain restaurant" division? Did you decide Habitat for Humanity was getting too much of the good press that rightfully go to America's #1 provider of barbeque riblets? You have forgotten your fucking place, and you need, collectively, to be slapped upside your flair until you go back to doing what you're supposed to, which is providing me and my fellow countrymen with mediocre burgers and fries and hanging football jerseys on your wall. That is your role, Know it. Stick to it.
It was bad enough when your ads featured brightly-colored, lively rooms, full of happy, smiling people, enjoying tasty food prepared with care. That falls just barely within the acceptable limits of advertising bullshittery, because it's merely an idealized version of what it is you're supposed to be doing in the first place.
But now, I beg of you, stop showing me images of your sub-minimum-wage employees performing acts of holy altruism in their spare time. I don't care if your entire organization is run by clones harvested from the cell cultures of Jimmy Carter and Mother Theresa's public image, some waitress making three dollars an hour plus tips is not going to bring a doggie bag of mesquite chicken wraps to a lonely old lady after her shift. And if she did, the old woman, who's been watching nothing but the Lifetime network for the past six years, would stab the employee in the leg with a kitchen knife and call 911. In words immortalized by the Hitchhiker's Guide TV series, THIS NEVER HAPPENS.
Not only does it never happen, it fucking well shouldn't. Despite my general hatred of the Applebee's experience on a purely abstract basis, I have some sympathy for those forced to do it. The fake cheer, the crappy food, the sub-par pay, having to deal with people for whom eating at Applebee's is a rare treat, or worse, a regular haunt... these are the activities that would try the hardiest soul. Chain-restaurant service puts very specific, spirit-crushing demands on these people, and many of them, as far as I can tell, have broken under the weight. These are not the people I would ask even more of. They've done enough. Plus, with the assault weapons ban gone, we really shouldn't be overburdening ANY of our support industries these days.
In the other commercial I've seen, an entire night crew at Applebee's, having done all the cleaning up, shutting down, money-counting, etc. required before locking the front door, are confronted by some late-night diners with some form of sympathy-inducing community role. It's probably a sports team, although my memory is a bit fuzzy for some reason, and there's a head-shaped dent in my wall. So anyway, in an I Am Spartacus, Band of Brothers moment, the intrepid Applebee's employees, one by one, agree to re-open everything, warm up the deep-frier, and by God provide these weary travelers with the chicken fingers and sizzling fajita-platters they deserve.
It's a stirring, heartwarming moment... or it would be, were it not for the despair-inducing retardation it represents. Because I guarantee you, if there is a single Applebee's in this country that is NOT five minutes or less away from an open-all-night Perkins, then the locals, well-aware of the precarious state of their existence, have stocked their larders with frozen french fries, bags of French onion soup, and bread formed into the shape of bowls to prepare for just such an occasion. They are hardy folk, and do not need to rely on some magical, Santa-possessed Applebee's crew for their needs, because as they know all too well, playing those odds leads to starvation and cannibalism.
I've never worked in a chain restaurant, but I've worked enough retail and fast food in my life to know that the shit you do at the end of the night carries with it the kind of finality, the fundamentally irrevocable nature, of jumping off a bridge. There is no turning back once the register has been balanced. There is no do-over once the trash bins have been emptied. Everyone knows it, and any assistant manager who tried to talk the rest of the crew into heading back into the Alamo would find himself throat-deep in a dumpster full of discarded jalapeno poppers. It is the way of things.
Applebee's would like you to think that The Way Of Things doesn't apply ot them. That they're different. That they care. That they go above and beyond the call of duty just to simplify your already too-easy, pampered life. That they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for your dining pleasure. They are lying sacks of popcorn-shrimp-laced shit, and, like Icarus, should be punished for their hubris by crashing and burning. Or at least shutting the FUCK up and getting me my burger.