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I'm the round one center right

I recently joined some old friends for dinner. We set out for Olive Garden, but when Brian discovered the wait at Olive Garden would be 25 minutes, he insisted we head to P.F. Chang's, a restaurant I'd never been to before. It took us 10 minutes to get there. Fortunately, their wait was only 15 minutes. Thanks, Brian!

I'd never eaten at a P.F. Chang's before. I doubt I will again. Not that there was anything wrong with the food, but the service left something — almost everything — to be desired.

The woman who led us to our table handed us menus, introduced herself, and said she'd be our waitress. Excusing herself, she said she'd return shortly to take our drink order. She wasn't gone sixty seconds before another fellow came along, introduced himself, and said he'd be our waiter. Whatever.

The dude made some small talk with James, who is always desperate for more attention, and then took our drink orders. James ordered a Diet Coke with lemon, Brian ordered unsweetened tea with lemon and sweeteners on the side (because Brian), Mike ordered sweet tea with lemon, and I said I'd have what Mike was having. Pay attention; there will be a quiz later.

James ordered an appetizer of pork dumplings. The waiter apologized that they were out of pork (!) so James accepted a substitution of vegetable dumplings. Finally the dude leaves to get our drinks and appetizer while we continue perusing the entree menu. (I'm amazed you're still reading this, but hang in there.)

The waiter returns and apologizes again. It seems that there was some confusion and he is not our waiter, but he promises us that he has placed our appetizer and drink orders. He leaves, and moments later the original woman arrives with our drinks. No lemons or sweeteners. As she hands them out, she apologizes and tells us that there has been some confusion, and she will indeed, truly be our waitress. She then apologizes again, explaining that the restaurant is out of pork. Would we like vegetable dumplings instead? Sure, whatever. We place our entree orders. And could we get lemons for our drinks and sweeteners, please?

So we sit and wait for lemons, sugar, and vegetable rolls. A manager drops by our table. He apologizes for the confusion, then he apologizes because the restaurant is out of pork. Would we like some vegetable dumplings instead? Eyes roll. Brian, who I've seen chew out hotel managers and customer service representatives for lesser infractions, again politely asks for sweeteners for his tea. Proving why he's the man in charge, the manager materializes some sugar packages before leaving. I chastise Brian. "You just missed your last, best chance to get lemons."

Soon, the waitress returns with Mike's soup. She also proves me wrong by producing lemons. It's anybody's guess what happened to our appetizer. When asked whatever happened to our dumplings, she says, "I'll check," which is waiter-speak for "what dumplings?" At this point, I figured the wait staff was performing a vaudeville routine for us.

Eventually, we are served our entrees. No sign of dumplings. They're looking for them. "They disappeared from the window," our waitress explains cryptically. I decide that our dumplings are smarter than we are, and have probably headed back over to Olive Garden. The waitress promises that we will not be charged for the food we never got. Very polite of her.

It isn't until we've all gotten down to the business of eating that our waitress brings us a plate of vegetable dumplings. "No charge," she promises. Mike is brave enough to take a bite and declares them "okay." Hooray?

In the end, I left a $4 tip on a $17.92 bill, because I felt sorry for anyone who has to work in such a madhouse. I should probably thank them. In addition to making a meal out with my friends a very memorable affair, they also convinced me never to eat at another P.F. Chang's. Brian, next time we'll just wait for that table at Olive Garden.

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To be continued...


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