On the road trip we had the usual dilemma of what exactly is a vegetarian supposed to eat on the highways and byways of the US of A?
It's not easy, and it really comes to something when you are profoundly grateful for a McDonald's, even if you are totally sick of fillet of fish and they inexplicably have chosen to cover all of the salads in chicken. Because chicken is now a vegetable? I don't understand why they can't have one single solitary meatless salad, but there we are. I expect it's that lack of vision that's holding me back from running a multi-million food conglomerate.
As a change of pace on the return run we stopped off at a Johnny Rockets. They are a faux-fifties chain of burger joints, but despite the slightly punk name they favour the anodyne version of the fifties which fortunately includes 100% soy burgers. This particular burger joint was located on the edge strip mall on a highway in the middle of nowhere, and frankly it could have done with a lick of paint.
All of the waitresses wear khaki trousers, hefty lace-up boots, white shirts with bow-ties, a full apron and one of those little hats. This quite suited our waitress, Shannon; she seemed nice, looked about 12 years old and had an adorable face full of freckles.
As part of her minimum wage job Shannon was required to do the following things:
- Show us the two foot from the door to our booth
- Prominently place two five-cent coins on our table for our own personal miniature juke box (which I don't believe actually was wired up to the sound system).
- When serving our drinks she had to pick up the enormous straw dispenser that was sitting on our table, open it for us and brandish the straws in our face.
- When our food came she had to provide us with individual paper dishes for the ketchup, the dishes said "Hope You're Smilin' too!". Shannon was politely stone-faced for the whole time we were there.
- She then had to draw a smiley face in the paper dishes with the ketchup.
The worst was yet to come.
Through out the meal fifties and sixties music was playing fairly unobtrusively in the background, but when "Love Shack" came on I barely had time to register that it was totally anachronistic (although otherwise utterly fabulous) eighties pastiche of sixties music before the volume was abruptly increased. At first I thought maybe it was the chef's favourite song or something, but then I noticed the other patrons clapping and staring at a space by the counter.
I turned to see poor Shannon and another waitress doing the most lacklustre dance routine ever. They were clearly mortified, and neither of them could manage even a fake smile. I couldn't watch it fully, because I was blushing so furiously on their behalf. On the other hand I felt obligated to occasionally turn and look, because I thought it might be even worse for them to have to dance and be ignored.
Shannon got quite a large tip from us, but I doubt it will pay for the crushing of her soul.