Apparently having good company for your birthday is not enough when you go out to eat. In many restaurants the personnel sings a song for the celebrant. And everyone in the restaurant will know about it. The waiters meet near the kitchen and start clapping as they walk to the birthday person’s table. Often they sing and clap their very own house-birthday song:
Happy, happyhappyhappyhappy Birthday, Yeah! Applebee’s (or whatever chain you’re in) wishes you the best, bestbestbest Birthday, Yeah! With a lot, alotalotalot of Birthday Cheer, Yeah! You are Great, greatgreatgreatgreat and we’re so Happy, happyhappyhappy that you are here, Yeah!
Or something like that, and then the birthday person gets a small dessert, not of his own choosing.
This type of entertainment is a serious business. No, really. The other day my husband and I went with some friends to T.G.I. (Thank God It’s) Friday’s, a new restaurant in town. Our friends had acquired tickets for a rehearsal opening, where the personnel, after a lot of dry-running, can practice on real customers before they officially open for business.
It was sooooooo much fun! The waiters all wore the same little suits, which is pretty normal here. But in addition they all wore a different hat. One waiter wore a top hat covered in badges, another had a cap with felt moose antlers, and yet another wore an entire golf course, complete with little flags on sticks.
The head waiter was a T.G.I. Friday’s trainer who goes around the country and the world to train the restaurant personnel. He had a rather fascist gleam in his eyes. Quite the fanatic. His hat was a kind of Special Forces cap covered in self-esteem badges. He had chosen my husband to be the pretend birthday boy, so that the personnel could practice that, too. He didn’t want to be the birthday boy, but the party fascist wouldn’t take no for an answer.
My husband had to wear a birthday hat, and he got a special birthday placemat, and the fascist wanted to tie balloons to his wrists, but then he got really angry, so they were tied to his chair instead. It took forever for the personnel to come and sing, but when my husband threatened to untie the balloons, there they suddenly were. His dessert was a tiny slice of cake with a small scoop of ice on top. But it’s the thought that counts, right?
In the meantime yet another restaurant has opened up. There, a kind of siren goes off every ten minutes, the cue for the waiters and waitresses to stop what they’re doing and to begin dancing wildly to really loud music, right there among the tables. That’s a good one too. If you’re drunk, you can join in.
I don’t personally know anybody who wants waiters to sing to them when it’s their birthday, and nobody I know goes to those restaurants because of the little dances the staff do or to be amused by the hats, at least nobody over five. But there must be people out there who love this, otherwise it wouldn’t be done. Would it? Hmmm, now there’s a scary chicken/egg thought…
(From a letter in October, 1997)