My nice, quiet dinner table conversation this weekend was shattered by a war whoop, followed by a human train of wait staff snaking their way through the restaurant, clapping and singing their particular version of "Happy Birthday" to a table full of revelers and trying to get the entire building to sing along.
As a room full of bright-vested people tried in vain to feign interest in an impromptu get-together for a person they'd never met before, I tried to block out the clamor and just go back to eating. I uttered a silent prayer the brownie-bearing ringleader wouldn't spot my disdain for forced enthusiasm, and single me out.
There! Him! He is the one who does not clap along with us! Attack him! Punish him! Beset him from all sides, and force a festive had 'pon his head!
I detest it when waitresses try and press gang me into service to sing "Happy Birthday" to a total stranger while my food gets cold. While your cup of soda stays empty, and your queso remains God-knows-where in the kitchen, your waiter sings and dances around a sombrero for the amusement of someone who's not even sitting in his section.
If I wanted to go to a birthday party for someone I don't know, I'd get a job at Chuck E. Cheese. I don't want to be pressured into singing for a total stranger. What if that guy is planning on celebrating his birthday by getting drunk, robbing a gas station, and then blowing up an abortion clinic later? I don't want to encourage him.
And maybe it's not that good of a deal for him either. Let's face it, if you're spending your birthday in a chain restaurant eating something called "Happy Day Nachos" and drinking a "Sunrise-A-Rita", simply having some teenage strangers singing to you in hopes you'll leave a big tip is not going to turn your life around.
Why don't they just pass around a hat quietly and take donations, and instead of leaving a tip for the hypersexed sorority waitstaff, we can all throw in a buck and the birthday boy eats for free? If he's hitting a milestone birthday, I'd throw in a few bucks to help him drink away the pain of time.
Or better yet, why don't they just give him the use of one of the waiters/waitresses for an evening? That way, everybody's happy and I can get my Cheez Fries delivered before the rest of my meal arrives.