Other than drinking on the clock, I like one thing about my restaurant.
We don't sing for your birthday.
We don't collectively dress up in sombreros and clap along to a meticulously choreographed "Happy Birthday" brouhaha. We don't supply you with fruity shots on the house. We don't fall over ourselves to celebrate your ability to achieve what every single creature on the planet has successfully done before you.
I'm not your family member. I'm not your friend. If your loved ones need to make you feel special on your birthday by leaving it in the hands of a complete stranger at a restaurant, then your loved ones suck.
I was first introduced to Birthday Entitlement Fever way back in the sticks of Missouri at a part-time job in college. A particularly rowdy group of white trash had put me through the ringer during their dining ritual, which included open-mouthed consumption and asking other tables if they could "borrow" some dinner rolls.
Finally, a rather tubby, drunken creature folded her arms, belched, and said with great entitlement, "It's my BIRTHDAY. What do you do for BIRTHDAYS?"
"Well," I replied, "My parents usually take me out to a fancy restaurant and then my high school friends get me drunk. What do YOU do for birthdays?"
(Minutes later, the Birthday Girl found out that firing your server after you complain is one thing a restaurant will do for your birthday.)
All of this came flooding back to me recently when four single, sassy Latina divas left no pinata or polyester dress unused to announce that Chica was celebrating a case of Birthday Entitlement Fever.
"ISSS HER BIRRRRRTHDAY!" LaAmiga screamed as she came stumbling in the restaurant with balloons, streamers, and a grocery store cake with a sticker on top that said "50% off." I looked at the one open booth in the restaurant (in my section) and said "Oh shit."
LaAmiga took this to mean that I was in on the fun. "YEEEEAH...WE GUNNA GET CRRRRRRRRRRAZY!"
Normally the birthday dinner protocol is as follows. Friend #1 will leave the table under the guise of a potty break or important phone call. He or she will discreetly track down the server and say "It's his/her birthday. Do you mind bringing out a dessert with a candle?" When that's the case, I'm happy to oblige. No one's asking for something on the house. I'm not expected to sing. Everyone's polite and appreciative.
On the contrary, LaAmiga told the tables to her left and right -- as well as the hostess, both bartenders, every server on the clock, and our manager -- that it was Chica's birthday.
I, of course, was reminded of this every time I stopped by the festivities, which looked less like a restaurant booth and more like any number of lawns in Echo Park.
"WE NEED MORE NA-KINS," LaAmiga would bellow. "AND DON' FORRRGET...ISSSS HER BIRRRRRTHDAY!!!!!"
After dinner was served and once the plates were cleared, LaAmiga folded her arms, smiled, and said, "ISSSS HER BIRRRRRTHDAY!!!! WHAT DO JEW DO FOR BIRRRRRTHDAYS!?!"
"Well..." I began.
"GET ALL THE SERRRRVERRRS TO COME SING TO HER, JA JA!"
"Sorry," I replied. "We don't do that here."
"But it's her BIRRRRRRTHDAY!!!" LaAmiga countered.
Yes. And if she keeps eating that store-bought cake with her bare hands it will likely be her last.
"Sorry," I said. "I'm happy to bring out a chocolate flan with something resembling a candle. Maybe I'll even smile."
"CAN WE TAL' TO A MANAGERRRRR?? BE-COOSE DAS CRRRRRAZY THAT JEW DON'T SING FOR A BIRRRRRTHDAY!!"
I fetched the manager, whom I've nicknamed Eeyore for his disposition and indifference to customer service (love you, Eeyore). He stood there, listened to the girls request some Birthday Entitlement Fever, shrugged, and walked off.
"Do whatever you want," he said to me.
Minutes later I appeared at the table with a birthday flan, with TWO candles, smiled, and said, "Happy Birthday!"
"WE DON' EVEN WAN DIS," LaAmiga said, pushing the dessert aside. "WE'LL JOOS TAKE THE CHECK."
They paid in cash and left no tip, a clear repercussion for my refusal to participate in Birthday Entitlement Fever.
They also left behind 1/4 of their disgusting discount cake, which I immediately threw away. To my supreme satisfaction, LaAmiga reappeared almost an hour later and demanded the remainder of the cake.
"Sorry," I said. "I threw it away literally just a second ago. We're not allowed to keep leftover food for more than an hour after a customer has left."
LaAmiga and her fat ass stormed out after swearing at me in Spanish, something about a bitch, a stick, and never returning.
I retreated to the back and devoured the untouched birthday flan I'd hidden in the restaurant's walk-in freezer. Happy Birthday, Chica.