Is there a name for that phobia?
I fear hibachi-style restaurants.
A few years ago, at a fake Benihana in the southern United States, the chef, who was showing off his mad skills with a spatula and shrimp, forever killed my love of sitting in front of a hot flaming grill while eating.
My work pals lied that it was my birthday, laughing as if they were the first group to ever pull this prank. So, I had to sit there sporting a paper idiot-hat while they sang Happy Birthday and toasted me. Happy, happy, joy, joy.
And, as I was the faux birthday boy, the chef had the genius idea to toss me a shrimp to catch in my mouth. Unfortunately, I had missed the memo about it.
When I noticed the grilled shrimp coming at me, I opened my mouth like a SeaWorld dolphin but couldn’t maneuver in time to avoid it hitting me in smack in the eye, which led to everyone laughing their asses off. Oh, funny man, make us laugh, please. Let’s see that again. I didn’t laugh very much when I spent 10 minutes washing the grease out of my eye. Fun times don’t come better than that.
That’s why I hate these ##$*@ places. They bring back bad memories of the “shrimp to the eye” night.
So, last week, when the gang told me the work dinner was at Benihana, I just couldn’t wait to go. Sarcasm alert, if you didn’t get it.
With Benihana being the restaurant choice for the night, someone’s memory flashed on the “shrimp incident.” Then the jokes started rolling my way around noon and continued through dinner. At one point, a pair of safety goggles showed up to protect my eyes from another mad shrimp. Thank you for your thoughtfulness, guys. I’m so lucky.
Retire before you suck at what you do
At the restaurant, we got the worst teppanyaki chef ever, an ancient bench warmer they called into action when no one proficient at their job could be found. The crusty geezer was counting down the days to the cashing-in of his Benihana 401K and “free fried rice for life” coupon.
This is how much he sucked: He couldn’t flip a shrimp tail into his hat, which is a basic skill they teach you on day one of teppanyaki-chef school. He missed six in a row and gave up. Six? How do you miss six? I could make that shot in six tries. How hard can it be? Evidently, harder than it looks, as was the behind-the-back shot that hit the floor. You’re 0 for 7, loser.
Worst of all, he completely screwed the pooch on my favorite part of the show, the flaming-onion volcano. How do you mess that up? There are only three ingredients: onion, flammable liquid, and a lighter. A six-year-old could torch that baby. Somehow his onion didn’t ignite, much like his passion for the job.
Free Drinks on the company
It’s amazing how much some people drink at company functions. It feels like it’s the people who have been in the same position for 30 years and have never moved up. Is it the chicken or the egg? You got drunk at company functions and didn’t get promoted, or you got drunk at company functions because you didn’t get promoted?
One such person, who exceeded his limit, slurred that he was cutting out carbs to reduce calories. When I told him alcohol has more calories per gram than carbs, he mumbled something about not giving up the one thing he enjoyed and turned his back to me. I admit that eating meat and drinking beer sounded like a good strategy regardless of his poor knowledge of caloric intake.
This same guy turned to me later, after he’d forgiven me for my rude remark, and shared this depressing fact: he felt really bad because he’s been attending a lot of funerals lately. Five people he’d known had died in last two months.
You know what I was thinking: I need to get away from this guy right now. I don’t want to be number six. I made sure I didn’t rub up against him. Back luck rising. I started to worry that the chef might lose control of a knife at any moment and I’d look down to see it stuck in my chest. That would be . . . ironic? I survive 47 years of CF and meet my maker at a teppanyaki grill where I’m killed by a guy who can’t make a flaming volcano? I know what my British friends would say: F#*king hell.
When someone finally drove the carb counter home, I yelled out “seat-belts,” and got a funny look back like I was the drunk one. I just didn’t want the driver to be number six.
I was so happy when I left and survived the night. I will do my best to avoid these places in the future. I’ll use the “I’m sick” excuse. No one at work will argue with that one.