Monday, December 20, 2004

Moldavian Bonsai Burgers

Last week we had another I can't think of another way to prepare frozen chicken breasts night so we went to Red Robin.

Red Robin restaurant is a good choice for us. It's extremely family friendly and has the sort of middle of the road menu that caters to finicky palates like my wife and kids'. Plus there's usually a person in a bird costume prancing around shaking hands with all the seven-year-olds as if it were running for second grade class president.

When we got to Red Robin it was obvious everyone in our town was having the same frozen chicken breast dilemma. When we got a table (a thankfully brief ten minute wait) there happened to be a little butt parked in every highchair the restaurant owned. While our hostess looked for a shortyseat I sat Julia in front of me on the table. She seemed content to look around at the hustle and bustle of a busy restaurant. There were also quite a few birthdays being celebrated that evening so that gave my daughter an excuse to clap along with the "birthdayfied" renditions of popular songs sung by the wait staff. My favorite of all time:

This is your birthday song.
It's not very long.

Next to us was a man in a Packer's sweatshirt who looked like Lenoid Brezhnev with Boris Yeltsin's hair. He looked very Russian. It was a noisy restaurant but I could swear he had the accent. When I looked at his watch I couldn't read the manufacturer stamped on the face and I'm convinced that's because the characters were Cyrillic. His clothing all looked new. From his neck to his feet everything looked fresh from the mall (Amerdikan blewjehns!).

At one point in the evening Allie crawled past the Russian and her foot touched his thigh. I apologized and he just looked at me and smiled broadly and nodded as if he were saying, "If we were in Mother Russia you'd be celebrating Christmas in a Siberian re-education camp." I know this sort of thing no longer goes on in Russia, but this guy looked like he could make it happen regardless.

Yeltsin Hair never thanked the wait staff the entire time we sat next to him. I noticed the restaurant manager kept checking on him to make sure everything was okay. At one point when the manager asked him if his meal was any good Yeltsin Hair said, "It's everything I ordered."

Whoa. That restaurant manager has no idea whether or not Yeltsin Hair enjoyed his food. Yeltsin Hair deflected the manager's probing with just enough information to send the manager a clear message that he was dismissed. If that wasn't the perfect KGB answer I don't know what would be.

We were sitting next to a spy.

Eating a meal alone at a Red Robin just cemented the whole spy scenario in my head. What perfect cover. No self-respecting international agent would be seen eating a Bonsai Burger with a group of waiters walking around singing, "I don't know but I've been told. . . Someone here is getting' old!" Sure, Agent Yeltsin Hair may have been retired from the spy game. I'm guessing he still, more than likely, had something hidden in his new American jeans that would force me to give up classified information whether I had any or not.

Uh. Strike that last line.

When Agent Yeltsin Hair's waitress came by with the check he asked if he needed to give the money to her or pay up front. AHA! It was his contact line. None of this, The weather in Moldavia is particularly beautiful this time of year type bullshit. He was asking the waitress if she would be willing to accept the self-destruct codes or should he pass them on to another agent handing out balloons at the entrance (Allie got a pink one, by the way). The young waitress, just out of the spy academy, accepted the codes.

There was no way for me to tell if Agent Yeltsin Hair was working for the good guys. Needless to say, I didn't sleep well that evening.

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