My brother’s Kansas Picture Bride and I arranged for a late birthday celebration for the two of us. Kansas and I use any excuse to get our families together when our schedules calm down, which is rare, seeing as Kansas is in nursing school, having a rip roaring time with studies that include studying cat cadavers. She’s a farm girl, so she’s not squeamish and she tells it like it is no matter what we’re eating.
Since we tend to discuss things like cat cadavers with Kansas, no point going for a highbrow establishment for our birthday dinner. We’re usually laughing so hard that our stomachs hurt, so why waste money on haute cuisine? If I even mentioned haute cuisine, Kansas would give me the Heimlich, thinking I had something caught in my throat. Kansas has taught me many things since she moved to our moldy shores, such as the wonder and necessity of Velveeta. Kansas also cured my brother the Agitator* of Vegetarianism. They hang you for less in her home state.
So we chose the Olive Garden. In Lynnwood. I wouldn’t recommend taking a person with any hint of dementia to the Olive Garden in Lynnwood. They would be disoriented, because they could be anywhere. They might think they were in New Jersey, or Ohio, or Indiana.
If the economy’s tanked, there was no sign of it at the Olive Garden on a Saturday night. They don’t take reservations, but the host on the phone had said they didn’t get busy until 6:00, so we figured 5:15 was early enough to beat the rush. 5:15 for me of course meant 5:00, at which time the Little Monster and I arrived to find people spilling out the door to stand in line for fifteen dollar spaghetti. (I continue to expect bland places, replicated like guppies by the hundreds in bland neighborhoods across our country, to have bland prices.) Our wait time was projected to be 20 minutes. Although the Little Monster had groused a bit that his Momster was getting us there so gosh darned early—again—he was thrilled to hold the flying saucer that would vibrate and light up when it was our turn. The flying saucer made no sense, since the host also yelled out our name when it was our turn, but it kept LM happy, so what the heck.
Kansas and the Agitator arrived early and helped us pass the time, so we were warmed up for good conversation by the time we were guided to our table. We were so merry, laughing and talking, that we could have been filmed for an Olive Garden commercial. Except we’re not blonde and thin. But, gosh, free bread sticks are such a gas! Everyone else at the Olive Garden was ecstatic about their free bread sticks, too, so it was pretty loud in there.
Of course 5:15 for the Man I Married, who was meeting us there, meant 5:30. When I phoned him to ask where he was, he said I told him 5:30.
I asked if I should order for him. Sure, he said. Order anything. He didn’t care.
Really? Hm. I got that feeling. You know the one. The Bad Marital Scene About to Happen Because I Know I Am Going to F&ck This Up Even Though He Said ‘Anything’ Feeling (otherwise known as the BMSAHBIKIAGFTUETHSAF). I called him back. “Can you give me a general category? Chicken? Pasta?”
“No pasta,” he said.
“We’re at a PASTA RESTAURANT and you just said order anything. Anything at a pasta restaurant generally involves pasta.”
“No noodles. Anything else, though. And you did say 5:30gottagobye.”
I ordered him ribs, which he approved of when he arrived. Marital harmony saved by listening to the BMSAHBIKIAGFTUETHSAF.
I was a vegetarian for many more years than the Agitator, even, but something about sitting with Kansas brought out the snarling carnivores in us. We both ordered steak. Atop a bed of pasta.
Kansas and I were the only ones at the table drinking wine, so of course, being sisters now, our conversation got intimate. In fact, we started discussing intimates, or lack of wearing intimates. The Little Monster was across the big table, focused on a computer game that the Agitator had wisely brought along for his amusement, but he perked up. “WHAT DID YOU SAY? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?” he yelled, knowing as all kids do the instant the conversation turns to something interesting amidst all of the boring adult droning.
“Nothing,” I said. I said to the Agitator, thinking the Little Monster wouldn’t know the term, “We’re just discussing Going Commando.”
“NOT WEARING UNDERWEAR?” the Little Monster shouted.
“How did you know about Going Commando? Who taught you that?” I snapped.
“I don’t know. We just say Going Commando.”
“Saying Going Commando is NOT appropriate,” I said. “Only adults can say Going Commando. Only at the Olive Garden in Lynnwood. Never for kids to say at school.”
The Agitator sat between us during this exchange, looking back and forth at us like a spectator at a tennis match. At its close, he said to me, “I have no idea what you all were just saying. I just kept hearing something about garbanzo beans?”
Say it out loud:
Going Commando. Garbanzo Beans.
I get it. At least the garbanzo part.
We all laughed so hard we about pumped our own stomachs (which would have helped with my caloric intake count), and then we moved on to discussing farts. When the Little Monster was out of earshot, of course.