Almost Famous

I tend to be a creature of habit, and nowhere is that more evident than in my lunch routine. I gave up decades ago on trying to pack a lunch to work because the plain truth is that a) I’m lazy, b) that would require me to cook and/or grocery shop, and c) dammit, I just like going out for lunch and yes I know how much money I’m wasting.

But because I don’t want to have to think about where to go each day, I tend to frequent the same three to four restaurants each week. One in particular is right across from my office, so I eat there at least once, maybe twice a week.

Today, after grabbing a table and heading over to fill up my soda, I noticed the manager walking toward me in a deliberate fashion. I quickly shifted my cup from Coke to Diet Coke because I didn’t need him up in my business.

“Hi there!”

“Oh, hi!”

“I wanted to come talk to you because…”

And this is where about twenty things ran through my head at once.

- Because I saw you mixing Coke and Diet Coke and we don’t allow that here…
– Because someone just ran off with your purse and I thought you should know…
– Because I’ve been trying to build up the courage to ask you out…

But what he said was, “…because we’re kicking off a promotion to name some of our menu items after customers who come here often. And I know you’re somewhat of a regular here, so I wanted to see if you would be interested in participating. My name is Bill, by the way.”

Strained smile, eyes looking around, I said, “Jenny.”

“So for example, on the menu, we might have an item called ‘The Jenny’ and that would be whatever your favorite meal is here. It’s a way to recognize some of our best customers.”

Even tighter smile, eyes darting from side to side, I said, “Uh… so you want to put my name on your menu…”

“Just your first name.”

Mouth pulled back, baring teeth, eyebrows raised, eyes squinting, I said, “Uh… can I get back to you on that?”

“Oh sure, but I need to submit all the candidates by Monday. I’m here every day, and I know you’ll probably be in again, so just let me know! Thanks!”

Shoulders slightly releasing, teeth unclenching, I said, “Yeah, uh, thanks for considering me…”

When I went back to the office and told my co-workers what had just happened, they were all shocked and disappointed that I didn’t jump at the opportunity. This was my one chance at fame, they said. Now I’ll be telling people years from now about how I almost had a cool sandwich named after me.

But that’s just it. I don’t get a cool sandwich at this place. I don’t mix it up and create something no one ever thought of eating. Every week I get the exact same thing: chicken, rice and salad. And that’s exactly the way it’s listed on the menu – chicken, rice and salad. I don’t customize it, no additions or substitutions. No extra this or light on that.

I tried to explain this to my co-workers, but they didn’t get it. They couldn’t possibly get it because they don’t have the keen gift of foresight that I was born with. Because the idea of being in line behind some stranger next week when he orders “The Jenny” is absolutely horrifying to me. I can see it all playing out:

So what comes with The Jenny?

It’s chicken, rice and salad.

Chicken, rice and salad? So what’s the difference between that and the chicken platter?

Same thing.

Then why is it called The Jenny?

Dunno. Some dumb marketing scheme, I guess.

Wow. The Jenny sucks.

And then it would just escalate from there.

Don’t get The Jenny, it’s the worst.

The Jenny gave me food poisoning. Now every time someone mentions The Jenny, I vomit.

I hate The Jenny.

The Jenny totally isn’t worth the money.

That’s all they give you with The Jenny?

I tried The Jenny once. Never again.

What’s so great about The Jenny? They should just call it The Loser.

It did cross my mind to agree to be a part of the promotion, but to invent a whole new persona. Remarkably, for as often as I go there, they never remember what I order, so I could create some fabulous menu item that people would be proud to order. How do they know? Maybe Jenny is a vegetarian and substitutes eggplant for chicken in her sandwich. Who doesn’t love baba ghanoush? Or maybe Jenny is really exotic and eats lamb skewers with falafel and extra spicy sauce.

But then, what if I did such a good job at creating the ultimate lunch item that they chose it to be featured on the menu, and when I went back there, they kept trying to make me eat the fake The Jenny when all I really wanted was the old The Jenny?

“Hey, Jenny! So I guess it’ll be The Jenny for you today?”

“Mmmm… no, this time I think I’ll try the chicken, rice and salad.”

“Oh, so you mean you want The Kevin?”

17 Responses to “Almost Famous”

  1. claire Says:

    Thanks for a much needed laugh.
    Being recognized when you’d just as soon be anonymous has been on my mind lately, and I always appreciate your take on such things.
    You made the right choice. I mean, how many times would you want to look around for the person saying your name when they’re only ordering your lunch? It’d make your name abstract after a while or would force you to interact with strangers.

  2. eric Says:

    how about asking them to name a drink after you? the “mixed coke and diet-coke”? the jenny is quite refreshing.

  3. vahid Says:

    One time I got sick from The Jenny, when she gave me one more whiskey than I could handle, but in all fairness I think The Jenny was in pretty rough shape the next morning too.

  4. jenny Says:

    claire: it’s funny, because my friends and i worked really hard to become “regulars” at a local bar and restaurant, but at lunchtime, i crave anonymity.
    eric: now that’s not a bad idea. The Jenny is both refreshing *and* sweet! :)
    vahid: sometimes The Jenny is a bad influence…

  5. Avitable Says:

    You bring up some important pitfalls for anyone who may have a menu item named after them.
    Then again, if you hear anyone complain about The Jenny, you can just tell them that the customer service number for complaints is 867-5309.

  6. Ren Says:

    Hey, as long as they would give you a (decent) discount when you order it, it would all be worth it!

  7. Dave2 Says:

    When I first went vegetarian, veggie burgers were not in the mainstream, so I had to get creative when eating out with friends. At the local burger joint, I’d have a cheeseburger, no meat, extra lettuce and tomato. Eventually, this became a “Dave Burger,” even though there was no burger to be found on it.

  8. Seamus Says:

    Just go with your stage name and call it the Gina.

  9. shari Says:

    See, my middle initial is “F”, which, when paired with “Shari” often gets condensed on junkmail and applications into “Sharif”… stay with me here… which would be the perfect name for the falafel/baba ghanoush special you were talking about, so I hereby give you permission to have them name The Fake Jenny after ME. Or my misnomer, whatever.
    As for The Jenny, well, I think if it came with macaroni and chopsticks, it’d be perfect.

  10. Jessica Says:

    Jenny, if you peruse your comment archive you might notice my pattern of proposing to you at least once (sometimes twice) a year.
    This post has unexpectedly forced my hand quite early in 2009:
    Jenny….will you marry me [and cater our wedding with delightful fare named after thee]?

  11. Fiorello La Guardia Says:

    I’m really impressed with a woman who can give up her 15 minutes of fame. What strength of character!

  12. jenny Says:

    avitable: BRILLIANT! maybe it’s not too late…
    ren: yeah… there was no mention of a discount. ‘sup with that?
    dave2: the dave burger sounds kind of like a cheese sammich…
    seamus: oh yeah – i forgot i had an alias!
    shari: Shari F. don’t like it… ROCK THE CASBAH, ROCK THE CASBAH.
    jess: you know i love you babe, but like beyonce always says, if you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it. ;)
    fiorello: but i figure if i blow my 15 minutes on this, then i might miss my REAL 15 minutes of fame.

  13. hap Says:

    As a lonely young single man who clearly had no one to keep him neatly dressed and outfitted, I once purchased glasses at a discount eyewear chain, “America’s Best Glasses and Contacts.” It wasn’t until several years later, when your roommate / my eventual wife took me to buy another pair that we discovered that these were, Costanza-like, women’s glasses, evidenced by the name in the bows: Jenny. I trust you with my vision and my countenance; and now, my sustenance as well.

  14. Mel Says:

    I can’t believe you didn’t do this? I want to name a sandwich! I ate there 4 times last week and got the same thing— every time. What am I chopped liver? “The Melszo” is delicious, it’s a taste sensation.. complex and yet so simple. Everyone stops to comment when they see me eating my office.

  15. churlita Says:

    That whole exchange would have made me VERY uncomfortable.

  16. Cheryl Says:

    I hate being recognized as a regular. If the Mexican place I visit once a week starts recognizing me, that means they’ve also noticed that I refill my Coke/Diet Coke cup (I’m a fan of The Jenny: The Beverage) up to two times, and use their bathroom up to five times, and hang out at their tables writing on my laptop for way too long. In other words, I’m not sure they’d like The Cheryl.

  17. delmer Says:

    I used to like to eat breakfast out so I could get some reading and relaxing in before work. I was in often enough that the other regulars started talking to me and inviting me to visit with them at their table — so now, most days I don’t read much.
    I also don’t have to place an order as the staff knows what I want and starts getting it ready when I hit the door: an Egg McMuffin, Fruit & Yogurt Parfait and Diet Coke (never mixed).

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