Thursday, March 02, 2006

Food Poisoning


This post contains some nastiness. If you are easily grossed out, don't read this. You have been warned.

-Food Poisoning-

The Woman's parents are taking us out for dinner. We're celebrating my getting a new job. Woo-hoo!

We decide to go to a "junk-on-the-walls" Mexican restaurant chain. When I was in college, my roommates and I would go to one of their franchises near campus. I have a feeling that this trip will be a bit more... reserved.

I always over-eat when I go Mexican. Two good reasons... first, I love the taste of Mexican food. Second, Mexican food tastes like crap when it's nuked. No sense wasting food.

In preparation, I eat a large breakfast and skip lunch. People think that it's best to not eat all day if you're planning on chowing down at night. WRONG! You must eat a large meal early in the day to stretch out your stomach. Otherwise it shrinks, and you won't be able to shovel in as much when the dinner bell rings. Keep that in mind next time you're heading to an all-you-can-eat buffet and you want to get your money's worth.

Walking into the place, my olfactory sense goes haywire. There's nothing better than the smell of Mexican food when you're starving. Fajitas sizzling, enchiladas bubbling, salsa... salsa-ing? Yum!

Sitting down, I take stock of the area in which we're seated. There is a party of ten right next to us. Two sets of parents and a small horde of children. Most of the kids are behaving, except for the two littlest ones running circles around the rest of the party. Ugh.

There are a few tables near us that need refills and some pre-bussing. Not too bad, but it isn't how I'd want my section to look, especially on a Sunday afternoon at 4:30.

"It's funny. I can't help looking around and judging the server's section. Am I going to be doing this the rest of my life?" I ask The Woman.

"I still do it, too. Is it just me, or is the overall quality of servers dropping? I would never leave my section like this." She looks around, shrugs, and picks up her menu.

We discuss the other things we see wrong in the restaurant for a few minutes before deciding that either the quality of service is dropping or we're too harsh because we know what everything is supposed to look like.

The busboy drops off our chips and salsa. We dig in. I realize that we don't have water after I've already noshed several chips. Damn. I'm thirsty. On the verge of being uncomfortable.

Right on cue, our server pops up.

"Hi, welcome to ____! My name is waitress and I'll be taking care of you tonight. Would you like to start off with one of our ridiculously overpriced, watered-down margaritas? Our specials tonight are...." I actually tuned her out after I hear "my name is" because I've heard, and said, it all a thousand times. I make up the rest as she goes along.

It sounds like she's reading from a script. I don't know whether to curse the corporate office that makes her do this twenty times a day or to curse her for not inserting some of her own personality into her spiel. Either way, I'm dying over here. I decide to cut her off.

"Water!" I'm almost crying. "Please, I'm begging."

"Oh. the busboy didn't bring any?" Obviously not. "OK." She scuttles off looking miffed that we failed to order any of the Super-Duper Berry Werry Margaritas. She returns five minutes later with our drinks. She takes our order and shuffles away.

I decide that she isn't a good waitress. She moves slowly, she isn't very friendly, and she doesn't smile a lot. Oh well.

I turn my attention back to The Woman and her parents. The discussion is lively and animated. Her father is a big-wig at a local construction business. His stories are usually pretty entertaining. Tonight is no exception.

He's just getting into a story when our food comes. Quickly. Way too quickly. It's only been about five minutes since we've put in our order.

I look at the woman. She doesn't seem too concerned. She should be. She and both her parents ordered a dinner that involved cooked chicken. It takes between 10 and 15 minutes to fully cook a chicken breast. I ordered a skirt steak and enchiladas combo. It takes at least 10 minutes to fully cook a steak, even one as thin as the hunk of meat sizzling on my festively-colored plate.

The fact that our food is out in five minutes means one of two things. Either they undercooked the chicken OR they pre-cooked the chicken. Neither option eases my mind.

I've seen Valerie send out pre-cooked chicken before. Usually, this is because a server accidentally hits a key twice when they're ringing in an order. Valerie hates to waste food, so she'll try to put the extra chicken out the door on another table's order. It works if the other table orders immediately after the 'mistake'. If not, those folks'll end up with some dry chicken.

If the chicken is undercooked, then there's a problem. Food poisoning. Yuck.

I nudge The Woman. "Is everything cooked all the way through?"

She pauses from chewing and takes a peak inside her chicken enchiladas.

"Looks like it. Why?"

"Didn't it seem like everything came out pretty quick?"

"Yeah, but I think it's ok." She puts her knife and fork back to work.

Shrugging it off, I turn my attention to my steak.


It's 3 am. The Woman has been vomiting since 11 pm. Every half hour. You can set your watch to it. I'm forcing her to chug water in between bouts. I'm not feeling so hot myself.

The puppy is yapping away like crazy. He must think this is some crazy new game that we've invented.

All of a sudden, I realize it's my turn. A cramp builds in the depths of my stomach. I can feel it growing, pulsating, swirling. I make a sprint towards the other bathroom. It reaches my sternum. I know that once it begins to travel up my esophagus, my gag reflex will take over and then...


I hate Mexican food. I can still see the corn from my rice...


10:30 AM- The Woman is exhausted. Luckily, I've gotten off lightly. I was only sick four or five times. She's feel wretched, and I can't blame her.

She's called into work for the first time ever. Actually, I called into work for her. She couldn't make it out of the bathroom.

I call up the Mexican place to let them know that they may have a contamination issue on their hands.

The manager answers. She listens to our tale of woe and expresses her sincerest apologies. She takes down our information.

"Sir, please know that I'll be sending you some gift certificates. To what address can I send them?"

I think for a minute. I know I'm sure as hell not eating there anymore. I call out to the Woman, who's still praying to the porcelain God in the bathroom.

"Honey, the restaurant wants to send us some gift certificates. What do you think?"


"I don't think we'll be needing those, thanks." Click.


I really did get off easy. The Woman had to go to the treatment center for an IV. They pumped 2 bags of saline into her before she began to look normal again. I just felt rotten and weak for three days.


Anonymous said...

I feel your pain. Same thing happened to me New Year's Even, 1999. Except it was a posh "California Chic" restaurant that served me some bad raw tuna. I've never felt that bad in my life.

Glad you survived! :)

Kathy said...

The only way to handle a situation like this and protect the public is to hold the restaurant responsible. Call the manager back and ask for the liability insurance companies info. Call them and have them pick up the tab for the medical treatment and missed work.

Glad you are feeling better.

CoffeeandCigs said...

I agree with Kathy. Gift certificates to a place that poisoned you isn't exactly compensation. They do have liability insurance for injury to their guests. Since there is medical evidence, I would take full advantage and get compensated for what she lost do to their negligence. If nothing else, they won't try to pull that shit again.

Dave said...

What about The Woman's folks? Did they get hit too? Class action suit! :o)

AWE said...

I would make the restaurant liable for that.

Sondra said...

Make them pay, Server, make them pay!

Beth said...

It's hard to prove that stuff, especially considering that E. coli poisoning takes 24-48 to incubate into an infection and make you physically sick. Little known fact but if she was throwing up five hours after the meal, most likely, you both had food poisoning well before you went out to eat. It was only after the meal that the bacteria had divided enough to cause physical symptoms so probably, you're blaming it on the wrong meal.

Kathy said...

Very true Beth, however, it does depend on the bacteria. And the individual. Campholobacter (I KNOW I am mispelling it) is much faster incubation. As is Salmonella in most cases. Do you know what the culprit bacterium was? (It has been WAY too long since studying this to remember specific details of the many bacterial causes and incubations periods.)

SupaflyServer said...

Pretty uncool Development for the both of you, but since I worked at (insert coroprate mexican place here) for all of 4 weeks before, I learned a great deal of whats involved in these kitchens as compared to what we are more normally associated with.

Firstly, the never grill chicken breats for dishes like you are accustomed too. Its all done in the morning, and chances are, she had one thats been "chilling" (no pun intended) in the walk in the last 3 days or so.

I personally avoid most (not all) Mexican places for this very reason. I have seen first hand how deplorable their kitchens operate. Not to say that the (insert corporate steakhouse chain) is without flaws, but I can at least say that I am not worried one of my guests will catch the Ebola virus from dining in my establishment.

Anonymous said...

First off, who eats at a chain Mexican joint? If you don't see any Mexicans there, take the hint.

Those meal coupons would be perfect for regifting. Especially good to give to someone you don't particularly like.

Anonymous said...

Who eats at Mexican food chains? You mean as opposed to some roach-infested taco stand? I'll take the chain, thanks - you know the cooking is all done by authentic Mexicans anyway.
And that sounds like bullshit about them cooking all the chicken breasts in the morning - just asking for trouble from the health dept., or lawsuits from sick customers - what chain would allow that?

Superfly, why do you really think it's OK to name your blog Server Stories?

ArizonaAnne said...

hmmmmmmm, sounds like you got the menudo special! ArizonaAnne

Interpreter said...

You didn't eat at a Mexican restaurant. Fajitas and chips and salsa are about as Mexican as Sushi is American.

Authentic Mexican food is very hard to find.


Tiptop Server said...

Great site and great comments on the restaurant industry.

I have a new free training manual for servers on how to increase their tip earnings.

I would be honored if you would review it and give me any comments on it positive or negative. If you like it, please feel free to share it with your fellow servers.

I look forward to hearing from you.

J.D. Marshall

Anonymous said...

If you're in the business, you should know that food borne illness takes a minimum of twelve hours to manifest itself. So if you're getting sick at 11 after presumably eating in the evening, you may want to consider what you ate earlier in the day.
Considering you're a bartender, barking "water!" at the waitress probably explains why she wasn't exactly friendly.

Anonymous said...

food poisoning sucks!
my girlfriend (now ex) got food poisoning from our trip to thai and she spent 5 day shitting brown water and puke her gut out