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The Pedro's Incident (Volume 45, June 28, 1994 - September 22, 1994)

Updated: Apr 10, 2021

Saturday Morning, July 9, 1994

Last night I treated Ellis to a late dinner at a cheesy Mexican restaurant (intended) called “Pedro’s.”

Pedro’s was voted the #1 Mexican Restaurant by Madison Magazine readers in a poll of “Best of” places. It’s a chain and the atmosphere isn’t appealing, but it was almost 9:45 after the movie (“Wolf” with Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer) and I’d eaten nothing all day but half a bag of microwave popcorn and two toffee squares. Pedro’s was nearby.

The waiters are nice, young, probable frat boys with names like “Moose” actually engraved on their name tags.

I told our waiter (“Not Moose”) I wanted a soft taco, enchilada style, with Mexican Beans only as my choice of filling.

When he brought it, I looked inside out of habit (is this a habit developed only by vegetarians or does everyone do that?) and of course it was filled with meat.

I caught up with the waiter and told him my taco was full of meat. He was immediately concerned, double-checked his ticket and declared it to be the kitchen’s mistake, not his. He apologized profusely. I said, “These things happen.” Him: Yeah, but they shouldn’t happen to my customers.” Me: “Yeah, because we’re special.

He whisked my plate away, promising to bring a new dinner immediately.

Ellis started his meal while we conjectured over whether or not they’d give me my meal for free. He thought they should; I did not (even though this meal was on me).

The waiter came back and apologized again and said the kitchen was working on it RIGHT NOW. I said pleasantly, “Ok.”

A couple minutes later, a portly, busy man in a suit came striding purposefully toward me, gingerly carrying my hot replacement dinner.

He held onto it with napkins instead of a tray. Obviously the manager.

He set my plate down, looked at me with the utmost sincerity, apologized again and asked, “Is there ANYTHING I can do for you?”

This question is probably at the root of tonight’s insomnia, as I haven’t been able to stop coming up with the clever retorts I should have said, if I’d had a couple more minutes to think. What I actually said was “No” in a surprised, final tone.

I really, truly did think they were making a big production out of nothing.

Any vegetarian knows that probably 60% of the time, if you order something vegetarian you get it with meat anyway. It’s just routine to double-check and send things back. (“I asked you if this was vegetarian but I can see chunks of ham in it. No, I don’t want to just pick them out.” “No, chickens aren’t vegetables.”) This happens in Italian restaurants, Mexican restaurants, Chinese restaurants…vegetarians in general don’t go to “American” restaurants, where management teams think that vegetarians are thrilled to eat iceberg lettuce salads for every meal.

The manager left, probably feeling pleased that he could now charge us full price. He wouldn’t know that we were one step, or two, ahead of him. The entertainment value of the whole tiny incident was vast for Ellis and me. The “what if I’d saids” occupied the rest of our mediocre meal.

An obvious retort to his question, “Is there ANYTHING I can do for you?”

A. “Oh, I see, you leave it up to me whether or not I get anything free. So if I acted indignant and angry that you screwed up my order and demanded a free meal, you’d give it to me. Or if I acted mildly put out, you’d give me a free drink refill or $1.00 off. But if I’m not making a big deal out of it, you don’t offer anything free and I don’t get anything free. I don’t want anything free, but I want you to know that I understand your psychology.”

Immediately after he walked away, I wished I’d said, “ANYTHING? You’ll do ANYTHING I ask? Ok, sit across from me and rub my feet while I eat dinner.”

OR: “ANYTHING you can do for me? Sure. I’d like you to come to my apartment and scrape wallpaper for me.”

OR: “Yeah. Give that sad little Mexican woman who came around with the basket of tortillas a cash bonus equal to the value of my meal. “(This is the one I wish I’d had the presence of mind to really come up with.)

OR: “Yes, you can bring our waiter over here and both of you can sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” in rounds while we eat. (This one because of his aura of self-importance.)

Probably at about 3:00 a.m. my idiot brain was still circling around this topic and I came up with:

“ANYTHING? You’ll do ANYTHING I want? Ok, I want you to call the media in my presence and confess to the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.”

If he balked, I’d threaten to call the owner, whose name and number were printed on a card that stood on the table. If we have ANY complaints, or aren’t happy in ANY way, CALL him!

(“Yes, Mr. __________? You own a chain of Pedro’s Restaurants? My lawyer will be contacting you regarding an incidence of false advertising which occurred in your West Town, Madison location. Well, your manager asked if he could do ANYTHING for me, to appease me for bringing me the wrong taco. ALL I asked was for him to make one phone call and he refused! You’ll fire him? Immediately? Well, all right then. One other thing — I want that Mexican tortilla basket lady to get a hefty raise. You will? Ok, then, I’ll drop the lawsuit.”)

Hey, if Henry Miller can write 29 pages about a turd floating in a toilet (did he, or is that my mother’s exaggeration?) then I can write pages and pages about an incident at Pedro’s.

Immediately after the “suit” strode away, Ellis said, “That was probably the dishwasher. ‘Pedro, put on the suit again — we screwed up another order.’ “

We were laughing hysterically.

Before we left, the waiter apologized again. When I told him the tip was included in the check, he said, “A tip? You’re leaving me a tip, after I screwed up your dinner?” His tone was kind of falsely humble and fake.

“Moose,” loudly clearing the table next to ours, called him on it.

I should probably have ordered the manager to flog the waiter so they could have had a concrete way to relieve their massive guilt over committing the heinous, hideous offense of serving me muscle tissue instead of lard.

July 11, 1994

I took the rats outside. I was holding them against my stomach as I walked towards the porch. Two black guys were walking by on the sidewalk.

One yelled, “Jesus Christ! What on earth ARE those?”

I said, “They’re my pet rats.”

Him: “Your PET rats?”

“Yeah, they’re my buddies, “ I said, as I picked up Rosebud and kissed his head several times.

The black guy: “I wish I was a rat!”

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