Vermin in our food

Last Sunday I had dinner with the Jeffways. We always have a good time together, and sometimes bizarre and exciting things happen. Readers of Look Me in the Eye may recognize the name . . .Bob and I were engineers together, back at Milton Bradley. I met Bob, Celeste, and three of their five kids at Joes Pizza for a fine meal of pizza and spaghetti. Afterwards, we went in search of their daughter Alex at a local ice cream establishment.

We found her sitting with two girlfriends at the Florence Friendly’s. The females had just begun ingesting ice cream treats as we sat down around them. Alex is normally jolly, but at that moment they were focused on food and the sight of us made her focus even harder. Halfway through her sundae, Alex paused. For some reason – we may never know why – she glanced down at her spoon. That’s when the shrieking started.

Buuuuuuuuuuuuug! Normally a three letter word, Bug was stretched and extended for high volume delivery. It was like a song, but off key and obnoxious. The other patrons turned to see what was going on.

What was she yelling about? Alex was, after all, a teenage girl. She was right at the age where unpredictable audio emissions just occurred. But I saw it wasn’t just her . . all three table mates were showing signs of extreme agitation. Something was up.

I had seen responses like that in the past, when I was standing at a crowded bar, and an inebriated patron sprayed vomit across the room. But no one had vomited tonight. Yet.

I looked closer. Still, the source of their distress remained invisible. Yet the table was erupting. The three girls were wriggling and squealing. The only guy was reaching for something in his pocket. A bottle? A gun? A phone?

Seconds later he was pointing a camera at Alex’s sundae. Following the camera’s aim, I saw the creature. Half an inch long, vile, and black. Emerging from beneath the fudge. Check him out:

The verminous thing stood defiantly atop a curl of chocolate, under the harsh fluorescent light. Insect King of the Sundae dish. All at once, everyone had something to say.

Bob observed that the Mexicans dip insects in chocolate and sell them

I was glad I had not yet eaten anything served by that particular establishment.

The girls all said, Gross!!

Mary, the youngest Jeffway, offered up the bug with a smile, but there were no eaters

The waiter said, I’m just glad it’s my last day here. So I don’t care.

Alex backed away from the food. Her half-eaten dish sat on the table. In fact, all the dishes sat on the table. People’s enthusiasm for dining had gone. Or more likely, their confidence in the restaurant food supply had evaporated. After all, if their ice cream was infested, what could you expect in the foods that are more prone to spoilage. I shuddered at the thought.

The abandoned table . . .

Everyone else wondered how many insects they’d eaten, before this one got out alive? Other diners gathered round for inspection before fading quietly into the night. All over the restaurant, tips were quietly recalculated.

In the midst of it all, the waiter presented the check. What a minute, I thought. A check? For verminated food?

I sought out the manager. “It’s policy, she said. If there’s a bug in your ice cream, you don’t have to pay for it. But you still have to pay for the rest of the food.”

I thought about that a moment.

Does this happen often enough that you have a regular policy for it?

Well, she answered, it does happen. And that’s what my manager told me to do. I took her picture, but she was too ashamed or scared to face the camera.

Meanwhile, the establishment had emptied out.

With some reluctance, we paid and left.

What might you have done differently, had it been your restaurant? What can my fellow eaters learn from this? What will you do, the next time you are served vermin with ice cream?

Eat it?

Throw it?

Send it back?


pixiemama said…
Outrageous. There should have been no bill for the entire table. I know stuff like that happens - bugs are everywhere, after all - but the restaurant needs to learn how to save face!
Fairy Lady said…
I don't know which is more outrageous - making you pay for the food or having a policy in place for "verminated" food.
Niksmom said…
I would (a)absolutely contact Friendly's corporate office and demand a refund and (b)alert the local health department about the apparent lackadaisical attitude from the local restaurant. No telling if the vermin is from unhealthy kitchen or storage or if it came in via a vendor's product. In either case, it should be reported and investigated as a health hazard. That's not just a fly in your soup, you know?
Anonymous said…
I would not pay and leave. They wouldn't make me pay for bug icecream. I did not order for bug icecream. I wouldn't pay for the rest of the food either. I don't know what would they do? call the police?
TLM0000 said…
Your set up and description of the events is fantastic.

It is ridiculous that a store would have a policy for this that was anything other than begging the mercy of the customer, and explains why all of the Friendlys in my city have shut down in the last two years.
Eric said…
Having eaten at the Florence Friendly's many times in my life, I had a shudder reading this. But, amazingly enough, it doesn't surprise me. I used to eat at the Federal St location in Greenfield during my lunchtime at GHS years ago, and had the bug experience there as well. The Franklin County health inspector used to say that he only went out to eat at restaurants outside of the county, as he had inspected all of them in our county. Friendly's, sad to say, is not the lone problem.

I waitressed at Friendly's for a whole summer while in college. I encountered no bugs or other vermin. Of course that was a long time ago.
Justthisguy said…
Well you nailed it already. If I were there and brave enough, and not in Assachusetts, the correct thing to have done would have been to take a pull on bottle, draw piece, then call cops on one's self after production of gun settled things, one way or another.

Just Kiddin! (well, mostly)
Justthisguy said…
P.s. To get serious: I have cooked in a restaurant, and waited tables in a restaurant. I have seen complete expensive meals comped for much lesser transgressions than this one.

Further: Does not anyone remember the cockroach scene in the beginning of the movie "Victor-Victoria?" The gal intended to cheat by introducing the insect to the food, and then a real live free-lance cockroach showed up.
Justthisguy said…
P.p.s. I betcha DOCTOR AMY BISHOP, as she referred to herself, would not have let that kind of thing slide. Really, if you guys had hanged her when she murdered her brother, she would not have had the chance to go postal on the UAH biology faculty.

Silly feckless damnyankees!
Anonymous said…
Yikes,Ive eaten here before, ooh my stomach is turning! I would have NEVER paid that bill and would have raised preverbal he'll with the corporation. I know restaurants have bugs, but really!
Cory said…
John, In Case You Where Wondering, It Looks Like A Japanese Beatle A Little Bit.
"Little Bear" said…
Hey, John,
Cubbie got a pubic hair in his cottage cheese about ten years ago at a different Friendly's. He wouldn't eat at any Friendly's for a very long time.
Sue said…
You're supposed to sue them, John. Seriously.
Free Spirit said…
Monsters in the gelatin!
mindy.brinson said…
Luckily, this little fellow probably did not come from the kitchen; he more likely was attracted by the restaurant's lights and flew in from the outside. He looks to be a "June Bug" and eats leaves, not ice cream, or any food at Friendly's for that matter. He is no more a sign of a filthy kitchen than a Lady Bug would be. I would have flicked him off my Sundae and remembered that both ice cream and June bugs are a natural part of an all-too-short summer.
amscherer said…
I've been looking for a place in your website to tell you how much I loved Look me in the eye. I laughed and felt sad. And your writing just flowed so I didn't have to go back and reread a sentence to understand it. You touched my heart. Thank you.

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