Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hot Cross Bunnies

Easter was once a big deal for me and mine; it was dress up and fancy eats day not to mention church, the very reason it was celebrated at all. But by the time I'm thinking of, we'd long since stopped the mass portion as a few of my family members had taken up blaming God for our problems, or at least the Pope, if God really didn't exist after all.

A new hotel had opened near the Mall of America and it seemed the place to go to those who had brunch location choosing rights that year. It was no particular chain I don't think; more likely it was built as a chain and dumped as a tax write-off in the face of stiff competition from the locals. And now some independent held the building title, a hungry group of investors looking to make a quick buck off people who would actually fly thousands of miles just to shop in a really, really big store.

It was a catered brunch we were after, an event we'd taken up after mom got too sick to participate in the preparation of the traditional meal, and one we'd suffered through on occasion when the choosers picked unwisely.

But a hotel seemed safe enough and as they asked us to arrive at least a half hour before our reserved time, we had no reason to believe mistakes had been made.

The early Nineties were hard on smokers,  even normally silent grandma's were prone to scold cig toking strangers without fear of attack, as crowds of onlookers muttered their encouragements.

Smoking sections in all public venues began to shrink if not vanish at a more and more rapid pace. It was harder to live a life of vice, but not impossible. Until the time came that America would finally buy off tobacco farmers and push "big tobacco" into the sea (once they'd been fleeced for the last time), the few smokers left would expect to be treated with respect at least in those places that advertised for their business.

There were three of us who required a smoking table, but only one who would never bend an inch if a table weren't available. My dad was intractable about his desires and until his last couple years would never pay for a meal without having at least the option of lighting up.

So we gathered a half hour early as requested, the 10 of us registering at eleven thirty on the dot; two children, Linda and I, my sister and brother and their spouses and my wheelchair bound dad and 85 year old grandmother.

It was packed, and I'm being kind. There were so many people in the same space the oxygen was in short supply and clothing everywhere smelled as if it were being steam ironed. The hotel had requisitioned a banquet room for this affair so as to pack more cash cows into the few hours available, and the fact that the banquet room lobby was far too small to house a group of our size didn't sway them to add space.

An hour went by before we started being nosy. It was only a half hour past our res, and hotels are notorious for making people wait; but we were hot already and the lack of nicotine or even caffeine was not helping anything. My sister in law began the parade by asking if perhaps management could be persuaded to at least place a coffee setup in the lobby so we could swallow once in a while. She was rebuffed, with the customary polite smile.

A half hour later my sister took to the podium only to receive a sad tale about slow patrons and a shortage of cooks. She was assured that we would be seated very soon. She got the same speech a half hour after that with the caveat that it was smokers to blame really as the blessed people would leave immediately upon chewing their last morsel whereas the demon seed would want to chat and smoke, to aid digestion so they said.

Well, we were smokers and so, guilty as charged. By now we were getting mighty cranky, but what were our choices? It was 1:30, we'd already waited 2 hours, we were pretty much holding gramma Ruth upright as there were no suburban business moguls willing to spit up a chair for the old woman. It's not like at 2 in the afternoon we'd run out and find another brunch, and while we could have just scrapped it and left for Perkins or some palace of mediocre food and incredibly boring atmosphere like it, there was dignity to maintain. We'd reserved a table and put in our time and By God we were gonna have our crepes and eggs Benedict while our waiter occasionally emptied our ash trays if we had to wait all freaking day.

By 3:30 there had been at least 20 trips to the podium by at least 7 of the ten of us; and still we were told our table was coming soon. As chatter had included anecdotally supported warnings in my direction about my staying within civilized boundaries...little exaggerations about times I'd apparently embarrassed the group by not standing for malfeasance, I just kept to myself and only muttered my displeasure to my wife whom I knew would agree. But I really wanted to squish someone like a bug, if truth be told.

And then the elevator opened and out walks the Easter Bunny.

She was likely a college girl, perhaps a singing telegrammer or drama student building a resume. I'd seen her hop down the stairs a few times, but just as quickly turn and run to the lobby as the crowd was not only squeezed together but more surly as time went on. No doubt she'd figured that she wasn't being paid to suffer butt rubbing past fat old men in suits in order to pass lightly colored, boiled eggs to the few children who sweltered in that basement.

But now the crowd had thinned somewhat and she took her chance, her pink panther kinda long john suit covering her skinny little frame and the requisite long ears and floppy tips and whiskers from here to there screaming C’mon kids! Lets all hold hands and sing Cumbya!

Oh she was cute alright and I'd never have said anything either to her or within her presence as I'd stopped believing in the Easter Bunny at least 30 years before that moment...and I'd never thought it to be female in any case so this was at most a crude imposter.

She hopped around a bit, handing out tiny candy treats to all the good but increasingly whining girls and boys in the crowd, while parents growled their displeasure in her general direction for stoking their little monsters with sugar while they waited for tables that seemed eons from arrival.

And then she hopped right up to us, no doubt attracted to the huge scowling men in beards, or maybe the guy in the wheelchair that was flexing his nicotine stained fingers around his tires as if to pop them like balloons at any moment.

"Isn't this great fun?" she said with a cute little bunny like affectation to her voice that only added to the cuteness in her little bunny nose-twitching that followed every phrase. "I just LOVE Easter and I especially love it here at ...."

Whatever the name of the hotel, it's of no consequence; my mood was sliced open as if it were an overripe watermelon and she was a chainsaw. I remember I never set eye to eye with the young thing as I do understand my powers and was afraid that my glare would surely kill her on the spot.

But I rambled...oh I rambled. For maybe ten minutes I laid bare every mistake the hotel had made from first creating this haphazard event as a fire hazard with a cover charge, to the overbooking of a tiny room to pay minimal staff for maximum profit. I said it loud and clear, not giving a rat's ass who heard me by that point; in fact hoping to attract enough attention that some lawyer might want to create a class action lawsuit in my honor so I could take every goddamn cent these moronic, insensitive, incompetent motherfuckers who owned this rodent infested fleabag hotel had between them.

Of course I got a few nods here and there, though none from my family. They'd turned away for the most part, silently mouthing "He's not with us" to whoever would accidentally catch their eyes in wonder. But in spite of my intent to make a scene, none was to be had as management never turned so much as a degree in my direction to answer my catcall challenge. Only the Easter Bunny, no doubt a hired freelance actress who had no tie with the hotel or I'd bet, even the hotel business, took anything I said to heart.

"But it's Easter!" she said in a slightly wary tone. "You have to be happy on Easter!"

I couldn't help but to look at her in astonishment. She was an innocent, the epitome of naive and I should have known better than to even open my mouth within a hundred yards of the poor thing much less turn my eyes to hers. But it was too late, she'd now had a taste of my full face in Medusa... and she was reduced to a quivering mass of fuzzy droop with tears streaming down her whiskered cheeks, just as everyone of my detractors had predicted in their own smarmy, self righteous, know it all ways.

There's a quiet sadness to watching a dejected company shill in costume, and this time was exponentially more powerful as she was The Easter Bunny! for God's sake. She dropped the hop altogether and more dragged her limbs to the elevator as if an Israelite after a long day serving the Pharaoh, sobbing and stroking her face with her fuzzy pink hands as if they reminded her of a long lost binky.

My relatives were merciless. I'd made the Easter Bunny cry, if that didn't beat all. The word spread through the room so fast that heads nearly snapped in unison to see just who was this heartless creep who had trifled with the feelings of a children's icon; and after a few minutes of pointing and giggling I decided to take my troubles into the parking lot for a really deeply inhaled smoke.

A half hour later we'd still not been seated, but to my dad it was now a contest of will. There was no way he was leaving until he got his breakfast those BASTARDS! I'm not sure when they ate, but as I understand it the hotel had prepared 5 smoking tables and had booked 40 smoking parties. Every vice has its cross to bear so to speak, and being treated like shit is a smokers lot.

But I didn't have to stay, and so I corralled Linda and said our goodbyes, smoking nearly a half pack on the ride between the hotel and Perkins where I finally got the freaking food I'd stood waiting for to the tune of 4 hours and more.

Though the chow was plentiful and as standard as army issue boots, breakfast was not a satisfying experience that day... I was the man who'd made the Easter Bunny cry and I would hear about it at least a few times a year for the rest of my miserable life.

I'm a mean sonofabitch and everyone knows it. That's my legacy, that's why people run in fear; I can't even control my rage in the presence of kiddy deity, I'm betting the tooth fairy has long been served notice to run for cover if ever I'm wandering free at a dentist convention.

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