Hi there! How’s everyone doing tonight? Welcome to the Manchin-Sinema Diner. I’m sure you’re here for the same reason everybody else is: you had no choice, because somehow, we are the only food purveyors of any kind in a 600-mile radius. My name’s Todd, and I’ll be taking care of you tonight by stonewalling, obfuscating, gaslighting, moving the goalposts, or anything else I can do to make your dinner frustrating and futile.
First time here? Are you familiar with our system? Well, let me start by saying that none of the dishes on our menu is actually available. They sure do sound good, though, don’t they? A lot of people come in hungry for that awesome-sounding peppercorn rib eye, or hoping to try our world-famous vegan pad thai, but sadly we’ve never actually made those things and have no intention of ever making them. Keep coming back, though, because you never know!
So what is available, you ask? Well, as long as you tolerate anything I say or do tonight and you’re nice about it, I may be able to start you with a rosemary-mushroom flatbread. Not too shabby, right? If you just sit tight, I’ll be back with that flatbread in just two and a half hours.
(FIVE HOURS LATER)
Hey, folks, welcome to the Manchin-Sinema Diner. My name’s Todd and – wait, you said you already ordered? The rosemary mushroom flatbread, you said? Well, I don’t know who you ordered that from, but it sure wasn’t me, because our kitchen doesn’t carry any rosemary or mushrooms, and aerosolized flatbread particles trigger my asthma, so even if we had a flatbread, which we don’t, I would never bring it to you. Could I interest you in our fried calamari? In theory? I could, right? I bet I could interest you in a lot of things, especially given the fact that you’re obviously starving, and you have no realistic or timely alternative to simply holding out hope that I’ll suddenly change my mind and bring you something to eat.
See, the owners, Joe and Kyrsten, have a real vision for this place. They want it to appear to be a fully functioning restaurant, and bring in as many desperate customers as possible. At the same time, they’re working with a conglomerate based in Qatar that plans to raze this building to the ground and replace it with a parking lot that’s convenient to absolutely nothing. Yes, it will be a money laundering front, how’d you guess? But Joe and Kyrsten also like the idea of running a restaurant, so rather than kill this place off right away, they’ve decided to slowly choke it to death while they run around and do whatever it is restaurant owners do. Other than running a restaurant, of course.
Oh, the restrooms? Sorry, ma’am, our restrooms are out of order on account of them never having been built. The good news is public urination drops down to a misdemeanor about fifty miles up the road, and if you time it just right you might avoid the state troopers who get paid by the arrest.
I’m sorry, what? You want me to bring you food? Or at least water? Do I look like I’m here to wait on you? If I’ve promised anything about food this whole time, it’s that you might be able to finish off some of the ketchup bottles that may or may not be out back in the dumpster. Unfortunately, though, now you can’t even do that, because the owners just permanently locked down the whole building from the outside, so all there’s left to do is wait for the bulldozers to come and flatten this dive with all of us inside it. Don’t worry, they’ll be here in ten months, tops. In the meantime, Maggie Haberman from the New York Times is on the phone, and she’d like you to explain why you let all this stuff happen to you. I told her I have no idea, but it sure is good for business!
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Justin Warner writes plays, musicals, short funny things, and other stuff. His work has been published in McSweeney’s, The Funny Times, The Big Jewel, and the HarperCollins anthology May Contain Nuts. He is a Clinical Associate Professor of Expository Writing at NYU, and lives in Jackson Heights, Queens, recently named New York’s Best Neighborhood in this Twitter poll, so that’s final. www.justinwarner.net