Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Chicken Dance at Denny's: The Lowest Point in My Life ... So Far.

This week, in an attempt to make a shit ton of money really fast, I took a job as a server at a new Denny's restaurant that opens in a couple of weeks. So far, it just might be the worst thing I've ever done. They're training all the servers in a giant group, and for the most part, it's a complete shit show. But all you really need to know right now is that if I were to arrive late to training, I would have to perform the Chicken Dance. Understandably, this has thoroughly terrified me enough to leave early all week. Today, however, was an exception.

Unfortunately, I left a couple minutes late this afternoon because I was desperately applying to jobs with the federal government in an attempt to escape from whatever circle of hell this is. On the drive in, I knew that if I were to arrive late, the Chicken Dance would of course be my punishment. I had some time for my imagination to take over and I imagined myself arriving late and the trainers would single me out in front of everyone to do the Chicken Dance. I imagined myself replying with, "yanno, I don't need this job that badly, so I'm just gonna head out. I hope your store does well and I wish you all the best of luck," and I would turn in my apron and walk out with my dignity partially in tact. Thankfully, I arrived with 5 minutes to spare, so all of my fretting and imaginative scenarios were for naught. Or so I believed.

After sitting down, the trainers gleefully awaited for people to arrive late like hungry vultures with name badges. After a few kids arrived late and were found to have had valid excuses, the trainers announced, "since no one was late we all get to do the Chicken Dance!" Because it is apparently "fun." They actually said this. Twice, maybe three times. "It's fun!" I suppose one person's idea of fun is another person's idea of a torturous hell. The Chicken Dance is my torturous hell.

Everyone began looking around in disbelief and horror. I thought to myself, "surely, woman, you jest!" except it was more like, "holy fuck, they've got to fucking be kidding, this isn't fucking fair, what the fuck can I do to get myself the fuck out of here right the fuck now?"

The trainers pulled up a video on youtube and began to play it. It was, in fact, the Chicken Dance. This was actually happening.

They then began to dance. Their fingers flapped, their arms waved, and their asses twisted to the floor in a paralyzing display of brazen shamelessness, which, remember, was supposed to be "fun!" I looked on in terror. For the first thirty seconds, which felt like hours, let me tell you, no one danced but the trainers. We all stood there with our arms at our sides, mouths agape at what was occurring before us. It was gruesome, a veritable blood bath. They noticed this and called us out on it. No one moved. We were all too terrified. All of us were thinking, and some of us were vocalizing, that this wasn't part of the fucking deal. We arrive on time, we avoid the Chicken Dance. We arrive late, we are punished. Severely. That was the agreement, yet the trainers continued to flap away.

In my mind, I had rehearsed arriving late like a douche and deserved to have to do the Chicken Dance. That I was prepared for. I was not prepared for this curve ball of awful, not to mention I had just gotten boxed in by the I'm-Too-Excited-About-Denny's trainer woman from Texas. She waved and flapped and twisted right next to me while threatening us with a four hour training on the Chicken Dance if we didn't join in. There was nothing I could do and nowhere else to go.

I begrudgingly began to dance.

At this point, we had successfully managed to kill a minute and a half of the video, but there was still a minute left to dance. So I waved and flapped and twisted while my heart broke and I died a little inside. Okay, maybe a lot. I watched the progress timer bar on the video inch its way across the screen in a slow march to death and ached for it to mercifully go faster. The girl next to me danced because it spread like a virus. There were, however, stragglers on the outside of the group who had more dignity than me and refused to dance at all. They were too-cool-for-school teenage girls. I envied their tenacity and ability to buck authority even in the most pressing of circumstances.

It was easily the most awkward two minutes and forty-three seconds of my life. A 28 year old world traveler with management experience who not only graduated with a master's degree, but is also a published academic author, was forced to perform the Chicken Dance at a Denny's in front of high school girls. I can't even begin to describe how I felt afterwards. The two most accurate words are "horrified" (I typed horrified, horror, horrible, and other variants at least eight times in this blog. Thank god for thesauruses) and "shamed," though they obviously don't do my experience yellow-feathered justice.

They rewarded those prisoners who dutifully followed orders in what I felt was a lavish gesture of generosity, probably due to the sudden onset of Stockholm Syndrome. And what was my reward? A light up Denny's pen.

I sat down a defeated man. Any pride or self confidence I may have had prior to arriving at Denny's tonight has now been stampeded by dancing chickens in Denny's aprons. I will have nightmares of those three minutes for the rest of my life. As I sat down, my face was bright red and I was sweating from such unprecedented levels of embarrassment. When the dust settled, I thought, "that's it. That was the worst moment of my life. I've officially hit rock bottom."

Throughout the rest of the training, which involved terrible slideshow presentations, I kept thinking to myself, "life can't possibly get worse than this." But no, now I think it can. They could've forced me to do the Chicken Dance naked covered in Denny's whipped cream while singing a Nickelback song. So, while this was single-handedly the most embarrassing experience of my life, I at least have something to look forward to.

Addendum: I have decided that if I ever write any sort of autobiography or memoirs at some point in my life, this chapter will be known as Moons Over My Humiliation. Bam.