My rubber chicken birthday

Hoo hah!  The invites are all out for the birthday bbq at the end of the month and the responses are coming in, which puts me in a birthday blogging mood (which you know I love to do if you checked out the “Events” category on the blog).  Read on…

Just short of 12 years ago, while I was still working for my last company, my (at the time) momentous 40th birthday was arriving and the department I worked in decided to take me out for lunch.

The department was pretty large, which made the choosing of the location critical.  The decision was to go to an Italian restaurant in Boca, only about 15 minutes from the office.  The restaurant was incredibly accommodating, placing numerous of those little four-person tables together to create a huge square that let us seat the “gang”.

I had eaten at this place many times and had always enjoyed the food.  They also offered a lunch buffet, which a lot of my co-workers chose.  I decided to try something new in honor of my birthday (and the fact that I wasn’t paying).

On the menu was an intriguing item described (as best my memory can recollect) as chicken wings (real wings, not drumettes) with Italian vegetables in a Diablo sauce.  I love spicy foods and I love chicken wings (I especially love breast quarters but no one sells them anymore).  Considering the quality of food I had always received there, I was eager for the plate to arrive.

It was a monster!  Piled high like the mashed potato mountain sculpted by Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters (obscure media reference alert!).  Everyone laughed when they saw it and the dares came immediately about my being able to finish it before we went back to the office.

And I would have.  Except…

First, the wings were potted.  Now, potted chicken has its place (mostly 50 years in the past) and I actually enjoyed potted chicken when my Grandma made it.  But these wings were dry.

I don’t know how many of you have had the opportunity to eat potted chicken, but I think it may actually be against a physical law of nature for you to have dry anything when potted.  I could only conclude that they cooked the chicken separately from the vegetables and stuck them in afterwards.  Thus, they did not benefit from being cooked in the sauce.

Which led to problem number two:  the sauce was less Diablo than tomato.  It basically tasted like a runny stewed tomato sauce.  No spice whatsoever.  But there was a lot of it.  The chicken may have been dry but all the vegetables sure were wet…and limp.

Of course, that gave me the entire lunch to moan about how everyone was enjoying my birthday lunch except me.  Oh, the lamentation!  Outside of breaking into a chorus of “Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen”, you would surely have imagined my suffering was beyond compare.

I spent the rest of the day at the office recanting the story and bemoaning how hungry I was.  I dripped the sarcasm thickly about how I looked forward to next year’s birthday lunch, if…only…I…survived…long…enough…without….food…

A few days later, when it was truly my birthday, the gang went nuts decorating my office.  Beyond the usual suspects (black balloons, “over-the-hill” party favors, a cane with a rear-view mirror (nice) and other stuff), hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the room was a rubber chicken.  It was suspended upside down, with the lifeless head right about the height of my own when standing.  Attached to its head was a “Hello My Name Is” sticker with the name of the restaurant, the address and the date of the lunch.

I loved it!  Not only was it a great gag on my complaining, but it allowed me even more opportunity to tell the tale for years to come when people asked why I had a rubber chicken in my office (though no longer suspended from the ceiling).

In fact, every time we had a birthday cake in the office for whomever was being celebrated that day, I would bring out the chicken and, as the final notes of the birthday song faded, would let him give a long, loud squawk.  That rubber chicken got used probably more than any other rubber chicken in the history of rubber chickens!

And there you have the tale of my rubber chicken birthday!

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