Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Antidisestablishmentarianism

It's a word that most people know only because it's supposed to be the longest word in the English language. As it turns out, it may or may not be, depending on the defintion of the word "word." The longest word could have 189,819 letters.

The word originated in 19th century. Antidisestablishmentarians were opposed to the separation of church and state in England at this time. This issue in general is still relevant in society, though the word doesn't really come up much. For example, there are a lot of people who'd really prefer that the words "In God We Trust" did not appear on our currency. And then there are a lot of people (mostly living in red states) who'd completely freak out if this ever happened.

But this post is not about politics and religion. It's about redefining antidisestablishmentarianism for a much more usful purpose. The word is, for all intents and purposes, dead. Which makes it ripe for a recasting.

This post is about Ruby Tuesday. That's right - that generic chain restaurant that serves unhealthy food in a sterile atmosphere. We have one in Columbia Heights. It's been there for more than a year, and it's arrival was generally greeted with sneering hipster contempt. You know, the sort you get every time something new replaces something derelict in a neighborhood that used to be cool when it was totally dodgy. I admit that I wasn't exactly a huge fan of the idea myself. It seemed like an odd choice, but it's a lot better than an empty storefront. I had never set foot in the place until a few weeks ago.

establishment: noun. the dominant groups in society and their customs or institutions

My friend Rachel called me up and said she had a $20 gift card to Ruby Tuesday. She's a teacher and one of her kids had given it to her for Christmas. (Isn't that cute? Yeah she works in the suburbs.) So off we went on our first trip to the neighborhood Ruby Tuesday for happy hour. We easily found seats at the bar, and were greeted by a friendly server and cheap beer. I mean really cheap. At happy hour, a pint of the daily special is 3 bucks. In this day and age, you're hard pressed to find a glass of anything for under six bucks in the popular parts of the city.

dis-: prefix. Opposite of: disfavor.

I sent out a few text messages to try to suck a couple other people in. The typical response to my saying "come meet at Ruby Tuesday" was... "Seriously?" But in they came and soon we had a jovial gathering. A few appetizers were ordered. French fries with cheese and bacon? Ummm.... while it probably should come with a gift certificate good for your next coronary bypass, it was pretty damn good. The chicken wings were top notch, I am not kidding. They may be the best ones in the neighborhood. Other things weren't so good. On another visit I had some kind of Thai fried shrimp thing that was pretty bland. There is (not surprisingly) a lot of deep-fried stuff on the menu... while I'm no hater of deep-fried goodness one can only take so much of it. I hear the burgers are good too, but I haven't had one yet.

anti-: prefix. Opposing; against: antiapartheid.

At the end of the day, we all had a great time. The service was generally very good, the staff friendly and attentive. The morning after my first visit, I was eating brunch at Red Rocks and saw the manager on duty as well as my server from the night before eating at another table! It really hadn't occurred to me at the time, but the people who work there are my neighbors. Ruby Tuesday may be a large national chain, but they are a neighborhood restaurant that both employs and serves the community.

antidisestablishmentarianism: noun. (2009 definition). The rejection of conventional politically correct anti-establishment viewpoints. The act of embracing corporate institutions that provide necessary products and services in a community, that are good neighbors, despite the common, yet ever so tiresome, hatred of big business that defines urban hip culture.

I talk to many well-intentioned people who rail against corporate business and culture on principle. But the reality is, big business is here to stay. And Columbia Heights should be an example to everyone that it doesn't have to be bad. Don't get me wrong. I hate suburban big-box shopping malls and parking lots and stores filled with fearful zombies as much as the next guy. It's why I live in the city. But that doesn't mean I don't still need to buy stuff.

The Target store that is the cornerstone of the DCUSA development is probably the best thing that's happened in Washington, DC since Marion Barry went to jail. Yet I still talk to people in the neighborhood who despise its presence just on principle. But Target has brought jobs and necessary services to a place where there there was none before. Some will argue that Target will result in local retailers being driven out of business. What local retailers? There was absolutely nowhere in the area that offered even remotely the kind of service offered by Target. Sure, there was a dollar store in Mt. Pleasant and a few other odd junk places here and there, but they had terrible inventory and even worse quality. There is no comparison. The reality is, most people simply shopped in the suburbs, putting us in our cars and taking our tax dollars out of the District. But there was no choice.

Further, these businesses have been designed as part of a walking community. There is no massive above-ground parking lot. Most people are walking or taking metro to the shops, as is evident by the lower-than-expected usage of the undergound parking garage.

I love local shops and restaurants, and it should be obvious to readers of this blog that I frequent them plently. But Ruby Tuesday has been good to me on three visits so far. Who cares if they are a corporation? They are still a good addition to the community. I'm an antidisestablishmentarian.

9 comments:

LiLu said...

Anyplace with great sliders is okay with me. I'm such a cheeseburger whore.

Brett said...

seriously, ruby tuesday has a happy hour? heh. beats Fridays.

Jamie said...

This can mean only one thing. Tuesday is the new Friday.

Jamie said...

@Lilu.. I did have the sliders! Mmmm.

By the way, I would comment on your blog more often but by the time I read it, there are usually 78 comments and I don't want to say something that's already been said. Do you have a secretary to respond to them all? I am impressed.

pixability said...

you could always wash down the fried sampler platter with the all you can eat salad bar...

Jamie said...

Ah yes, the calorie cancellation theory. It always cracks me up when someone orders a giant plate of greasy food and a diet soda.

Shannon said...

I promise I'll go to Ruby Tuesday's with you, but I must warn you that I go completely Woodbridge flashback whenever I set foot inside a chain restaurant. So if I ditch out for some guy with a Camaro, you'll know why.

Eve said...

Jobs in Columbia Heights are jobs in Columbia Heights. Don't care if it's Sticky Fingers or Dunkin Donuts, a job in the hood is better than a job in the burbs.

bobafeit said...

We actually love ruby tuesdays--dan gets the martini's and they are only $6! the prime burger rocks and they are nice to kids. plus our son love sthe salad bar cause he loves chick peas! we are fans and now we are out of the closet with you!