My friend Sean is an amazing musician. I don't just say that because he's one of my closest friends and I'm trying to get him to move out here to go to composition grad school. I say that because he's the best improvisational pianist I've ever heard, and I went to a college with one of the top music schools in the country. I say that because he can play a piano version of nearly any song after hearing it once. I say that because we've written two musicals together and they've been awesome despite my complete dearth of book- and lyrical-writing talent. I say that because he played at the Pillsbury Mansion, won a statewide composition award, and composed a score for full orchestra... all before graduating high school.
So anyway he's an amazing musician. And this is the story how Sean the musician got punked by Old Country Buffet.
Sean's roommate Kristian works for Old Country Buffet in a corporate/management capacity, and he thought it would be a good idea if OCB added a little class to one of their restaurants. Because obviously you head to OCB when you want a class meal.
So Kristian went to Sean. "Sean," he probed, "How'd you like another piano playing gig?"
"Sure," said Sean, because he may have 6 jobs, but he's never too busy for more music.
"It's at a restaurant," continued Kristian. "You'll be compensated."
"Sure," said Sean, because he's played at myriad weddings and similar fancy events, and is typically handsomely rewarded. "Which restaurant?"
"Old Country Buffet," replied Kristian, without the slightest hint of being kidding. "It would help me out a lot."
Sean hesitated for a long moment. "Sure," he finally said, because Sean is probably the nicest guy in the world, in this case very much to a fault.
That was degradation #1. And that was just the beginning.
Degradation #2 - Though it may seem hard to believe, most Old Country Buffets do not come equipped with a piano. So Sean had to take his own keyboard from his apartment, completed with speakers, stool and electrical equipment, cram it into his car, lug it into the restaurant, to set everything up himself.
Degradation #3 - Apparently Old Country Buffet didn't think it classy enough to merely have a world-class pianist playing for in their shitty restaurant for their white-trash customers. They also had a magician running around pulling playing cards out of his sleaves. Rumor has it all the balloon-animal-making clowns were booked for the night.
Degradation #4 - Sean had to wear a tux.
Degradation #5 - When it was all over, the manager of the restaurant came over to Sean, thanked him for playing, and then proceeded to pay him in 12 coupons to Old Country Buffet. Sean was rather shocked.
Degredation #6 - But not as nearly shocked as he would be when he realized that these coupons weren't even for free meals at OCB. They were simply for meal discounts. Namely, the next 12 times Sean comes to OCB (which would take most people the better about of a lifetime) and presents a coupon, he only has to pay five dollars to eat there. Five dollars. A meal at OCB only costs about eight bucks. So Sean was compensated for his time, talent, roady-ing skills, and utter humiliation with what totalled to be about $36 off lumpy mash potatoes and tepid ham slices, as long as he's willing to pay the other $60.
Rumor has it the magician's compensation was that he got to lick the soft-serve out of the used dishes in the kitchen.