In our younger days, my husband and I got no respect in restaurants. We were always led to the cheap seats: bright sun in our eyes, colliding dishes in our ears, shoe-horned diners at our elbows. Most times we were closest to the restroom and every time we were furthest from the server’s mind. We put up with it because we were blinded by the thrill of having enough money to eat at a place without trays.
With age came increasing confidence and intolerance. And while I’m no dining diva—I wouldn’t make a scene to get a booth with a view—I have been known to request a move to a quieter, comfier spot. My daughter, a part-time restaurant hostess, calls me a “table changer.” I’ll take that over a “food returner” any day. I’ve seen too many hidden camera videos.
My distant youth and mature present all but eliminated getting dissed at restaurants. So when it happened (twice) recently, I didn’t know whether to be annoyed or flattered. The coin landed on annoyed.
In January my husband and I went to a pricey McLean restaurant. It was courtesy of a winning raffle gift certificate—otherwise, I wouldn’t have set foot in the place. That’s not just because the Petit Filet Combo and two glasses of merlot would wipe out my son’s freshman year of college. Even if I had a lot of money to waste, I could think of far better ways to spend my imaginary a lot of money (e.g., grammar book). High-falutin food simply has no appeal. Blame it on my low-falutin palate. To me, there is no way a $30 seafood appetizer could taste better than free bread with foil-wrapped tiles of butter.
After checking our reservation, the maître d’ walked us into a bump-out section of the main building. I believe the architectural term is “shed.” The original restaurant we strolled through held the warmth of a large stone fireplace. The shed we ended up in let the cold air in through paper-thin, paneled walls. Our table shook when we sat down, not just from my uncontrollable shivering, but because it was (get this) a folding table. We were either at the kiddie table or a bridge tournament.
When the server asked what I’d like to start with, a flood of caustic answers hovered behind my chattering teeth. I let this one out: “A sp-sp-space h-h-heater.” My husband, gripping the trembling table to keep it from collapsing, said, “This is ridiculous. We’re moving.” As we walked out of the shed, I muttered to a woman being led in, “Hope that coat’s warm.” We sat comfortably in the main restaurant, where I regained feeling in my fingers halfway through my Manhattan, no ice.
Although my gift certificate covered the cost, I was annoyed. Any manager who charges exorbitant prices for the sake of taste and sits people in a distasteful room deserves one thing: a letter. Note: There is only one act of vengeance lamer than writing a letter, and that’s announcing it: “I’m going to write a letter!”
I never heard back. It was probably thrown in the large stone fireplace.
Next OA: Getting dissed in a Waterford winery.
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