Like most people, I love to go out to eat, sit and relax and let others do the cooking. There’s something calming about spending the evening with family and friends and returning home not having the ordeal of cleaning the kitchen.
Most of the time, it is pretty satisfying. I am typically not one to complain even in the worst of scenarios. On a recent night, however, I came very close to that rare exception.
There were 14 of us. Three were the Littles, ages 5, 3 and 2. The occasion was my sister’s birthday. We would meet about an hour from Greenwood at a halfway point, saving everyone a long drive.
We have eaten in this restaurant before and with children. It has never been the fastest of places to dine, but it is quaint and never crowded. The food is typically tasty. Tonight would be no exception. Diners were at three other tables.
Our waiter was very nice. He took our drink orders, gave us our menus and returned perhaps 30 minutes later with waters, lemonades and iced teas. By now the children were getting a bit squirmy but were still quite tolerable.
At last he took our orders. Nothing too challenging here. Burgers for some, hot ham sandwiches for others and a dish of pasta.
After about 45 minutes, the 2-year-old wanted no part of the high chair. So, like all good parents, her mommy and daddy took turns walking with her to the other portion of the restaurant to kill a little time.
At last mommy and daddy could walk no further, yet Little Girl still wanted no part of the high chair. Fussiness turned to crying. Crying turned to screaming. Out went Little Girl to the car. (We were sure the tiny crowd didn’t want to hear Little Girl cry.) Not to worry, however. She would return when there would at last be something to nibble on.
After about an hour and a half, the waiter came out and offered to bring out the food we had ordered for the Littles. Great idea! It would give the kids something to nibble on and hopefully our meal would soon follow. The cheese quesadillas came out rather cold and chewy, but the kids didn’t mind. They just giggled and chewed a little harder.
After about an hour and 45 minutes, our meals started trickling out. My cousin and I had ordered a hot ham-type of sandwich with melted cheese. One bite and we soon realized the food was cold. Cold melted cheese spread. Yum.
My cousin’s pasta dish — cold. My sister’s ham melt — cold. Finally, my husband got his hamburger, which had been ordered well done. “Honey, how is your burger?” I asked. Looking at me with that oh-so-predictable look, he simply said “Cold and raw.” Indeed, the burger was raw.
By now, the waiter knew his way back to the kitchen.
It was time to go at long last. We couldn’t imagine how the waiter would ever keep our bills straight. Not the way things were going. There were four groups of us.
After yet another delay, the bills came our way. My husband was the first to get our bill. It was wrong, very wrong. Back went the waiter to start the process all over again.
Soon, the waiter would return with no bills in sight, to ask us once again what should be on each tab. We explained one more time. This time, he took good notes. We were feeling optimistic.
We’d wait another five or eight minutes. It would surely be right this time. (By now the Littles were out in the van, perhaps watching a video or even taking a short drive with their daddy. At this point, we had been there two and a half hours.) Still, all during that time, only a couple of other tables ever joined us.
When the bills at long last came, we were beyond caring about whether we had an extra drink on the tab or not. We just wanted to go home and think about how we could do my sister’s birthday party differently next year. We grabbed our bill, left a tip and headed for the door. (Yes, we tipped. The waiter was clearly embarrassed, and he did try. The kitchen staff did him no favors this night!)
The birthday gifts were loaded, my sister was thrilled, and we all had a good laugh. We didn’t complain, although we could have, maybe even should have. Instead, we chalked it up to a night out we won’t forget for a very long time.
Next time, for sister’s birthday, I think it will be homemade baked spaghetti with garlic bread — served hot, straight out of the oven.
And one more thing. On the way home, we stopped by the gas station for some gas. I ran into the station for a cup of coffee and hot chocolate. The coffee was completely out. Only a trickle ran into the cup. The hot chocolate looked nothing like hot chocolate.
Home sounds better all of the time.
Carol Edwards is retired after a 30-year career teaching elementary school students at at Greenwood schools. Send column ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.