For a Front-of-the-Tobogganer (FOT), there are many ways to challenge oneself. Try a sport that involves a ball that can fit into the palm of your hand, read Anna Karenina before going to see the movie, or learn the language of an obscure African country through Rosetta Stone. But, if you really
want a challenge, try dining at a new upscale chain restaurant.
Try new things; take a chance; carpe diem; these are the mantras of successful FOT’s, so when my husband decided that he wanted to go to a new place in an upscale “shopping community” near our house, I was onboard. I’ll admit that going to this shopping area is one of my guilty pleasures and I’m pretty sure I know why. All your decisions are made for you. All you have to do is pick a formula you want to follow. For example, if you go into Ann Taylor, you know you’ll find overpriced professional outfits. If you go to The Gap, you’ll find overpriced jeans and tops. If you go to the chain Italian place, you’ll get over-salted ersatz Italian food that you can’t help but eat anyway. You can even depend on the steroid-like blossoms of the over-fertilized potted plants that are unlike anything you’d see in the natural world. You can depend on the excess and half believe you’re one of the beautiful people who lives an excessive life. So, into this Disneyland of modern culture we went to find a little grub.
Of course, arriving at the restaurant right around seven o’clock wasn’t the brightest idea, and we ran into a couple of our son’s 25-year old friends who warned us that there was an hour wait for a table. A clue that we should turn on our heels, but my husband was determined to take his idea to fruition. And then there was the thump, thump, thump of the bass from the sound system that seemed to be at jiggle-your-pacemaker level. As usual, the two hostesses appeared to be about 16 and I felt sorry for their undesirable role of herding all these wild cats – many in heat, apparently – to tables. It would appear that the restaurant is too cheap to spend money on those small spaceship-like things that light up when your table is ready, so she took my mobile number to contact us when they could seat us.
I was surprised there were barstools available, but after sitting there for five minutes, I figured out why. Although I am an average-sized person, I felt like a child sitting there. Suddenly, everyone around me was tall and very loud. For some reason, the preferred avenue for ordering drinks seemed to just above my head, so just as we’d begin a discussion, someone would yell, “Do you have Heineken’s?” or “Give me two Cosmopolitans” and lean into my shoulder just enough to invade my space. Thump, thump, thump. “How much?” Thump, thump, thump. Lean. Thump, thump, thump. Lean. We got a glass of wine at Happy Hour prices, however.
Surprisingly, the age of the clientele was fairly diverse. An equal opportunity pick-up spot. When the leaning and yelling over my head got to be too much, I suggested we move and realized that there were four empty seats at the end of a banquet-like elevated bar table. On the other end were about eight young women who said they were waiting for more friends but we were welcome to sit down until they came. It was pleasant enough at the end of the table and as the wine sunk in, I may have been imagining that I fit in to the environment or that we were in Europe, sharing a table with interesting European natives. The thump, thump was almost melodic for a second or two until I ventured some small talk with the young women at our table. And then the zinger – “People probably think you’re our parents and we’re ignoring you!” one of them gushed. Ha. Ha. Oh yes, we’re old. How could I forget? But thanks for reminding me, toots.
Their friends came and we were displaced again. There were big comfy chairs in one corner where we took our third seat with no dinner table seating in sight. But it was good people watching that included a group of four young people, two male, two female. The two males were clueless that the females were dressed for “success,” i.e., short, short skirts, good haircuts, boots, while the two males were in their hoodies and saggy pants. They might as well have been at a middle school dance. Another couple in our seating area was our age. And dressed in sweatshirts, advertising their travels, apparently. The women’s said, “Nantucket” and the man’s was “South Park City” which, according to their website is “an amazingly authentic restoration of a Colorado boom town.” The man topped his outfit off with a baseball cap that, ironically, I thought, said, “London” – are you allowed to wear baseball caps in staid ol’ London? They were both on their iphones. The man was bobbing his head in time to the thump-thumps. We were running out of ways to entertain ourselves when we checked the time and realized that we’d been waiting an hour.
My temper has been compared to a fast-moving storm cloud that cracks open, dumps rain and scares the dogs, and then continues on. Well, the weather was about to change.
The wee-little hostesses were apologetic, but pointed out that there were still five parties in front of us. Of course, these poor restaurant employees were spending all their time calling mobiles and leaving messages because no one could hear or feel his or her phone vibrate with the thump-thump, people shouting for drinks, or the loud blast of libidos run amuck in this place. And for some reason, the hostesses were the last ones to realize that there were empty seats all over the place. So we sat down again at the end of a long bar table, got menus and ordered some food.
By this time, my appetite had gone away, but ate mediocre food anyway…thump, thump, thump…and watched as two forty-somethings did a little mating dance at the bar in front of us. It was like watching TV – I felt sorry for the woman’s girlfriend who was being ignored and finally left. If I go back, will I learn if the man and woman stayed together? Will her friend forgive her? Will her friend find love?
So, will I go back? Not anytime soon. The formula of the dance club with so-so food, and some attractive people is not one I’ll look to for comfort anytime soon. And I don’t have to challenge myself to count that as a blessing.