I once read about a mortifying mistake, never dreaming I’d live through one, but such was the case this past Sunday when we took out-of-town guests out to lunch. The problem seemed to be the restaurateur and his minions were the ones out to lunch.
We arrived at the restaurant at 11:50 a.m., promptly requested a table for seven and were told there would be a twenty-minute wait. Elderly friends who have been married a year longer than we have been alive, that being seventy-two years for them, went in just ahead of us. They must have been led to their seat in a hurry because they disappeared right away. Another friend appeared from the recesses of the restaurant, thinking it was just my husband and me standing there, waiting. He was planning to invite us to sit with him and his wife. They had just been seated in a booth for six.
After forty minutes had passed, we questioned the hostess and she said she’d check the table they had in mind for us. Oops! The people had just ordered dessert so it’d be another twenty minutes…sorry. When we had been there approximately an hour, my husband asked if it would be possible if two tables for four emptied, they could be pushed together to make room for us. An agreeable nod led to nothing more than a hovering consultation at the hostess stand that we were forced to witness as we continued to wait while those with lesser numbers who came in after us were continually called.
In the meantime, our out-of-town guests were very patient considering they had planned to eat lunch, then get headed back towards their homes, a four-hour drive once they were on the road. The longer the wait, the deeper my embarrassment grew. As each minute ticked off, I tried to avoid joining in like manner. In the meantime, our elderly friends came through the lobby with a to-go box in hand. The sweet lady asked, “Are you still waiting? You can have our booth.”
Finally, we were given a choice: we could wait for the dessert-eaters to leave (we were informed they had just asked for to-go boxes) or we could take two small round tables pushed together in the bar. My husband selected the bird-in-the-hand. We headed for the bar area and climbed onto the high bar stools. Thankfully my precarious Parkinson’s imbalance wasn’t working overtime and since there was little elbowroom on which to lean on the tiny tables, I managed to plant my feet quite securely on the ring surrounding the stool’s lower edge.
The manager, whom my husband had asked to speak to earlier, miraculously showed up this time…not the same manager who had been involved in the hostess stand conference as before….hm-m-m-m. He personally delivered chips and salsa and cheesy dip that was no charge “because he knew we had had a long wait.” Oh, he had no idea! He also promised that Stonehardt (name changed lest I be sued) was “going to take good care of us.” Once again, he was mistaken. Stonehardt showed up with what appeared to be a chip on his shoulder. (Not the kind served with salsa! Maybe Santa cheated him out of that sports car he really, really wanted…but, hey! Don’t blame me. At this point, do I even slightly resemble a jolly fat man in a red suit?)
In the meantime, our friends who had planned to invite us to sit with them came searching for us in this hidden nook, saying they thought we must have left. They saw we had just been served our water and cokes, and were interested in our story of how their tee-totaling friends ended up in the bar. Since they realized the already-long wait we’d had to be seated, they left with a few hugs and smiles all around.
Once Stonehardt realized we weren’t out to make him pay for the hold-up out front, he seemed resigned to do his job in a less surly manner but certainly not in a glad-you-are-here way. He was busy, but without customers such as we were still trying to be, where would he be?
Our meals were a long time arriving and once there, my sandwich, which should have been warm through was barely so, and cool in places. Our granddaughter’s meat was rare instead of cooked well done. The waiter did offer to replace it and when she said, “No, thanks,” he removed the cost from the ticket.
When we had completed the meal and asked for to-go boxes, Stonehardt brought them immediately, along with the bill, but then, the wait began once again. The bill is time-stamped 2 p.m. It had been a long afternoon already. We were thankful to have had good company with whom to spend it, except we knew they were eager to get on their way. Eventually, my husband asked another waitstaff to get the manager (who did not appear) but Stonehardt did, carrying food for another table. Finally, well over two hours after our arrival, we were able to pay and be on our way.
I was just glad our guests were the ones who had made the decision to go to that restaurant. Of one thing I am pretty sure: even with free chips and salsa, upon their return to our city, they’re not likely to ask to go there again.
© Marilyn Sue (Libby) Moore 1-3-2011