“Maybe we should go out and have dinner tonight.” says the husband clearly intending to help. In any other family, a simple statement like that will either be met with a simple acceptance or a refusal. I am sure no more would have been said about it. Of course, in our family, a statement like that wrenches the spanner into the corner of the brain where the horrors of restaurant eating reside and ply it open.
“Do you remember what happened at that Italian restaurant?” I ask. “I mean do you still want to go and press our company on restaurants. I say we take the broad minded view of ‘Live and let live.’ ”
The husband looks at me like I have a point and agrees. What happened was this: We found an occasion to dine out, and took polls to see what kind of cuisine was most voted for. It did not help that the toddler in the house thought it was a game and stuck both his arms up for everything. A vote was taken, numbers counted, tallied and thrown out the window. We settled for Italian which had one vote (the daughter’s). So, off we went looking for an Italian restaurant. Just before we entered, I checked their hair and told them to behave. It was one of those places that I’ve heard people gush about. What I had not expected, was for us to enter one of those snooty, high eyebrow places with a touch of hospitality, not overdone and a spot of hauteur, quite overdone.
I wanted to scramble and flee, but summoned the warrior spirit and pressed on. The maitre-de came up with a gleaming suit, coattails and all, looked us up and down and asked us how he may help us. I have never understood this. Would I be standing there in the luxurious lobby of a restaurant wanting to be helped with goading a herd of sheep into a waiting truck? No. I want to be seated for a meal. Thank you.
There was some brow lifting and all this while, the toddler is sitting quietly in his chair and not saying a word. The daughter is playing with him, and the two of them present a picture of a serene advertisement to entice more humans to procreate. The maitre-de, in the meanwhile, decides that he does not really need to spoil the atmosphere of a good dining experience for his patrons and comes out wearing a thin look (He may have been trying the apologetic expression, but thin is what I thought at the time). The toddler smiled at him and said, “Tar?” and showed him a toy car.
“I am extremely sorry Sir and Ma’am. But there is a half an hour wait for tables at the moment. Would you like to be kept waiting?”
The choice of words really! What a clever man he was too. Not wanting to take the good behavior picture, but not wanting to let us in and find out either. Could be a diplomat that man.
We said we don’t like to be kept waiting and turned our back on the man in a dignified silence. “Come children!” I said and they came. We stepped out the door and then expressed all of our relief and anxiety at once. What if they had seated us? Maybe this is for the best. Let’s go for a family friendly place. Nothing fancy.
We proceeded to a familiar restaurant. The cashier there smiled at us and welcomed us. He has seen us there often and still manages to smile when he sees us. That is the kind of place I like. The fine dining can wait for a decade. I breathed freely in there, sat down and looked at the husband and asked “Where is the boy who behaved so well?”
The husband points under the table and there he is: playing with his toy car. Things may have been quiet for possibly 3 minutes or maybe 4 after the food arrived. We never make it to a full 5 minutes. There was mayhem. The toddler had put his hands into the spicy curry, and I sent the water cascading over the table while pulling the napkin underneath to wipe off the toddler’s hands before he rubbed his eyes with it. He did not like that, One would think his life’s dream was to dip his hands in spicy curry and rubbing his eyes with it, and I, the evil mother, stepped in and squashed his dreams. He screwed up his face and turned a valve that let loose a torrent of very loud tears.
The husband tore out of the room carrying the toddler and stood outside in the cold for a good 3 minutes before bringing him back again. We gobbled the dinner as fast as we could and came back, shaken a bit by the smile the cashier gave us. Maybe he needs time before we pay him another visit.
The next day, the fates decide to show this news item to me. Apparently, there are restaurants that offer well-behaved-children discounts.
I think I would like to be kept waiting on that discount. I am not sure I am strong enough to try them just yet. Dining-at-home discounts maybe?