b Papa Dog's Blog: Joseph K and Family Go to Dinner

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Friday, October 28, 2005

Joseph K and Family Go to Dinner

One of the areas where Mama Dog and I hold opinions that are sometimes in less than perfect harmony is the selection of restaurants. For me, the important thing in a restaurant is that it should be not too far away and, more importantly, should be a place where one can reasonably expect to be seated within about fifteen minutes of arriving, even on a Friday night. For Mama Dog, the important thing is that it be the place she wants to eat at right now, an elusive and mutable qualification, as “right now” tends quickly to become “in the recent past.” This is all moot, of course, since I long ago ceded all dining-related decision power in exchange for dictatorial control over the way dishes are washed and put away, but it’s become a more practical matter since we’ve become parents. Increasingly, the utilitarian demand of ensuring we make it through the meal without a baby meltdown has become the primary consideration.

Tonight I had the foolish impulse, as I often do of a Friday night, to offer to take the family out to dinner. Mama Dog, tired after a hard work week and eager not to cook, jumped at the offer. When I make this offer, I always picture myself coming home on the earliest train possible and finding Mama Dog and Baby Dog ready to leave right then for the restaurant before the dinner rush is really in full swing. That never happens, but for whatever reason I always picture it. Tonight, I ran late leaving work and when I got home, Mama Dog was still getting Baby Dog’s food ready. We weren’t out the door until almost 7:30, pretty much a hopeless time at any decent restaurant.

Another curious divergence betwixt Mama Dog and I is what we choose to retain in memory of restaurant experiences. I tend to recall what has historically been easy or difficult about past experiences at a particular restaurant. Mama Dog tends to decide where she wants to eat at right now, then revises and amends her memory of past experiences to support that decision. For example, her first – only – choice tonight was Rick and Ann’s. “There are only two really baby-friendly places,” she said. “What’re you talking about?” I riposted. “There’s a bunch of baby-friendly places, and Rick and Ann’s isn’t one of them.” There’s always a long wait and the tables are crammed too close together for the highchair to ever be anything but in the way. The translation, of course, was “I want to eat the food served at Rick and Ann’s,” and since I have no decision-making power in this arena, there was no point in quibbling. Besides, it’s splurge day for me and the more I thought about it, the more one of their chocolate shakes began to appeal.

Mama Dog suggested I call ahead to see if they took reservations. I figured I could at least check to see how long the wait was. When I called, though, all I got was a recording announcing that they would be closed on July 26th. July 26th? Okay, I knew they hadn’t gone out of business and that they wouldn’t be closed on a Friday night, so the only explanation was that they were too busy to answer the phone and nobody had thought to change the outgoing message in either three or fifteen or possibly twenty-seven months. We decided to risk it anyway.

There wasn’t a huge crowd of people in the waiting area, so service looked possible. When Mama Dog said “Two adults and a baby,” though, the hostess said “What?” as though that were a ridiculous and possibly offensive suggestion. She said the wait would be half an hour. The guy who might be Rick stepped up and said they could squeeze us into the middle of a shared table in ten minutes. We conferred. Neither option seemed palatable and the hostess’ reaction was just so plain rude that we decided to leave.

Mama Dog was distraught, but halfway to the car I got the bright idea of going on to Chow! Since our trip to Rick and Ann’s became a done deal, I’d settled comfortably into the idea that I’d have a burger and shake for supper. Chow! seemed the best substitute to keep that dream alive. Mama Dog was delighted with the idea. We were well on the way to the Caldecott tunnel anyway, so the extra drive to Lafayette didn’t seem that unreasonable.

Again, we thought to call ahead. Again, I was thwarted by the telephone. I ended up in an option maze and midway through, after my second try at pressing “0,” the call went dead. When did restaurants start using voicemail mazes? Don’t they need customers anymore?

When we got to Chow!, I bailed out to get our name on the list while Mama Dog parked. The hostess delivered the bad news: the wait would be 45 minutes. I scarcely knew how to break it to Mama Dog. “Well, maybe Rick and Ann’s will be cleared out now…” she mused, but we both knew we were beaten. Baby Dog had come along gamely for the ride so far, chattering away and pointing out busses to us, but it was long past her regular meal time and she was growing cranky. She had cried out “Water! Sursy!” in the car, so we gave her the milk we’d brought with and headed home.

In the end, Baby Dog got the meal she would have had anyway, only about an hour later than intended. Mama Dog made herself some pasta with tomato sauce. I fed Baby Dog then had myself a bowl of Honeycomb. Good eatin’.

Yeah, the whole thing was a frustrating pain in the ass and certainly not the way my poor darling wife would have chosen to spend the evening. But honestly – I had a good time all the same. I was with my girls. Baby Dog was happy cheerful company, Mama Dog and I talked about a bunch of things during the ride, and there was an oddly enjoyable suspense to seeing how our quest for the perfect restaurant would get fucked up next.


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