Saturday, February 02, 2013

I received the pager and it went off before anyone else arrived. I took the table and ordered a drink before anyone else arrived. A couple came together to the table and one handed to the other the first season of Downton Abbey. They talked about the popular show briefly, being careful not to reveal spoilers.

Another arrived and blurted, "We don't have a booth?!" in greeting. Apparently I wasn't discriminating enough, since I merely sat where they put me. "Maybe if you'd been here twenty minutes ago when they first seated us, you could have ..."

I made up my mind about entrees from the online menu because even though I brought my reading glasses, the restaurant lighting was too low for me to see. Someone ordered salad without croutons because she is gluten free. She was served a salad with a breadstick instead. But rather than simply remove the breadstick, she sent the whole thing back for fear of contamination. I bet the waitress just plucked the breadstick off and served again the very same salad.

My entree was not even warm but spicy. I'm usually too hungry to send anything back anyway. My friend's steak was well instead of medium and at the other ladies' insistence, she sent it back. Which was the right thing to do. That is, the restaurant made it right by her, and quickly.

The entire time that food was coming and empty dishes were going and drinks were being refilled, I didn't hear anyone acknowledge the server's service. I know in fancy restaurants, with head waiters, one might not acknowledge his underlings. But this was not a fancy restaurant and I could tell from the waitress's frustrated expression that she was accustomed to being regularly thanked by patrons.

I showed my pilgrimage pictures even though it might be considered "off-topic."1 I shared them in the spirit of "life goes on." Then the conversation turned to "shop:" the state of the church all of them had left over the past year, an upcoming women's retreat, and, of course, the latest TV shows. Seeking to justify their leaving, one of them made the assertion that their former church had left its denomination and turned non-denominational. I checked the church website and the denomination's website and that doesn't seem to be the case2.

A number of TV shows were mentioned and endorsed. Someone turned to me and said, "You have alot of shows to start watching!" and I just replied that I don't watch TV. Certainly not anything with Maggie Smith.

There was talk of publishing some original study materials posthumously, and a desire to go through the personal library as well as retrieve a promised Coach handbag. The discussion began to take on a well-intentioned but manipulative quality, based on knowledge of the family's less-than-ideal habits, and I expressed that I was not involved. But I was aware of at least two books in the personal library that had been autographed by the author. I had given them as gifts and they ought to be given to someone who can appreciate them. I didn't ask whether the intense interest in the Coach handbag was due to devotion to the brand or to its previous owner.

After dessert and cappuccino - which a few of them couldn't make up their minds about - the bill came and sat on the table for 20 minutes. Obviously everyone is used to their husbands taking care of it. I caught our server putting on her coat and I was afraid her shift was over. I decided there was no reason we couldn't handle the bill and let her go. I worked the numbers but someone suggested that I deduct the sales tax before calculating the tip. That's not my practice but I followed the advice and then promptly forgot to add back the sales tax. I went over the numbers again and again but when I worked out the tip per person, it seemed too skimpy. Still, I couldn't see my mistake and no one offered to check my math.

As we left the table after more than 3 hours, I placed down more money, thinking that maybe our very long dinner prevented another party from sitting there. And it turns out that I left almost enough to cover the amount of the sales tax that I had left off. She received just a dollar shy of an appropriate 20% tip.

1 We were out together to observe the one year anniversary of a friend's death.

2 The church's Facebook lists the institution as "non-denominational" as well as some other categories, but how persuasive is that compared with the other two websites?

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