Red sky at night, sailors delight.
Strangely fast table on a Saturday night.... diners, take flight.
One of the great joys my husband and I have is spending time with his two adult daughters. Having raised two children, he went back into the fray for two more with me. He is a saint, I tell ya. I cling to the idea of how wonderful his daughters are, because it gives me confidence our sons are being parented by a seasoned pro. Schedules are always crazy for us all and distance thwarts more time together, so we really look forward to the chance to spend time with each daughter and her husband. We were all relaxed in a laid-back Shore vibe way for just one special dinner recently. Unfortunately, the restaurant seemed ill prepared to be in business, let alone patronized by the likes of us.
The first warning shot across the bow should have been the wait for the table. It's not that the wait was long. We were more or less comfy in the side area near the bar, by the dart boards. It's just that, in hindsight, an establishment that arms my sons with metal projectiles to "kill time" displays some questionable judgement. While feverishly hoping our name would be called at the magic 15-20 minute mark, I was also beseeching the kids to wait for the other one to finish before walking up to retrieve darts. I thought that being seated in under 30 minutes on a Saturday night in a beach town was a good thing. I mean, no one was impaled for starters. Quick table too? The phrase "be careful what you wish for" comes to mind, looking back.
In what seemed like enough time to freeze ice to put in the drinks we didn't get for 20 minutes, the unravelling started. Days on the beach are great for kids, and tire them out. This may not translate to the best of moods for young diners. Or their parents. Slow bar service was a conspiracy against all of our minds.
I'm not quite sure why ordering out can be such a challenge, because in essence it's the same five choices each time for kids. Yet each time, Son2 (10), who's still on the kids menu, frets over his choice with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Like in his mind he's saying, "Hmmm... I was considering the Coquilles St Jacques, perhaps the Coq au Vin....Then again, the NY Times reviewed their Grilled Cheese." Son2 seemed particularly discerning this evening, so when we finally were approached for our order the pressure was on. Son1 (12) has made the leap to the adult menu, which is often laden with heart-clogging favs from his list. We were able to bide time by reminding the waiter we were still expecting our drinks.
To Son1: No, you can't have fried calamari, with french fries and mozzarella sticks for dinner. And you need a vegetable. "Well, that's why I was ordering the fried pickle too." We live in New Jersey. Who the heck fries a pickle? In NJ????
To Son2: (approximately 22 times) You need to decide. It's time to order. I'll pick for you. "NO! I'll just take the pizza. And only a small salad. And please don't make me eat a fried pickle." Um, no worries there, pal.
Once our waiter and our drinks arrived, (as opposed to two other tables' orders which were attempted to our table) we were ready to rock. In the midst of assisting Son2 with what had to be the largest Sprite known to man, another order delivery was attempted to our table. It was comical at first, but the servers had zero clue which table was which and were incessantly wandering with arms full of trays. Only a highly confused staff tries to deliver desserts to a table that is in the middle of ordering dinner. Only a sadistic staff swoops by with ice cream when overheated, tired 10 year olds are present. That nearly set off another order change (as if we'd order hot fudge sundae for dinner). Son1 pounced to order any fried item he could think of, with fries on the side. I could have skewered the staff with my cocktail sword.
I can't explain the frustration setting in that such a great evening was spiralling. We were all hungry, dared not drain our drinks without one hour's notice of a refill request, and trying to shush increasingly loud and cranky kids. I was sitting next to my stepdaughter, but couldn't really visit since our entire conversation revolved around how much Son1 was getting on our nerves asking to go back to the darts. He was getting silly and wound, mainly using the attention power grab because he loves his sister. Some of this was also due to his ADHD medicine waning at that point of the evening. Everytime I toyed with relenting about the darts, drinks and food came whizzing by... but it was never ours. If kidless, I would have done some small business owner-style people watching and marvelled at how poorly trained they were. Now, I wanted to go to the hostess and ask if this was some candid camera show produced by people who never dined with children, with drinks and tips.
At the one hour mark on site, we were finally served our appetizers. They had the time to carefully craft morsels for this fine dining experience and we were all starving. Three plates of food with crisp golden coating landed in front of Son1. Three. He was speaking loud enough all night for the whole restaurant to hear. How didn't I hear any of that? A now highly crabby Son2 was having none of the salad eating lifestyle after all. In no mood for war of wills, I bribed him. Eat the salad, chomp at the pizza that will hoepfully come before the end of days and get the hot fudge sundae. My husband's boiled shrimp app looked pretty good, and a big enough portion to share. What's that whisper in the waterside wind? Be careful what you wish for.
Dockside dining gave us some sights to see while waiting. and waiting. It's probably more accurate to say it gave some of us something to see, because half of us were westward-facing into the sun. Son2 insisted he would need a retinal transplant. I was impressed he knew what the retina was at age 10. He didn't care that I was impressed. He cared more that I did not seem to care he was being blinded so a fit was pitched. In an effort to cool him down, I moved the Sprite closer. Lord knows a drink would have done me good in a mood like that. It was an awesome plan until the massive, condensation-covered drink slipped in his small hand and went flying all down his shirt, on to his lap, and slamming on to the ground where my brand new leather flip flop was poised. Really? I couldn't be wearing the $5 Old Navy plastic ones right now? 150 ounces of Sprite later, the shoes are still sticky when they get wet. Though I do bring a refreshing citrusy scent wherever I go.
Son2 in tears, we replaced his drink (or tried to) and diverted his attention to sharing some of the hub's shrimp. He smiled, I sighed in relief. The setting sun cast just enough of a vibrant glow on our table that my food looked luminescent. A turn around seemed in reach. Having for some reason ordered a salad as a starter course to my dinner salad, I too took up the hubs on his shrimp sharing offer. Our delightful dockside dinner as a family was happening.
But then it happened--the glance down and simultaneous recognition that shrimp shouldn't be luminscent and damn sure it shouldn't be translucent. To make it worse, in the Sprite/leather flip flop fiasco I completely lost track of how many I ate, the kids did, or the hubs did. Son1 seemed pretty in the clear, because he was ensconsed in a platter of fried calamari that must have cleared out the Seven Seas. I hoped the grease would have formed a protective barrier in his system. My stepdaughter hadn't tried any, so she was safe to witness our panic as spectator only. I had helped myself to two or three, or was it six? The hubs was in more dangerous territory. Sitting between the two kids he had been absentmindedly eating while trying to adjust everything but the sun itself to assist Son2's eyesight. He never noticed that only the sauce was pink, not the shrimp itself. This was so not going to end well. I longed for the projectile-dodging dart room to start this all over again.
After yet another table's order errantly came our way (do we look like a table for two?), we flagged down our waiter to return the remains of the undercooked appetizer and did the mental math on what 2 or 3 ER copays may run for worst case scenario. Son1 insisted he felt sick despite having not eaten any. I really just wanted to leave at that point, but thoughts of how long another restaurant wait may be glued me to my chair. The waiter returned 10 minutes later to tell us the chef confirmed our assessment that the shrimp was undercooked. Well, let's see, the entire lower layer was gray, but other than that what gave it away?
At the hour and thirty minute mark, we finally got the dinners. Not that half of us had appetites left. Son1 was now hitting Broadway-stage volume and theatrics with his antics drawing the attention and ire of the table for 20 next to us. Son2 began microexamining every part of his pizza, dismayed it was not cooked enough for his liking. He then tried to do it to my food, which was cooked beyond recognition. We had enough. Well I had anyway. Anyone who had anything edible was done. We asked/begged for the check. It came, along with a second waiter coming up and asking us for our drinks and dinner order, while his coworker was still standing there with the credit card folio.
All I wanted was a relaxing summer night out. (Sigh) Why? What did the hubs and I do to deserve this night? And why subject my stepdaughter to this? Before I knew what was happening, Son2 unleashed on both waiters (ours and the lost one) in his squeaky overtired 10 year voice. I gave up caring. He was only saying what we all felt, but couldn't get away with saying. Half way through his, "...and you made my dad sick probably" tirade, the hubs looked at me and said, "This is going in your blog isn't it?"
"Yes," I replied. "It certainly is."
I only wish I could have written sooner. Suffice it to say, it was a pretty unpleasant post-shrimp night then morning for the hubs & I. The kids never got sick, they just stayed out of control taking advantage of our diminshed capacity to discipline. I'm pretty sure I heard my stepdaughter calling Costco for value packs of birth control. Funny~ she hasn't returned the hubs' text message about setting another date.