Feb. 2, 2012
I had my first negative restaurant experience. It is accidental, but very frustrating. My sweet, sweet husband, is trying to do us both a favor by taking us to a new restaurant, (one he had visited long before). In his memory, it will be a great Chinese buffet for our new diet. He remembered it as being rather eclectic in its offerings, providing choices that Americans do not normally experience. It remembers it as being rather authentic. Of course, when you think Chinese food you are picturing a lot of freshly cut vegetables, rices. This restaurant is located faaaaaar across town. We get on the highway to get there. Friday night traffic is a drag when you are hungry.
When we finally sit down they bring us a couple of plates and take our order for hot tea. We walk up to the buffet and I begin to look at all the offerings. The first thing I notice is that none of the offerings are labeled in any way. We are not given a menu. Essentially, I don’t know what the dish is or what it may contain. That was problem number one. Second problem upon examination: every single offering contained some kind of meat, poultry or fish. Every single item had meat! I look and look and look again. My poor husband immediately recognizes the problem and starts to feel embarrassed. We head over to the sushi bar. Keep in mind, this is not a high end establishment. We are in a mediocre family buffet. It’s not like you have a chef in the back excited to experiment with your vegan order. In this joint you just get what they offer and if you don’t like it, tuff tofu. You’re fucked. The sushi chef is working when we initially arrive, but none of the sushi is vegetarian. That sushi chef disappears, never to be seen again. There is one area where patrons are able to choose their own vegetables and the cook will wok it for you, but the noodles on offer are egg noodles. So, if I want a small bowl of cooked vegetables, I can have that done (for the buffet price, of course). I also could have done that at home - and two hours earlier.
At this moment I am standing in the middle of a Chinese buffet, starving, surrounded by food, with nothing to eat. I am becoming more frustrated. My husband is becoming more embarrassed. As we discuss the offerings we come to the sad conclusion that there is nothing we can eat. The hot tea is being delivered to the table. We don’t know protocol here. Are we obligated to drink the tea? Should we just leave? Blade says that perhaps we should at least drink the tea. We don’t want the restaurant owners to feel we are dissing them. After the tea we plan on going somewhere else.
I am experiencing many emotions during this interlude. I am a little bit pissed off at my husband because he hadn’t done his homework. Not too pissed off because he didn’t know. He tried to take me to a place where he thought I would have a good meal, and it was just an accidental failure. Still, I am a little pissed. I am also disgusted and disappointed with the restaurant because they do not have more vegetarian offerings. Basically, they intend to shove meat down your gullet and all the fat people in the restaurant are just shoveling it in. The tactic of the restaurant is working. I am angry that there are no healthy alternatives in this restaurant. I am also very hungry. I had skipped an afternoon snack in anticipation of going out to dinner. As I am standing in the middle of the buffet, surrounded by food, I am starving, which adds another layer of ironic frustration. Then there is also an element of feeling sorry that I can’t eat any of these items. I almost apologize to my husband. The words that want to come out are: I’m sorry that I can’t eat any of this food. (I feel like I am blatantly rejecting a gift that he is attempting to give me.) I feel really dumb. As I contemplate this thought: wait a second... You’re sorry that you are not contributing to the slaughter and sloth of America’s diet? No! You are not sorry about that. You are not sorry that you are refusing to shovel down pain and fear and rage of the animals that have been ruthlessly slaughtered for this event. No - you are not sorry. So I don’t apologize, and I am really proud that I didn’t. I am very proud of my food choices.
My husband is exceedingly embarrassed and he tells me later that his old self (before he met me) would have been so embarrassed that his wife wasn’t eating that he may have even purchased a plate of food for himself and ate it just so he wouldn’t embarrass himself in front of the restaurant owners and staff. See, we love your food! We are going to eat it and be happy! He better be glad he is no longer his old self, because I simply cannot imagine him eating in front of me. That would have put an abrupt halt to that date. And evening.
After we sip our tea and my husband apologizes for not doing his homework, and as I am trying to let go of my frustration with him, but still hungry, we go to the counter to pay our bill. This was a little confusing for them since we hadn’t eaten. I wanted to take responsibility for my choices and say, “Sorry, I cannot eat here. I am total vegetarian and there is nothing here for me.” As I begin to speak, my husband begins to speak. He basically steps on my foot to get to the counter because he also wants to take responsibility for his decision. We are vying for position, elbowing each other, both saying, “Sorry we can’t eat here.” We got out of there for three dollars and fifty cents.
Now, we have to go find another restaurant. I am now more hungry. We are still across town where we are unfamiliar with the restaurants. There are four lanes of traffic in either direction, just packed. Anger is building. We pull into a parking lot of a place we know has vegetarian options, but the place is packed with a line across the front. I deem the place not good enough to wait in line. I want something nice. If I am paying, I want something nice. We have to cross eight lanes of traffic to get down a block on the opposite side to try another place. Blade says he’ll run in real quick to check out the food options before I park. He gives me the thumbs up.
At this point I feel I can pop someone’s head off of their shoulders. I am heading to the door and there are about six adults and a toddler who make very likely suspects walking beside me. My husband is holding the door open. I am trying to walk faster than the group while this toddler is trying to out pace me for the door. I want to get in line before this massive group and feel that since my husband is holding the door I have some sort of cosmic priority over these upstarts. I’m practically sprinting to the door while this baby is trying to beat me. I can’t push the baby down like I want. We all crowd in the door together. These assholes with the baby think they have a right to elbow everyone around. Mutha fucka... I’m already irritated! You don’t know what I’ve been through to get here! I’ll whip your ass in a Pei Wei... I don’t fuckin’ care! Now we have to stand in line and look at a menu that hangs on the wall. The concept is that you are supposed to decide on the fly, as you stand in line, what you are going to order by the time you get to the counter. Who thought of this stupid shit? You don’t get to weigh your options or debate leisurely over the menu while your drinks arrive. It becomes a race: can you decide upon your dinner choice before the fuckers in this crowd force you to the front? I don’t like this! I want to sit in a nice restaurant and have someone bring me a nice menu and some delicious food. Instead, I feel like I’m in Subway, trying to decide on the fly what my next meal with be. At least at this place they have clearly marked on the menu (the giant upright hanging from the wall) which offerings are vegan. The dishes marked with a green leaf are acceptable - and that helps tremendously. I make my decision, we order at the counter, they give us a fuckin‘ number... Really? A fuckin‘ number? My piss fire just hopped up a notch. I don’t like restaurants where I have to take a fuckin’ number to the table.
As we turn to look at the room, we discover that all of the tables are full. We are packed in here like sardines, the tables are minute, the people are large, the spaces in between the tables are thin. I spot a couple getting up and I push my husband forward like he’s going for a hail Mary and I yell, “Get that one! Get that table!” He hits a sprint like a friggin’ Olympian so he can get this table before it’s cleaned. Now we are sitting, holding our fuckin’ number 59 at a dirty table where people have just licked their plates and their nasty forks and greasy finger smudges lie before us. I AM FUMING. A young man rushes over to clean the table with some dirty rag that he’s been using for everything from cleaning tables to wiping his nose for the last three hours. The table has a layer of grease and grim that is not coming off unless you scrub it with Comet. Now I am supposed to be having fun and smiling and trying to act all cute. Somehow, when the kid is cleaning the table we lose the number. I think he put it in his back pocket. He says he didn’t. I have to fish my receipt out of my wallet to show him our order so he can tell the kitchen. He guarantees that the food will be here soon. I highly doubt it. It looks too chaotic in here to actually have our food arrive to our numberless table.
In actually, we don’t have to wait long. When they serve our food both dishes are only accompanied by a large serving spoon. I have firm broccoli and bamboo shoots. What am going to do with a fuckin’ spoon? I ask (with a certain tone in my voice) for a fork and a knife and the little boy tells me they are down at the end with the drink fountain. I have to get up to get my own fuckin’ knife and fork, right? My husband makes a gesture as if to get up and get it for me, but at this point I just jab the air and say, “I got it. I got it.” As I am walking to get my silverware I’m mumbling, “Don’t do anything else for me tonight. Don’t do any. fucking. thing. Sit. Eat. Shut up. And if you think you’re gettin’ your dick sucked after this fiasco, you can just hang it up.” I’m sick of it all.
When I get back to the table I am finally... finally able to begin actually eating. The food is a little greasier than I would like, but it is good. Vegetables, a little spice, tofu... acceptable. Of course, there are about three servings on my plate because that is how America rolls. I put half in a to-go tray and devour the rest. Little toddler axle-head is running up and down the aisles, still hell bent on bugging the shit out of me. We are all smooshed in together. I can hear everyone’s conversation but our own. Oh wait... we weren’t talking by this time. No wonder.
The evening was a complete dining disaster. I finally got fed but it wasn’t exactly the food quality I was hoping to experience. It took an inordinate amount of effort to find the food. It was an extremely frustrating food evening. It is much easier to do this at home unless you pre-plan.