Thursday, May 28, 2009
Not My Scene
We decided a late-night meal was in order.
The kids were all in bed, Allen was burning the midnight oil at work and I was hungry. The only challenge was finding a place that was open after 10:00 p.m. on a weeknight which did not have Mc or King in its name. I called a few of our favorites, however, they had all closed already. We live in a college town for Pete's sake! Didn't anyone cater to the late-night crowd? I pulled out the phone book and searched the restaurant listings in the yellow pages.
Applebee's! Open until midnight! Visions of Oriental Chicken Salads danced in my head!
The parking lot was packed - especially for 10:30 on a Wednesday night. The interior was just as crowded.
As I walked in I was greeted by the strumming of an acoustic guitar as a live performer sang the final strains of a Dave Matthews song. "Just one?" the friendly 20-something host asked. "I'm just ordering for take-out," I informed him. "Have a seat at the bar," he instructed, "and someone will be there to help you in just a moment."
Have a seat at the bar. I assessed the situation as I approached the bar and quickly determined that it was not exactly in my comfort zone. But I could play it calm, cool and collected. I uncomfortably slid into a seat that was somewhat isolated from the rest of the crowd and waited. The bartender asked if he could get me something to drink. "I'm just here for take-out," I told him as I placed my order. And then I waited.
The 2 guys to my right impeded my view of the guitar player so I pretended to be interested in the play-by-play of today's sporting events (without sound, mind you) that was on the television.
"Here's to jail!" one guy yelled (a bit too loud) as he and his pal laughed and raised their glasses of beer for a toast. (I am not making this up!) I became even more engrossed in the sports statistics on the big screen.
The guy to my left knocked his drink over and a concoction of brown liquid and ice cubes came cascading down the bar and stopped within 2 feet of where I sat. "Sorry!" the man yelled to me over the resonating sound of the guitar. "It's okay," I assured him with a wan smile as I rested my chin on my left hand, blatantly exposing my wedding ring. I tried to appear completely absorbed in the scandalous story of some well-known sports figure on the T.V.
"So, you're really into sports?" the bartender asked me with a knowing smile.
"Not really," I confessed anxiously, "This just really isn't my scene."
"I'm sorry the food is taking so long. It should be out in a few minutes," he assured me. And then, instead of chatting it up with his customers at the bar, which I'm sure would have increased the amount of tips they would leave, he stayed and talked to me. He asked where I was from and how I ended up in Utah. He asked about my family and marveled over the fact that I had 9 kids. And then I began to realize... he was trying to make me feel less nervous. And it worked - the people and atmosphere around me had not changed - I had. All because a bartender had sensed my discomfort and helped put me at ease.
Before I knew it, my food was ready to go.
I paid for my order and stood, once again ready to retreat to the familiar interior of my vehicle in the parking lot. "Hey - thanks," I called to my bartender friend. "Thanks for everything."
"No problem," he answered.
And you know what? He really meant it.