The Miserable

the miserablePlans to dine at the charming French bistro had been made since the trip was set into motion over 2 months ago. Lee’s friend is a chef who’s vacationed on Hilton Head Island since childhood, and he’d given the place his trained culinary stamp of approval long before our hotel was ever booked.

But there were simply too many things to see and do on our last day at the beach and I had waited too long to eat and was feeling weak and nauseated. I needed some crackers and Sprite STAT to settle my stomach or else I feared I would not be able to enjoy the epicurean delights of the wonderful little estlablishment where we had just been seated.

I looked up at the waiter with great desperation and even greater embarrassment as I asked him to bring me those items as soon as he could…. “I want to enjoy this wonderful food, but my stomach is a little off I’m afraid… perhaps some crackers or rolls and a Sprite will help me feel better. The menu looks amazing! I interjected a little over-dramatically so as to compensate for my poor form as I removed my silverware from the elegantly-folded napkin.

As I mowed through the French bread and sucked on the Sprite like my plane was going down and it was indeed my final meal, we began looking around the restaurant and noticing how much older the other patrons were. We were easily the youngest people in the place by a robust 40-year age gap. Small tables of white-haired octogenarian couplets dotted the entire space. The men all were impeccably dressed in tidy sweater vests and the women carefully wrapped in fancy scarves secured with decorative pendants. They sipped their wine or coffee, making sour faces and taking infant-sized bites of their food.

The place was small and quiet and the interactions of our fellow diners were easy to see and hear what with our youthful, 30-something eyes and ears and whatnot. And every table (TRUST ME — we kept track) had some sort of a complaint to register. It was too cold, they didn’t like their souffle, the table was placed in too conspicuous of a spot (I am not making this up), they wanted to be seated by a window, parking was too far, they couldn’t understand the French waitress’s English, the lovely young lady at the next table was eating her bread too fast… blah, blah, blah… blah, blah.

With each grievance filed, Lee and I would exchange glances that quickly evolved from wide-eyed stares to stifled snickering and silently-mouthed OMG’s. We knew we were  in an area largely populated by white, wealthy, retirees with an obsession for golf — but had not yet encountered such a situation as this. Needless to say, we felt a bit out of our element amidst the disgruntled frosty-haired, Cadillac-Lincoln-Buick Bunch.

“I don’t want to be like THAT when I get old!” I declared to Lee after our entrees arrived.

“Like what?” he said, drawing out the “uuut” in what with a cheshire grin, goading me.

“You know… All ‘irritated’ and ‘grumpy’ and ‘complain-ey’ and ‘demanding’ and full of ‘special needs’ and ‘specific requests’ and what-have-you” I said in return with great animation, abusing the use of air quotes the entire time and completely ignorant as to the reasoning behind his ever-growing curious smile.

You don’t? he asked slightly sarcastically, raising one eyebrow and directing his gaze toward the empty bread basket and trail of crumbs that led all the way across the table and stopped… immediately in front of my plate. “Oh, by the way… Here comes our waiter… do you need another Sprite?

Damn.” I said aloud as the irony of what had just transpired hit me right between the eyes. “It’s too late. It’s already happened. I am apparently already one of ‘those’ people. And as soon as we get back I should trade in my sporty little Pontiac for a boat-sized Buick and hit the links. By the way… don’t you think it IS a little cold in here?”

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11 thoughts on “The Miserable

  1. Oh, I can’t wait to be one of those people. That’s the main thing I’ve been looking forward to about getting old! I’m going to be bitching about everything.

  2. Aw, you don’t know. That’s actually kind of sweet.

    I spent years waitressing in Ireland and Australia and Canada. What you are describing is not an old people thing. At the risk of sounding totally racist, it’s an American thing. It’s no one’s fault or anything. I think it has to do with your restaurant culture with that “customer is always right” attitude. You walk into any restaurant in the States and say you don’t like fries, they’ll happily give you mashed potatoes or something else instead. There will be half a dozen salad dressing choices. You can substitute anything for anything and ask for a thousand favours and they’ll bend over backward to give them to you.

    The chefs always knew who you were by the requests. Most would just complain. I remember one restaurant where they’d just refuse. “We serve what’s on the menu. That’s why we have a menu.”

    • Oh my goodness, I do that in our little restaurant in our little town in Ohio. I DO change things and they DO accommodate me! “I really don’t like the balsemic dressing. Please give me the Key West dressing. Oh and would you take OUT the corn/black bean combo? I don’t like that either.” We DO that!

    • I never thought of that Stephanie. Though I suppose I have been to a few establishments where it is clear there are to be bo special requests or subsitutions. The menu is the menu. Those places usually have the best food and atmosphere. I don’t think you sound racist… you just have a different perspective. You’ve definitely given me something to think about, though I doubt I will change from being an “ugly American” overnight! 😉

    • Mom, I wouldn’t worry about Grinders. It’s basically just an extension of your kitchen and you and dad keep that place in business! In this case, I’m sure they’re happy to accodate such faithful customers. 🙂 I’m glad you love Lee (and me too, of course) 😉 haha

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