It’s been so long since I’ve been in a restaurant, I’m not sure I’ll remember what to do.
Of course, I won’t be in a restaurant any time soon, since they’re still closed for indoor dining in most places.
Well, not in Texas, but I don’t live in Texas. I did for a short while, but fortunately left before I had any encounters with the creepy, scary, dangerous creatures that live there.
Like this eight-inch-long Texas Readheaded Centipede (left) and the equally creepy, scary, dangerous you-know-who (right).
But I digress.
Here’s what I envision when indoor dining is allowed again.
I walk into the restaurant and almost have a meltdown.
Walk into the restaurant? No drive-through, no curbside?
I flop into a chair at the nearest table, just like I do at home. Then I look down and notice I’m not wearing my usual raggedy gray sweats and slippers, and remember that I’m not at home. I’m wearing clothes I haven’t seen in ages, and they’re clean.
Or they’re fairly clean, because I dusted them off.
I straighten my posture, then look around the room.
There are people at other tables, and none of them are wearing masks.
I’m almost freaked out by the sight of so many uncovered noses and cheeks and chins, but I steady myself.
A pleasant person comes over, smiles, introduces himself, and hands me several pages with stuff printed on them.
I say, “Thanks, but I brought my own reading material,” and hand the pages back.
Puzzled, the pleasant person says, “You don’t want to look at the menu?”
Menu. Menu? The word sounds vaguely familiar. Menu.
Then the memory surfaces: Menu! That’s how you learn about the food, and the prices! You read the menu!
Chagrined, I take the menu back and lay it beside my plate as the pleasant person departs.
That’s when I notice some silvery items on either side of the plate. I recognize them – sort of – though I haven’t seen any for what seems like forever.
Those silvery items are…are… Wait. It will come to me.
Utensils! I have some at home, in a drawer that hasn’t been opened for what seems like forever.
McNuggets and Whoppers: No utensils needed.
I glance around, hoping no one has noticed my elation at remembering utensils, and spot items on some of the other tables that I do recognize.
I’ve had one in my hand pretty much non-stop since mid-March, 2020:
“What should I have for breakfast? Red or white?”
I begin perusing the menu, my eyes stumbling over the unfamiliar words:
“Bruschetta…Minestrone…House Salad…Caesar Salad…” OK, salad sounds somewhat familiar.
Salad. Vegetables. Right?
But “Angel Hair Pomodoro…Salmon Picatta…Eggplant Parmigiana…Meat Lasagna…”
What’s with this foreign language? Do you have to be bilingual to eat here?
And what’s with all these choices? Why don’t they just offer one item, so I don’t get all flummoxed?
The pleasant person approaches my table and I panic. Is he going to ask me something I’m ill-equipped to answer?
He does. “What would you like to order?
“Um…” I say.
Then inspiration hits: “I’ll have a glass of wine.”
“Of course,” he smiles, pointing to the last page of the whatchacallit, menu. “Our wines by the glass are listed here.”
“Oh,” I groan. “You mean you have more than just red or white?”
I am so out of my depth, and his smile has faded into something like what you see in an emergency room, when the nurse behind the counter tells you, as she’s been telling you for the past six hours, “It will only be a few more minutes and the doctor will see you.”
I point to one of the wines by the glass, and he nods and turns away.
What am I going to order? What do I want to eat? I know for certain I’ve done this in the past – made a choice and ordered – but I’ve grown unused to making choices.
Especially since the choices are, “Stay home” or “Stay home.”
By the time the pleasant person has returned with my wine, something wonderful has happened.
I’ve remembered that some people who work in restaurants are waitpersons or waiters or waitresses. Three memories in one blinding flash!
But not a single memory of what I want to eat.
So I come up with this subterfuge:
I close the menu and say, “Everything looks so good! What would you recommend?”
The waiter looks – nonplussed? And my heart sinks. Was what I asked considered rude? Does the waiter think I’m quizzing him to test his knowledge and professionalism? Is he going to call someone over, to expel this miscreant from the premises?
Then he smiles, and my sinking heart starts to rise.
“Our most popular dish is the lasagna,” he says. “Would you like to try that?”
I nod. Easy.
“Perhaps a house salad to start?”
I nod again. This is getting easier.
“And another glass of wine?”
I nod and smile. Easiest!
I can do this.
It will all come back to me…