Just Own It

My husband and I decided to go out for dinner last night at a restaurant that has a great outdoor patio.  When we were seated, I noticed that most of the other tables were still waiting for their food, which probably meant that we weren’t going to get our meals very quickly.  But it was a nice night and we weren’t in any real hurry, so we placed our orders and settled in to enjoy the evening.  Forty-five minutes later, we were still waiting for our entrees, and our waiter was no where to be found.

IMG_3564A full sixty minutes after we had ordered, our waiter finally brought our food.  When he asked if we needed anything else, my husband replied, “Yes, since we’ve waited an hour for our meal,  I’d like a complimentary glass of wine.”   (I wish I’d thought to say that.)  The waiter didn’t bat an eye, but simply nodded and hurried off in the direction of the bar, returning a few minutes later with the wine.  And even though we had to ask for it, that complimentary glass of wine was the only reason our waiter got a tip from us.

My husband and I like to eat out, and we are very aware of how hard it is to run a restaurant and how hard the staff works to make sure things go right.  We never expect perfection and are more than willing to overlook mistakes, with one simple requirement.  We want the mistake acknowledged, and if at all possible, corrected.  But the most important thing is for someone to admit that a mistake has been made.

I have no idea why we waited so long for our meals last night.  There might have been an accident in the kitchen, or maybe one of the  cooks didn’t show up.  Or our waiter might have simply forgotten to turn in our order, who knows?  The point is that he never came to our table in all the time we were waiting and acknowledged that we were waiting far to long for our food.  All he had to do was tell us, “I’m so sorry for the wait,” and let us know what was going on.  All he had to do was admit that a mistake had been made.

Personally, I make mistakes each and every day of my life.  It’s an area where I tend to be a bit of an over-achiever.   So I’m the last person who is going to judge someone else for making mistakes, or get all bent out of shape just because something has gone wrong.  Yet I learned a long time ago that when I make a mistake, it’s essential that I admit to it, apologize for it, fix the problem if I possibly can, and then move on.  Because doing otherwise means that I’m pretending that I’m the kind of person who never makes mistakes.

Acknowledging our mistakes actually opens so many doors.  It gives others the chance to forgive us (not to mention the chance to forgive ourselves), and it means that we can begin to work on solving whatever problem the mistake created.  When we admit to our own mistakes, I believe we find it easier to relate to and sympathize with others who make mistakes.  It’s a way of acknowledging that none of us are perfect and that few problems can’t be solved once we’re actively looking for solutions.

By giving my husband his complimentary glass of wine, our waiter indirectly acknowledged that a mistake had been made, and we did appreciate that.  But a direct acknowledgement would have been so much better.  We all make mistakes; the trick is to be brave enough to own them.

I Think I’ll Pass…

For me, one of the best parts about growing older is no longer feeling the need to keep up with current trends.  The only social media I use is Facebook; I recognize almost no one in People Magazine; my home decorating style is hopelessly old-fashioned, and I never follow the latest fashion styles. (I don’t own a single pair of skinny jeans.  Partly because they don’t look comfortable, but mostly because the world has enough problems these days without anyone having to look at me stuffed into a pair of skinny jeans.)  In most areas of my life, I’m able to easily ignore fads and trends, and am quite happy to do so.

Sadly, some trends are easier to avoid than others.  My husband and I enjoy dining out, and  up until a few years ago, we used to especially enjoy trying to new restaurants.  We’re lucky to live in a large city where new restaurants open frequently, and it was fun to find a new place to eat that offered great food, good service, and reasonable prices. The problem is, most new restaurants also tend to be rather trendy, and I don’t particularly like, or even understand, most of the new trends in dining out.

IMG_1387Some I find simply annoying, like referring to the person standing behind the bar as a “mixologist” instead of a bartender.  Isn’t mixing drinks what bartenders have always done?  I know that many new restaurants and bars offer a huge array of complicated drinks, but I honestly prefer a simple glass of white wine with my meal.  And I don’t like feeling guilty about wasting the talent of the restaurant’s “mixologist” when I order it. (Although my son made up for it when we took him out for his birthday dinner and he ordered a smoked martini.  And yes, it was actually smoking when it came to the table.)

Other trends I find truly off-putting, like the new “communal table” seating.  I don’t go out to eat because I want to be squeezed into a bench at a long table that reminds me of lunchtime in my high school cafeteria.  I don’t like having to watch what I say because I know the strangers on either side of me can hear my conversation perfectly, and might even decide to chime in.  Nor do I want to know all the intimate details of their lives, unless they’re up to something especially interesting or illegal.  Also, I don’t want to be sitting close enough to other diners that I’m not only tempted to steal a french fry off their plate, but I’m actually able to do so if they are silly enough to look away for a second or two.  Fighting temptation is not one of my strong points.

And it might be my age, but I don’t like the high ceilings, concrete floors and general industrial warehouse decor that so many new restaurants choose, because it means the noise level in those restaurants is really, really loud.  My hearing is still pretty good, but in those settings, I find myself asking my husband and friends to repeat themselves far too often.  Sometimes I just give it up and smile and nod at whatever they are saying, hoping they aren’t asking for a loan or if I’d like to babysit their grandkids for a week while they go on vacation.

These days, it’s become fairly rare for my husband and I to try a new restaurant, as we find ourselves sticking to a few “tried and true” favorites where we know the noise level will be low, the tables set apart enough to ensure a private conversation, and no one is pressing us to try a drink that emits smoke.  I know that someday, the latest trends in dining out will probably be something more to my liking.  I also know that I’ll need someone to tell me about it, because, as is the case with most new fads, I probably won’t be paying attention.

Valentine Love

IMG_1130Since Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, my husband and I decided to go out for a nice dinner on Saturday night instead.  Sadly, it seemed as if everyone else had the same idea, because when we arrived at our favorite restaurant for our seven o’clock reservation, the place was packed.  The host asked if we minded waiting in the bar for a few minutes until our table was ready, which was fine with us.  But after a while, it became apparent that the “few minutes” was a very optimistic prediction, and as the hunger pangs set in, we started surveying the restaurant to see if we could spot an open table that the staff might have missed.

There weren’t any empty tables, but there were several tables occupied by young couples who had finished their meals and paid their bills, but were still lingering, gazing deeply into each other’s eyes, holding hands, and in general totally oblivious to the fact that there were hungry people waiting to be seated.  We tried giving a few of them the stink eye as a subtle hint that it was time to move on, but they were too wrapped up in each other to notice.  Eventually, we were seated at a nice corner table that gave us a good view of the dining room, and happily settled in, working our way steadily through the bread basket as we waited for our food to arrive.

Between bites, we studied the diners at the tables around us, especially the young couples who had obviously made a special effort for a romantic dinner.  They were quite dressed up, with the young men in ties and the young women in short dresses and high heels. They leaned in close to talk, smiled and flirted a lot, and stretched their meal out as long as possible by ordering appetizers, coffee and dessert.  Watching them brought back memories of how we used to celebrate Valentine’s Day, all those years ago when we were young.

At our table, the conversation was much less intimate, and contained phrases such as, “do you think the waitress will bring more bread?” and “we’d better hit the ATM on our way home,” none of which were uttered while holding hands or gazing deeply into each other’s eyes.   These days, if my husband is gazing deeply into my eyes at a restaurant, it’s because I’ve asked him to see if I’ve got an eyelash stuck in on of them.  And we don’t hold hands across the table, because that would mean we’d have to put our utensils down.

True, we had made the effort to look nice, but we were also mindful of the wind chill when we selected our outfits.  My husband had on three layers of shirts, but no tie.  I no longer wear a dress when the temperature is under 35, so I had on a nice pair of slacks and a turtleneck sweater.  My one concession to romance was to forgo my usual knee socks in favor of control-top panty hose, which I hoped would both look dressy and take five pounds off of my figure.

But don’t think I’m complaining.  We had a lovely evening out, just in our own, somewhat quiet, middle-aged way.  We don’t need to stare at each other while we’re eating dinner.  When you’ve been married for thirty five years, you know what your spouse looks like and there’s no need to keep checking.  We may not flirt in public any more, but we both knew we were sitting across the table from the one and only person we wanted to share in our Valentine’s dinner.

And when we were done with our meal, we promptly paid our bill and left, opening the table for the next couple who wanted to enjoy a nice Valentine’s dinner.  I’m thinking that next year, we should choose a restaurant that caters exclusively to people who are middle-aged and older.  The clientele may not look as good, but we won’t have to wait so long for a table, either.

 

 

Second Chances

Last night, my husband and I went back to a restaurant we had visited a few months ago, where we had a great meal and a nice waitress, but where we also had what seemed to be a rude encounter with the chef/owner as we were leaving. I wrote about it in my blog post, Be Nice, and some readers suggested that I needed to give the restaurant another try.  Frankly, I wasn’t sure I wanted to, because I thought the owner had insulted my husband and I, and I wasn’t quite ready to forgive that.  But some close friends were anxious to try the restaurant (its fairly new and getting great reviews), so we agreed to meet them there last night.  And I’m so glad we did.

The restaurant was definitely more crowded than it was on our previous visit, but we had a reservation and were seated immediately.  Once again, our waitress was friendly and helpful, the food was delicious, and I did spot the chef/owner walking through the dining room a few times, scowling a bit. But as we were leaving after our meal, he approached my husband, asked how his meal was and thanked us for coming.  My husband assured him the meal was fabulous and told him we would be back, and we will.

The thing was, he deserved a second chance.  Because now I realize that maybe what I took for a scowl on our first visit could just be his natural expression.  (I know when I get a sinus headache, as I frequently do during allergy season, I tend to walk around looking rather crabby.)  And maybe when he walked by us on that first visit, rolled his eyes and muttered something unpleasant, he wasn’t directing it at us.  I tend to take the actions of people around me personally, but maybe he had just burned someone’s dinner or spotted something near us that upset him.  Because, although I have a hard time believing this, it’s not always about me.  Go figure.

One of the good things about reaching middle age is the opportunity to look back on our lives and see some definite patterns.  And one pattern I have noticed is that when I forgive someone who I think has insulted me or hurt my feelings, I am almost always glad I did.  Honestly, I can’t think of a single person in my life who hasn’t said or done something that has caused me emotional pain at some point, and I’m quite sure every one of them could say the same thing about me.  I  think that’s just the nature of human relationships.  We sometimes say or do the wrong thing and hurt the feelings of the people we know, even those we care about the most, and usually without even realizing we’ve done it.

0516 2Which means that we have a choice:  we can either hang on to the hurt, nurse the grudge, and distance ourselves from the people who have hurt us, or we can choose to forgive them, and let our relationship with them grow and mature.  Sometimes there are just too many emotionally painful instances to forgive, and then it probably is best to move on.  But most often, when we are strong enough to forgive and give someone a second chance, we’re rewarded with the kind of deep, honest relationships that are real gifts in our lives.  Or in the case of this particular restaurant and its owner, the chance to enjoy another great dinner……

Be Nice

IMG_0048My husband and I tried a new restaurant the other night, and at first, we liked it very much.  Our waitress was friendly and knowledgable, the food was very good, and the atmosphere was great, as long as you ignored the young man in the chef’s jacket who occasionally wandered around the dining room, scowling at everything and everyone he saw.   After we had paid our bill, we stopped in the bar area to watch the last inning of the Cardinal game on the TV, and my husband chatted briefly with a few people who were also watching the game.  It all seemed friendly enough until the guy in the chef’s jacket walked by, rolled his eyes at us and muttered something under his breath.  I couldn’t catch exactly what he said, but I certainly caught that it wasn’t anything nice.

I thought it was odd that a restaurant would employ someone who was so surly to its customers until I checked its website and discovered that the man was actually a co-owner.   And that’s too bad, because even though we really liked the food and atmosphere at his restaurant, the co-owner’s rude behavior made such a bad impression that I doubt seriously if we will ever go back.  Maybe he was having a bad day, or maybe he was annoyed because his restaurant was only half full, or maybe he was offended that we were simply standing in the bar, watching the game, rather than ordering more drinks.  I honestly don’t know.  But I do know that, if he had just made the effort to be even a little bit nice, we would definitely have been repeat customers.

Because being nice matters.  If we want people to shop at our stores, eat at our restaurants, join in our groups,  help our causes, and or simply be our friends, we have to be nice to them.  If we want to draw people to us, we have to show them the same common decency and courtesy that we want others to show us.   Rudeness, anger and hostility, even when we believe it’s justified, does nothing more than drive people away.  Always has and always will.

I believe that something as simple as being nice can help build the bridges that are so desperately needed to help people with different values and beliefs connect and communicate.  I know I am always willing to listen to someone else’s point of view, even a point of view that I believe is absolutely wrong, as long as the speaker isn’t resorting to ridicule or verbal attacks to make his or her point.  Being nice doesn’t mean not being passionate about our beliefs; it just means not using our beliefs as an excuse to be cruel to people who don’t happen to share them.

Being nice is about connecting with other people.  It’s about living peacefully with those who are different from us.  It’s about creating a life for ourselves full of interesting and diverse people who can support us, our families, our businesses, our causes, etc., if we can just remember to treat them the same way we want to be treated.  We all lose our tempers sometimes, and we all have our bad days, but that doesn’t mean we can’t always, always try to do better.  So please, let’s just be nice……