Dining out

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Pigging out might be a better expression because the restaurant was one of those cafeteria-style eateries where food is categorized in separated locations and they start you out with a tray, smallish plates, your choice of drink, and tableware wrapped in a napkin. I should not have stopped when I noticed the parking lot was full and only one handicap space was available. But I had my mind set on a particular item and coerced my wife to try it. Once inside there was hardly anyone in line and so far so good. But dealing with the exchequer inside should have tipped me off; it did honk me off. I proffered my usual card and was asked if I wanted to put my tip on the receipt or on the table; an unusual question indeed. In my many years of gastronomy that was a first. I asked her to repeat the question and she did. This was a cafeteria so my answer was, &uot;Who mentioned anything about a tip?&uot; She did her best not to look at me with disdain.

Once past the check-in we could see the place was jammed; therefore the jammed parking lot. It was bedlam, the noise overwhelming as people desiring conversation had to shout to be heard and at least one at every table was attempting it. Our first thought was how may we back out of this misadventure. But way off in a corner we spotted a cleanup girl collecting soiled dishes and mopping the table with a large wet cloth. I would have preferred she use a disinfectant and paper towels instead of the same cloth that had more than likely visited several dozen tables. But she was professional and was well trained by the establishment so I swept some crumbs off the seats onto the floor, which didn’t seem to notice, and sat down. The word &uot;tip&uot; stuck in my mind as I made several trips to the various long bars of food. No one apparently had time to bring us clean dishes, and I know the rules of return trips, so I went to the &uot;waitress station&uot; and fetched some. My one glass of water never got refilled so I stole some from my wife while she was gone on one of her forays to the dessert table.

My receipt order number was 624. Figuring at least 3 persons per ticket, kids were every-where underfoot, there could have been 1,872 persons jammed into the place. I thought about fire marshals but the restaurant had been in business a long time and probably knew the rules. I checked the exits and it was obvious that if anyone hollered &uot;Fire,&uot; we were doomed. Then I realized it was Sunday evening, about 7:30, probably this was family night after church. What else could bring all these people together at the same time? The food was great and certainly there was plenty of it. Judging by the size of some of the customers this was a Mecca for many. I must admit I did not come to this place for the ambiance or a wine list. I never saw waitresses anywhere move as fast as these girls but none ever came our way. Oh yes, one did say, &uot;Is everything all right?&uot; I’m not sure she stood still long enough for my answer. It was an adventure, but never to be repeated on a Sunday night. When we left we were numb from the noise, but full to the brim.


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A local food supplier seems to be suddenly boarded up – the Phoenix Bank on EW. Has Councilman Brown bought the idea there is no better place for an African-American museum? Do you suppose the City had anything to do with arranging a visit from the Health Department to put the non-English speaking Chinese gentleman out of the chicken yock business? He had a long lease and had been doing business there for years. And what are the odds that an experienced citizen will buy the building, pretty it up and lease it back to the city?



am really enjoying myself these days. I think about those zealots who spent money to get to Iraq and stand in front of certain buildings so they wouldn’t be bombed. Even the folks in Iraq were snickering and told them to get lost. Then there were the negative marchers all over our country and the many celebrities who actually believe anybody cares what they think about anything. Let’s not forget the pundits who asked inane questions at military briefings, and retired military officers eager for a spot in the TV sunshine who pretended they had been fully informed by U.S. tactical war planners and knew plans had gone awry. Are they busy scraping egg off their faces? George Bush may not be the greatest president that ever lived but he sure as hell knew how to pick a staff. His Secretary of Defense is the first guy in decades with the courage to take on the Pentagon dinosaurs and force the different branches of the military to work as one unit where needed. They listened, they argued, he spoke louder, they got in line, whimpering only to their friends in the press. If I were a leader of Syria, or France, I’d be concerned.

Robert Pocklington is a resident of Suffolk and a regular News-Herald columnist.