So yesterday my friend La Maya suggested we should go out to a nice restaurant for lunch, to celebrate the end of the semester for her and to catch up on life, the universe, and all that. Such an activity, as you can imagine, might entail having…you know, a conversation.
The uptown area, because it’s in full-out gentrification mode, is now littered with faux-gourmet restaurants that serve up non-fast food in surroundings more upscale than your standard McDonald’s. So off we went to our favorite northern Italian white-tablecloth eatery.
Grab the last parking space in the lot, climb out of the car, amble up to the door, and find: CLOSED. They don’t open till 3 p.m.
This, I’d suspected, since another friend has his office just down the road from the place. We used to eat there whenever the mood struck us, but the last time he and I descended on the place for lunch (as I now recalled…), we’d found it locked tight.
Oh well. Plenty of other fish in the chef’s kettle. We moved on to another favorite.
Traveling on down the road… Our third choice was also closed.
We drove to five popular restaurants in the Camelback business district — which houses lots of lawyers, corporate executives, and financial advisers who can afford a decent lunch. Not one of them was open.
So we went to a place renowned for the racket it pumps into its customers’ ears. I hate this place because I can’t hear myself think inside there. But it has a patio, where you might hope to escape the gawdawful loud Muzak.
Not so much. The hostess goes to seat us on the patio…right underneath a blasting speaker! We explain to her that we dislike not being able to hear each other speak and wonder if they could please turn down the racket.
Amazingly, she does so.
We get settled, order a couple of iced teas, and peruse the menu. Before we can get past the salad offerings, B-R-R-R-R-R-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-C-K!!!!!!!!!!!
One end of the patio roof is supported by a small outbuilding, next to which she has seated us. A crew of guys is working inside there with a masonry drill!
The racket actually hurt your ears!
So we got up and left.
Finally we arrived at our sixth restaurant, an old-line eatery once frequented by the late Governor Rose Mofford (since she died in 2016 and stepped down from the governor’s office in 1990, that clues you to how old and traditional this place is).
Amazingly, unlike its millennial siblings, it’s so stodgy it opens for lunch. Isn’t that quaint?
And its management assumes you want to talk business, or at least socialize: no blasting “music” assaulting your ears.
What should we find on the menu but a hamburger whose description suggests it is damn near identical to the fancy overpriced hamburger at the B-R-A-C-Keria. We each ordered one of those, and since after driving to six restaurants we were well beyond the iced-tea stage, we also ordered a couple glasses of wine.
Jeez. Can you imagine?
We decided that our profound gratitude at finding a restaurant so outdated it evinces some consideration for its customers is, without doubt, a sign of our advancing age.
What is with places that insist on blasting you with unpleasant, throbbing Muzak while you’re trying to have a decent — expensive! — meal? (Those hamburgers cost 16 bucks, folks, and that didn’t include the wine.)
La Maya speculates it’s because people no longer converse with each other. They sit at the table poking at their mobile phones. If they have something to say to the person across the table, they text it.
If that’s not dystopia, I’d like to know what it is.
My theory is that restaurant owners want to force people to move on and clear the table for a new party as fast as possible. By way of doing that, they make the ambience unpleasant enough to discourage you from lingering over your coffee or wine.
And that is dystopic, too. The thought it brings to my mind is not printable.
Twice I suggested we go to my house where I could throw a very nice steak on the grill along with some exceptionally fine fresh asparagus and some fancy expensive grain, and where two unopened bottles of wine beckoned. She was having none of it, though: you don’t get tenure at an R-1 university without a certain stubborn persistence… She was determined to find a livable restaurant.
And we did. It was quite nice. I would go back there again, any day.
Well. Any day that I’m feeling flush, anyhow.