Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas Dinner

We didn't take a "real" camera to Christmas dinner so we relied on an iPhone, hence the low quality. Mental note: Get a new camera! I wanted to share the two pics we got in front of the Christmas tree.

Did I mention that we went out for lunch on Christmas? You know that I do not have the gift of hostessing if it involves cooking. I accepted that about myself a long time ago. I don't mind hostessing, as long as there are no preconceived ideas that the feast will have been made by my hands.

When we hosted Thanksgiving and Christmas at our house, we alternated between a Maggiono's take out meal and a HoneyBaked Ham meal. Maggiono's has the added perk of being picked up on Thanksgiving so that it's still hot and ready to be served when you get home. Plus there are plenty of leftovers to share.

We discovered Maggiono's Thanksgiving when we lived in the Seattle area. It was just the three of us out there so there was no extended family gathering. Maggiono's serves a traditional (turkey and stuffing) T-day meal, plus Italian entrees as well. When we were in Seattle, we enjoyed that elegant atmosphere complete with white tablecloths.  The cheery conversation of nearby patrons added to the festive atmosphere. That experience became a tradition for our family.

This year Danielle and Sam came from Wilmington. I made us late afternoon reservations at McCormick and Schmicks. The atmosphere was nice, but I have never seen a restaurant so completely full in my life. Not only were all of the reservations booked, there were people without reservations. The hostesses were very gracious and explained they were full to capacity and could not offer a table in the dining room, but they offered a table in the bar area. Before we were seated they were full even in the bar.

Our waiter was attentive and explained that the kitchen was behind and there would be a delay in getting the food out. In my mind, the delay was to be expected. There is no physical way (that I could see) to serve the entire restaurant at one time. Restaurant critics would likely discuss the necessity for staggered reservations to avoid the bottleneck. --I agree, that's a great tool. However, I completely understand why that did not work here. There were just so many people coming in at the same time. They may have arrived early for their reservation, but how can you tell them they have to wait to be seated when they can clearly see tables are available. The answer is, you can't. Some bottlenecks can't be prevented.

My feeling was  I chose to go to a restaurant on Christmas knowing that it would likely be crazy. I set my expectations accordingly.

There were many tables that seemed to be having a nice time. But, there were some that were less than gracious and took out their frustration on the wait staff. In fact, the couple that was seated right behind me was very frustrated with the time it took for their food to come out. When the food arrived I could hear the man complaining in a very aggressive demeanor.  I heard the manager respond very calmly and empathetically saying things like, "I am so sorry. I know it has been a long wait." And he said things like, "I will take this off the bill".  --Admittedly some of this was a little garbled, so I don't know how much he was taking off the bill. He may have been offering the couple to eat for free. I don't know. But the customer was not satisfied and continued to escalate.

At some point, the customer began to use profanity and the manager said, "Sir, I am very sorry that this has been a bad experience but it appears that I will not be able to make you happy. I'm not going to tolerate cursing. I'm going to ask that you get your things and leave. There will be no bill, but you can not stay." And, the manager took their food away.

I'm still trying to get my head around this. I absolutely think that the manager did the right thing. Once it was clear that the customer could not be appeased, it didn't make sense to allow the customer to continue to escalate and disrupt the other patrons' experience.

I don't understand why the customer was so angry. Didn't he see that there was an entire restaurant full of people also waiting on food? Why did he feel the need to be disrespectful to the person that was trying to help him.

Here's how I look at it, I am grateful to everyone that chose to work at that restaurant that day. I am grateful for the hostesses and the wait staff and the cooks and everyone else. They gave up their holiday and spent it working on what was the most stressful (and thankless) day of the year.

That scene embodies several other scenes that have entered my conciousness this holiday. I saw people heatedly arguing over parking spaces. I've seen people lose their patience in traffic. On television people were physically fighting over merchandise on Black Friday. I've heard others recount heartbreaking scenes of people being mean to one another while shopping for Christmas.

I don't have a real conclusion to this tirade observation so I will just end with a quote.

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