Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Road Trip Served Its Purpose

We had a great time. The road trip was exactly what I needed: getting away from my everyday life to get perspective on goals, life, work, etc. The drive was not bad either. I clocked around 2500 miles. I am compiling my gas receipts to figure out the mileage, but roughly my gas guzzler SUV was doing around 18 MPG. It's so easy packing for a road trip. Over-packing is NOT a problem. Carrying your girlfriend's ginormous suitcase up and down stairs is. You have to budget for a massage after the trip for that.

In New York, we stayed with my childhood BFF who lives in Middletown. My other childhood BFF flew in with his wife and stayed with her family in Manhattan. Naturally we drove everyday down to Manhattan... around 75 miles each way. Parking in the city was surprisingly easy on weekends. It wasn't so easy on Friday afternoon. I ended up parking the car in a garage operated by a blunt guy with a Russian accent. The way they vertically stack cars in parking lots in Manhattan freaks me out. I wasn't comfortable relinquishing my keys at all. To make things worse, we were hungry that afternoon and decided to have a late lunch at a place called "Burrito Loco" in Greenwich Village. I was told that I sounded like a grumpy midwestern dad that afternoon, complaining about slow service [or complete lack thereof] and portion sizes [literally 6 tortilla chips in an order of Nachos!] [and they charge for coke refills!], all while complaining about the cost of parking my SUV [16 cents-a-minute!].

Speaking of bad restaurants, our worst culinary experience happened in Scranton, PA, yes the imaginary location of The Office. I thought people there were friendly and quirky, just like they are in reality on TV. We wanted a quick stop on our way from Cleveland to Middletown. Although we were slightly running late, we decided to risk a delay in a nicer restaurant in Scranton rather than some generic roadside fast food joint. The internets on my GF's phone suggested a good Indian Restaurant called New Amber that got good reviews. So we called-in for directions and got off the interstate. We were there at 7:00pm. The hostess asked us to wait to be seated. We thought that was odd CONSIDERING THAT LESS THAN HALF OF THE TABLES WERE OCCUPIED. At 7:20 [20 minutes later!] we were still in the waiting area. It was just the two of us and the hostess who was shining wine glasses behind the empty bar. Angry-midwestern-dad-slash-Lebanese-male-with-short-temper stands up, pokes his head into the dining area and mentions something really loud to his girlfriend wondering about the delay. Luckily the hostess got the message and said that no booths were available, but she could seat us at a table. Booth?! Who said anything about a BOOTH?! We politely inform her that we would sit anywhere because we need to be back on the road. At 7:30, she takes our order, shortly thereafter, my Mango Lasse and the generic complimentary dip and bread thing arrives. At 7:50 the couple next to us were getting ansy and talked about getting a waiters attention. We asked them what the problem was. They had finished their food a long while ago but no one had come by to give them the check. The man stands up and goes up front to talk to the hostess. She follows him with the check a few minutes later. He had his credit card ready, and puts it in the folder while she was there to expedite the process. She PUTS THE FOLDER DOWN AND INSTEAD STARTS CLEARING THE DISHES FROM THE TABLE AND LEAVES. We all look at each other in disbelief. They decide not to wait anymore and stand up to pay the bill up front or something. They wish us a happy new year and I respond by saying that we will probably be still there to celebrate new year's eve. At 8:15 we were still waiting on our order. Fourty five minutes have passed and the appetizers still haven't arrived! We were starving. The mango lasse glass was clear from my sucking on every bit of goodness in it, and there were no more bread crumbs left because we had used our sticky fingertips to pick up every remaining grain on the plate. There were 4-5 other full tables at that point, and whenever the waiters emerged from the kitchen they walked around hurriedly, did whatever they had to do, and went back in. They were MASTERS at avoiding eye contact. At that point I wasn't just making eye contact. I was sitting sideways in my chair, right arms resting on the back of the chair, glaring, and waiving my left arm. Finally one waiter comes by and asks us whether someone had taken our order already! My girlfriend was explaining the situation and I rudely interrupt her to tell the guy more bluntly: "listen, we've been here for 1 hour and fifteen minutes and we haven't seen the appetizers yet. We are in a hurry and if the order has not yet been placed, then please just let us leave." He disappeared. The hostess returned with a crumbled order sheet in her hand, apologizing profusely and explaining that the crumbled piece of paper in her hand is our order that she forgot to place. The poor thing was horrified. She said they would take care of what we've had so far and promised that our order would be up shortly if we still wanted it. I don't know if she was high, or simply had an unusual evening of incompetence. We declined to place the order because (a) we were already late and (b) we were so claustrophobic from sitting in that place for so long. Luckily all went well that night, and my friend and his wife had not yet had dinner, and there was a delicious spread - Lebanese style - waiting for us when we got there an hour later.

That experience was not representative of the trip, however, neither in the culinary nor in the personal sense. I loved meeting all the family and friends that we hung out with. Like I said it served its purpose and I am ready to take on the New Year.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi don't know you, but your road trip was really just that... "a trip". I was completely amazed at the utter ignorance of the staff at the location you chose to stop at. I sympathize with you on that. I know first hand how it feels when you're tired, hungry and overall in a hurry to be on your way. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall just to watch these people (hostess, and waiters) shuffle around pretending to actually be so preocuppied with other matters rather than attending to the customers. Now, what really got me was that your hostess/waitress came up to your table appologizing profusely with a crumbled up piece of paper which in reality was the original order she took but didn't place... I guess they must enjoy people coming into their facility, placing an order, making them wait for it, and then forget about the customer all together.. Was this done on purpose? It almost seems as if it was... I'm part Syrian and I've never encountered anything like that at an Indian Restaraunt... I'm sorry you had to go through that. Your adventure was quite amuzing....

Syrian Latina.